RealTime IT News

Real, IBM Plan Secure Digital Music Offerings

RealNetworks Inc. and IBM Corp. Monday announced they are partnering to develop applications that will enable consumers to take advantage of growth in the Internet music market and go head-to-head with the popular MP3 format.

IBM and RealNetworks will integrate Real's client technology and encoding tools into IBM's Electronic Music Management System, which allows music and other content to be delivered digitally. The system is already being used by Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner Music, EMI and BMG who are all planning trials of the system which will allow full-length CD-quality albums to be sent over the Internet. The trials will begin later this spring.

Rob Glaser, chairman and chief executive officer of Real Networks Inc., said the partnership recognizes the increasing role the Internet is playing in music distribution.

"We view this collaboration with IBM as a significant step forward in insuring that artists and content distributors have confidence that their songs are protected when delivered over IP-based networks. At the same time, we are tremendously excited to utilize our music delivery technology in a security architecture that could profoundly change the way people sample, purchase, collect and experience recorded music," he said.

Richard K. Selvage, IBM Global Media and Entertainment Industry's general manager, said the tie-up will allow IBM to expand the Electronic Music Management System's capabilities and accelerate the growth of Internet music by giving consumers and the music industry a new offering.

"We believe this will benefit our media and entertainment customers and help accelerate consumer demand for purchasing music content over the Internet," he said.

This venture represents the first serious competitor to the MP3 format, which has recently been gaining momentum. Recently, Gateway Inc. chief Ted Waitt joined the board of MP3.com which has thousands of songs in the digital format. MP3.com recently started the Digital Automatic Music label program, in an effort to distribute and market artists' music globally and allow them to collect a 50 percent royalty.

In January, venture capital groups Sequoia Capital Partners and Idealab! invested a total of $11 million investment in MP3.com.

While MP3.com enjoys the support of some artists, others have claimed the company provides free, unauthorized distribution of copyright-protected material. The Recording Industry Association of America, a music artists' trade group, has initiated its own program, the Secure Digital Music Initiative, intending to develop stricter parameters for the downloading of music from the Internet.