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RIAA to address music downloads

The trade group will announce the formation of a consortium charged with developing a standard method of downloading music off the Net.

The music industry is gearing up to face a reality it seemingly has tried to avoid.

The Recording Industry Association of America on Tuesday is expected to announce the formation of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), a consortium of record company and technology executives charged with developing a standard method of downloading music off the Internet, Variety reported.

A key objective for the group will be providing a delivery architecture that can provide better protections for copyrighted music.

Consumer electronics and Internet firms invited to join the SDMI include America Online, AT&T, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Sony, and Toshiba, according to the Variety report.

The consortium faces a market in which recorded music is frequently and freely downloaded--in violation of existing copyright law--using MP3 (MPEG 1, Audio Layer 3) technology and others.

The RIAA has inititated legal action against violators, as well as against hardware manufacturers that make MP3 players.

In addition, record companies allegedly have fought to stop artists from independently posting their albums online using MP3.

Just this week, for example, Public Enemy's Chuck D said he was ordered by his record label, Def Jam, to remove MP3 clips from his site promoting the rap group's upcoming album, Bring The Noise 2000. Chuck D accused the industry of being afraid of the MP3 technology because it gives artists power to curtail the influence of and circumvent powerful record companies.

With Tuesday's announcement, the RIAA coalition will attempt to make itself relevant on the technological front and address the issue of achieving balance between artistic control and copyright law.

"In the past year, a number of companies have come to us with creative ideas involving digital music, inquiring about how those ideas can become reality," RIAA executive Hilary Rosen said in a draft press release obtained by Variety.

"By creating an open standard that will ensure compatibility and interoperability among products and services, the SDMI provides the vehicle for these companies to pursue specific business models so that a legitimate digital marketplace can emerge," she added.