The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) has launched a new initiative designed to raise awareness of MP3 as a digital audio format.

Seven of the UK's biggest online download stores - including 7Digital, Play.com, HMV and Woolworths - have joined the new organisation and will plaster the new MP3 logo across their sites.

ERA digital chairman Russel Coultart hoped the scheme, which is also supported by the UK record companies' trade association the BPI, would help consumers understand "that they can legally buy downloads which are not locked to specific players or computers or mobile phones".

Coultart also said discussions are under way with music retail organisations globally "to make 'MP3 compatible' an international standard".

7digital.com CEO Ben Drury added: "The beauty of an MP3 file is that once you have bought it, you don't need to be a computer genius or a lawyer to make it work and you are not locked in to a relationship with a single retailer or hardware manufacturer".