Diamond wins MP3 court victory

Diamond Multimedia and its subsidiary, RioPort, has scored a legal victory this week when a US court ruled that the Rio music player did not violate a 1992 act governing digital recording devices.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that the Rio was not a "digital audio recording device" under the definition laid out in the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) because the device can not record music directly from the Internet or from digital media like CDs.

The lightweight Rio player uses a digital compression technology called MP3 (Motion Picture Experts Group, Level 3) to download music from the hard drive of a PC and make the songs "portable," not a breach of the AHRA, in the eyes of the Ninth Circuit, according to Diamond.

The ruling was seen as a blow against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has been campaigning vigorously to quash the rising tide of MP3-based devices.

The RIAA brought the lawsuit against Diamond last October, claiming that MP3-based devices like the Rio will facilitate the downloading of pirated music from the Internet. MP3, while increasingly popular, does not currently afford copyright protection for musical content.

The RIAA managed to get sales of MP3 devices stopped for a time last year. And earlier this year, the group established the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), a group of music companies and manufactures, to establish a standard for digital compression that also ensures copyright protection.

But the SDMI, which joins together such heavyweights as IBM, AT&T, Sony, and BMI Music, has yet to come up with a standard format for online music even as Internet music takes off.

The issue could soon be moot, however, as Diamond and other vendors plan to ship MP3 devices with copyright protection features later this year.

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Michael Drexler

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