Sony Music to deliver music online

Sony Music Entertainment of Japan (SME), in its largest endorsement of online music distribution to date, will begin selling music downloads over the Internet by year-end, a company spokesman has revealed.

SME, Japan's largest record company and a unit of Sony, will offer its own artists' music for sale from December, according to Yasushi Ide, senior director at Tokyo-based SME. The planned service will offer copy-protected music that can be downloaded to a PC and then copied onto a Mini Disc player, CD-R (CD-recordable) disks or a yet-to-be-announced product called the Memory Stick Walkman. The Memory Stick Walkman is a diminutive handheld playback device based on a Sony flash memory card.

The plan advances the Sony group of companies' gradual push into selling digital music directly over the Internet. In the past six months, Sony has outlined key pieces needed to distribute music over the Internet, including its own antipiracy technology, a deal to use similar technology from Microsoft Corp. and hardware for playing back downloaded music.

The move also adds Sony to the growing list of record labels that are carefully embracing online music sales. The grass roots spread of a file compression format called MP3 (Moving Picture Experts Group, Audio Layer 3), which makes it easy to download and replay music, has cut into music CD sales and is forcing record labels to seriously investigate online music sales.

Ide said Sony might use the MP3 format, but he added that since it doesn't have copy protection "there is a chance we'll use a different format".

He said that the service will debut with Sony's Memory Stick Walkman.

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