Music Labels Pressuring for Common Download Standard, Report Says

The battle over download standards between the music industry and computer leaders like Apple, Microsoft and RealNetworks is heating up as both sides try and hash out an agreement that will please both sides, according to a published report in the The Guardian newspaper, Friday.

Jay Berman, the chairman of global trade body the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, (IFPI) told the paper music labels have come together to put pressure on technology companies to establish a common standard for downloads. He admitted discussions with the IFPI and the Recording Industry Association of America have begun to work towards a standard and that he is optimistic something can be worked out.

Mr. Berman said the reluctance on the parts of industry leaders to have one centralized standard is confusing the public and therefore hurting the music industry. On one side is Apple Computer, who refuses to share its Fairplay digital rights management (DRM) technology with competitors. On the other side, Microsoft which is betting its Windows media standard will win out. In the middle are dozens of companies like RealNetworks, Sony, Napster, Virgin and others forming alliances, mostly with Microsoft.

"We are trying to decide how to make a digital rights management platform that would be compatible across all the various services," Mr. Berman said. "We think it should be based on interoperability."

Because the iPod is by far the most popular portable player and iTunes is the most popular online download retailer, Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs are bearing the brunt of most of the criticism that it refuses to distribute its technology or at least work with the industry to develop a common standard.