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MP3s get copy controls

Technology to limit music file duplication

Digital Rights Management technology has been added to the MP3 standard, according to one of the companies behind the ubiquitous audio encoding technology.

In a new version of the popular music encoding standard, French company Thomson has added the ability to limit how many times a song can be duplicated onto CDs and MP3 players.

Thomson is late to the game with technology that has already been incorporated into competing standards.

Apple, for example, includes FairPlay DRM technology in music downloaded through its ITunes Music Store. FairPlay limits both the number of times songs can be burned to CDs and the number of machines the songs can be played on.

Competing services depend on DRM that's available through Microsoft's Windows Media Player software. Meanwhile, RealNetworks offers its own DRM solution, too.

Though MP3 has plenty of name recognition and a storied history - it was introduced back in 1993 by Fraunhofer IIS - DRM for MP3 may still have some technical hurdles to overcome. In particular, songs encoded with the DRM technology may not work on older players.

Some players could conceivably be updated with new firmware to support the emerging DRM-protected MP3 standards, but others might need to be replaced altogether.

DRM-equipped MP3 players and services are expected to appear on the market this year.


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