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AT&T, Music Giants Take Aim At MP3

AT&T Corp. Wednesday joined with a number of leading entertainment companies to launch a new secure music and media distribution system.

AT&T is joining with BMG Entertainment, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., whose products are marketed under the Panasonic brand, and Universal Music Group to develop and test Electronic Music Distribution. The companies said EMD will give consumers an easy and convenient way to obtain and play music in new and compelling formats. Music will also be tied into other programming such as video, lyrics, graphics and links to Web sites.

EMD will allow media to be stored on various consumer electronic platforms, including PCs and DVD players as well as portable devices.

The companies said the goal of the new venture is to develop technologies that will lay the groundwork for a new robust, secure, flexible and scalable infrastructure for the distribution of digital music.

They have pledged to support the efforts of the Secure Digital Music Initiative which is working to develop standards in the area.

AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Armstrong, said the digital music industry stands to have a profound impact on the economy which is why AT&T and other leaders are working to ensure the system is adequately developed.

"We need to work together on the infrastructure so that the new economy of digital music distribution can achieve explosive growth by creating a music better customer experience," he said.

Kevin Conroy, BMG Entertainment's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the new system will protect the rights of the artists while broadening consumer access to music.

"We are looking to provide the best possible online experience for music fans and consumers, while protecting the rights of our artists. We believe this partnership will help us to accomplish these objectives so that we can take advatnage of the full range of opportunities in the digital world," he said.

Currently, the leading format for distributing music online is MPEG 1 and Audio Layer 3, better known as MP3. That format has the backing of independent artists who see it as a much cheaper way to get their music to the masses. However, the music industry has continually said MP3 is not secure enough since music can easily be copied and illegally distributed. Wednesday's move is the latest attempt to meet consumer demand for downloadable music while also addressing industry concerns.