Digital Music Initiative Stalls Again

Members of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) have walked away from their fifth meeting this year without any agreement on a screening technology needed to block non-compliant digital music fi

Members of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) have walked away from their fifth meeting this year without any agreement on a screening technology needed to block non-compliant digital music files from playing on SDMI-authorized devices, Billboard Bulletin reports.

SDMI -- a consortium of software suppliers, hardware developers, and record companies -- has been evaluating proposals for several months on the next level of digital music protection. Members left last week's meeting in Amsterdam agreeing only to meet again in September; working groups will continue to evaluate proposed screening technologies through the summer.

Chris Schairbaum, worldwide marketing manager of digital content for Texas Instruments, says the break is meant to give everyone time to make enough progress in order to get a consensus. "When we have over 200 companies that have their own agenda with areas they want to protect, it's not going to be easy getting a consensus when so much money is at stake," he says.

Previously, SDMI selected watermarking technology for portable MP3 players and other music players. But after it was found that that technology could not block potentially pirated music, SDMI got to work last summer on a second layer of defense.

"What was originally talked about was building an incremental improvement," says Robert Warren, CEO of anti-piracy software developer Verance. "But it was clear we were not going to get all the things done that we thought we were going to get. Things have changed. We're smarter now."

However, Gerry Kearby, president/CEO of Liquid Audio, tells Bulletin that his company will part ways with SDMI once its membership expires in June. "We've given up on the process," he says, adding that he thinks SDMI will never establish a standard. "The standard must be decided in the marketplace, it can't be done in a conference room in Bali."
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