Sony move to MP3 format brings it into conflict with music majors

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The Independent Online

Sony Corporation, the Japanese consumer electronics giant, has embarked on a potential collision course with music groups, including its own Sony BMG joint venture, over MP3 digital song files.

Sony Corporation, the Japanese consumer electronics giant, has embarked on a potential collision course with music groups, including its own Sony BMG joint venture, over MP3 digital song files.

The group confirmed yesterday that it was considering manufacturing devices that play digital music files using the MP3 software, including its Walkman disc player.

Music companies fear that portable devices that incorporate MP3 files could potentially leave them unprotected because MP3 technology does not have digital rights management software built in to ensure that music companies and their artists get paid royalties.

"This is a step in the wrong direction for music and content," said one music company executive. Sony BMG, the record company half-owned by Sony Corporation, did not return calls yesterday on the potential conflict with its parent company.

A spokesman for Sony Corporation said: "We are considering introducing MP3 playback capability. That's all I can say at the moment."

Sony has for years used only its own ATRAC file compression technology in its digital music devices. However, MP3 has become the most commonly used digital format and many Sony customers have built up large collections of music using MP3 files which cannot be played on their Sony portable devices.

By incorporating MP3 into its devices, Sony is seeking to grab a bigger share of the competitive hardware market. Sony needs to make its portable devices flexible to stave off competition from other music players, such as Apple's iPod.

However, the music companies are worried about software such as MP3 that does not protect them by automatically arranging for payment of royalties. Legitimate download sites have to use formats that incorporate digital rights management technology.

Its own online music store, Sony Connect, will continue to only sell music files using its ATRAC format.

The news comes as eBay, the online auction site, launched its own music download service.

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