Major record labels, technology companies and publisher groups have formed a membership-based organization to create standards for communicating information necessary to license and sell digital enter

Major record labels, technology companies and publisher groups have formed a membership-based organization to create standards for communicating information necessary to license and sell digital entertainment globally.

The U.S.-based Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) was founded by eleven charter members: EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Apple Computer, Microsoft, RealNetworks, ASCAP, the Harry Fox Agency, U.K. collecting society MCPS-PRS Alliance and Spanish society SGAE. French society SACEM is reportedly finalizing its charter membership.

"By working together and developing voluntary technical standards, we can harmonize and streamline the exchange of information relating to digital music," says ASCAP's Chris Amenita, the newly-appointed chair of DDEX. "That's great news for the all participants across the whole value chain -- from artists and writers through to the consumer."

The group hopes to create voluntary standards to ensure the speedy and accurate transfer of digital music, videos, artwork and information that identifies the music, creators, copyright holders, purchases and other sales-related data. With more than 100 digital service providers, an increasing number of mobile service providers, dozens of collecting societies and thousands of music publishers and record labels -- most using different software and set up to identify music in different ways -- the back-office systems are creating a log jam and increasing costs for the transition to digital distribution.

DDEX offers three types of membership -- charter, contributing and participating -- with varying levels of participation. Membership is open to any business entity with an interest in digital media content; however, the group's initial focus is to attract members whose business are centered on music and music related assets. This includes record label; music rights societies; producer rights organizations; digital service providers; mobile service providers; digital music aggregators; broadcasters; music publishers; technology providers; and providers of business services in these areas.

The organization essentially takes over from MI3P, the standards organization formed in 2000 by trade groups for the labels (RIAA and IFPI) and collecting societies (BIEM and CISAC). According to a source, the new group will not accept trade groups as members in order to avoid block voting and to ensure individual adoption of the voluntary standards.

The first working group meeting is scheduled for May 23-25 in Santa Monica, Calif. More information is available on the DDEX Web site at http://www.digitaldataexchange.com.