The scourge of illegal song exchanges on the Internet threatens to re-emerge in the burgeoning mobile-music space, panelists concluded at a forum in London yesterday.

The scourge of illegal song exchanges on the Internet threatens to re-emerge in the burgeoning mobile-music space, panelists concluded at a forum in London yesterday.

At a debate titled "the Napsterization of Mobile - Is it inevitable?," music industry executives, mobile phone operators, hand-set makers and digital rights management (DRM) experts agreed that the peer-to-peer (P2P) format will impact mobile-music distribution.

"This is where the honeymoon period ends for the mobile industry," said Barney Wragg, VP of eLabs at Universal Music International. "What is really risky is the massive change happening with the mobile device. Today, it is essentially a tiny personal computer and the power within that computer is growing three times faster than the PC," he adds.

Wragg criticized hand-set manufacturers who installed open operating systems, which make it easier for hackers to use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to access the phones of unsuspecting users. He also attacked mobile phone operators and the industry's international trade group Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) for failing to agree to standardized solutions.

Other panellists concurred that mobile P2P is inevitable, but that solutions were possible. "At least, in the mobile sector, there are legal alternatives before any illegal P2P comes along," said Simon Wheeler, head of new media at London-based independent record company Beggars Group.

The debate was organized by research analysis firm MusicAlly and Liberty Marketing Communications; both are based in London.