Music to the ears
 
Technology-rich mobile phones are paving the way for the sharing of files, Napster-style. But the music industry will fight to protect its revenue. Mike Butcher reports

Thursday June 10, 2004
The Guardian


In the movie Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood's character asks the criminal he has cornered, while brandishing "the most powerful handgun in the world", whether he feels lucky. The music industry can sympathise. The technology industry is brandishing its latest hardware - mobiles able to download, share and distribute music.

The music industry is scared out of its mind. The mass sharing of music files that exploded on the internet could transfer to mobile networks. The advent of high-speed 3G networks and mobile phones with complex operating systems, Bluetooth and massive storage capacity, could create another "perfect storm", hurting profits further.

Storm clouds seem to be gathering. Only last week Nokia released the 7610, a 1 megapixel multimedia camera phone, which can download and play video and music RealMedia, MP3 and, crucially, the iPod-compatible AAC digital music format. Simultaneously in South Korea, one of the most advanced technology markets, mobile network LG Telecom said it would not restrict the playing of music files on mobiles. To limit the use of individually obtained music files would violate consumers' rights since there are no limitations imposed on MP3 players, it says. The move paves the way for a possible legal battle between record producers and telecom service providers.

A debate organised last month by research and analysis consultancy MusicAlly.com discussed this potential "Napsterisation" of mobile. Meeting on the day the new, legal Napster launched with Dixons, the mobile industry went head to head with representatives from the music business.

Ed Kershaw, head of music for Vodafone's global content services, is confident of the future. "Music is predominantly a ringtone business at the moment, but this year is perhaps going to be the most exciting. The Napsterisation of mobile could have happened but ... we learnt a lot from the internet world."

Kershaw said the issue of peer-to-peer sharing of music files using Bluetooth or over the mobile network would be solved by increasing handset security and digital rights management (DRM) systems on the network.

Gerard Grech, head of music for Orange World, largely agreed. "There wi

 
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