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Chapter 1. Start Here > Going Legit

Going Legit

MP3 had its day in the sun, symbolizing the freedom of digital music as well as the irresponsibility that inevitably comes with such freedom. However, it was not to last. If digital music were to become a mainstream medium to rival or even replace CDs, it could not be on the MP3 format—because as soon as a record label sold an MP3, the purchaser could immediately turn around and broadcast it onto the peer-to-peer file-sharing networks (which have never gone away—rather, they've merely become more and more sneaky and undetectable by the authorities). Some online digital music stores, such as MP3.com and eMusic.com, have attempted to make a business case on selling MP3s created by artists who don't care about piracy and are only interested in exposure to their fans—but those artists are relatively few and don't include any of the big-name stars whose music most listeners want to buy.

The answer finally came when Apple introduced Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), a digital music format similar to MP3 but protected with digital signatures that ensure that only a limited number of “authorized” computers can open or play a given file. This format was introduced at the same time as the iTunes Music Store, which opened the doors of legal music downloads for both Mac and Windows users. AAC files' Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology gave the record industry the assurance it needed that the products it sold would not be devalued through immediate and uncontrollable duplication.


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