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Small discs to feature big artists

Start-up DataPlay signs a deal to offer songs from artists such as Britney Spears and 'NSync on discs about the size of a quarter.

Start-up DataPlay said Tuesday that it has signed a deal with independent label Zomba Recording to offer new albums by artists such as Britney Spears and 'NSync on miniature discs.

Boulder, Colo.-based DataPlay calls its technology "the world's smallest DVD-R." It makes discs that are about the size of a quarter and can hold five to 11 hours of music, or three to five albums. Unlike Sony's MiniDiscs for music, DataPlay's discs can also store film, e-books, photos and videos.

The announcement highlights DataPlay's aggressive moves to create a proprietary format capable of challenging CDs, which are considered a major source of music piracy on the Internet. Nearly all of the music traded online comes from CDs, which can be easily copied, or "ripped," into digital audio files.

Although DataPlay's discs can carry features such as concert footage and music videos, analysts said it is unlikely they will replace CDs in the near future. With the ubiquity of CDs, analysts said one of the company's greatest challenges will be convincing electronic device makers to support mini discs.

"With any introduction of any new electronics products and device, certainly there's a time that it takes before the consumer...gets on board and switches gears," Nielsen/NetRatings media analyst Carolyn Clark said.

DataPlay's partnership with Zomba adds to its growing list of deals. Universal Music Group, EMI Group and BMG Entertainment also plan to distribute music on DataPlay discs.

In addition, the company has been working with technology providers in hopes of interesting more labels in its format. In August, DataPlay partnered with InterTrust Technologies to place anti-copying technology on the discs and on upcoming players from DataPlay, Olympus and others that support the technology.

DataPlay said its personal digital recorder is expected to launch in May and cost between $299 and $369. Prerecorded discs will be priced about the same as a CD. Blank discs will cost between $5 and $12.

"What we're trying to do is create an environment that on a much smaller space you have a much richer experience," said Todd Oseth, senior vice president of business and corporate development at DataPlay. "We're trying to make it more of an interactive experience. "