'Some dubious motive or initiative'?

At the Interactive Music XPO, mp3 everywhere but no SDMI

The advantage to this system is its ability to secure any kind of information. It also allows the rights holder to tailor the level of access to the information. In other words, Sarah McLachlan can serve up her next album in a number of ways. Either for one-time listening, multiple listens, or even forever—at appropriate prices for each. Whatever the artist chooses. Files manipulated under the DigiBox system can be uploaded and e-mailed to friends, but will still be subject to the same conditions. Your friends will also have to pay for rights to access.

And in addition to this apparently secure process, InterTrust may well become the de facto download standard based on its impressive client roster. Universal Music Group and BMG have deals with InterTrust. Even Microsoft has invested in software company Reciprocal, which uses InterTrust's technology. The Santa Clara–based company filed for an $85 million IPO a few weeks ago. SDMI may end up being a drawn out formality.

Another SDMI issue that could leave a sour taste with consumers is privacy. No matter what the download solution, part of SDMI's forthcoming standards will inevitably involve watermarking the downloaded files. The watermarks will tag purchased files with the consumer's personal information, such as name, credit card number, or e-mail. Consumers might shy away from this, since they can buy CDs at their local record shop anonymously—without the record label, or anyone else, knowing what they bought and when.

Cost may become a huge sticking point for consumers as well.

"The marketplace is tricky," Rosen says. "I don't know what it will be; it's up to the consumer to decide. But look at Amazon. They don't make money now because they spend so much on marketing and promotion—getting people to their site. The hard costs of [marketing] music online may not be that much different than [marketing] CDs."

Consumers may bristle at the thought of paying as much to download music as to buy CDs, but it's clear that this particular e-commerce model will take on a practical form very soon. SDMI or no SDMI.

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