IBM's Electronic Media Management System (EMMS) new distribution capability aims directly at curtailing unrestricted music file sharing on the Napster service and similar services. The technology will allow authorised peer-to-peer sharing of music or book files.
"We're going to see a migration away from an MP3 model that will disappear as a free-for-all," said Scott Burnett, an IBM business development executive. "In order for the record industry or the entertainment industry to evolve, there needs to be a platform for e-commerce. The artists need to get paid, the label needs to get paid, the distributors need to get paid, and the consumer needs to be happy."
Given the choice between pay-for-download sites and the free alternatives at Napster or the Gnutella peer-to-peer network, millions of consumers have happily chosen the latter. Consumer adoption of software like IBM's EMMS is largely dependent on shifts in attitude among consumers and legislation -- elements outside of the industry's control.
"We make the tools, not the rules," said Burnett. He said that as portable MP3 players become more common, digital-rights management will become more prevalent as a revenue self-protecting measure for music companies, noting that there are 200 or more devices which will be compatible with IBM's DRM technology.
The EMMS tool will enable retailers or end users to package and send protected content to several parties in a distribution chain, such as attaching a music track to an e-mail with multiple recipients. Content owners will be able to define the conditions under which recipients may use the data.
Initial recipients may have full usage rights, but if the same music files or e-books are re-sent, the next recipient in the chain may have more limited ability to preview it until full usage rights are purchased from the original distributor. Copies of songs downloaded from pirate music sites or transferred by e-mail or other sources may not be allowed to play fully, or more than once, or at all.
The technology also allows distributors to attach different rights to the same song or book file, depending on the geographic location of the recipient. A recipient in a country with more stringent privacy (or copyright) laws than the U.S. may have different abilities to copy and transfer the file than someone receiving the same file here.
EMMS works with MusicMatch MusicMatch Jukebox and RealNetworks Real Jukebox, and is supported by two of the top five music labels -- Sony and BMG Entertainment. The remaining three leading record labels -- AOL Time Warner, EMI Group, and Universal Music Group -- have not yet adopted EMMS, nor has Microsoft for its Windows Media player. The new version of EMMS will be available in the first quarter of 2001.