Worldwide Recording Industry Announces Precedent-Setting Initiative to Address New Digital Music Opportunities

RIAA Press Release, December 15, 1998

Effort Unites Record Companies with Technology Industries to
Create An Open Specification for Digital Music Security

New York, December 15, 1998 — At a press conference today, leaders of the worldwide recording industry announced the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), a framework to work with the technology community to create a voluntary digital music security specification by next fall. The open specification will protect copyrighted music in all existing and emerging digital formats and through all delivery channels.

Driven by the SDMI Forum, an open body of companies involved in digital music, the initiative will achieve three objectives. It will answer consumer demand for convenient access to quality recordings, ensure copyright protection for artists’ work, and enable technology and music companies to build successful businesses.

In planning for nearly a year, the initiative was announced by leading worldwide music heads, including Strauss Zelnlek, president and CEO of BMG Entertainment; Ken Berry, president of EMI Recorded Music; Thomas D. Mottola, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment; Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group; Bob Daly, chairman and co-CEO, Warner Bros. and Warner Music Group; Terry Semel, chairman and co-CEO of Warner Bros. and Warner Music Group; Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America; and Jason Berman, chairman-elect and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Barman also represented the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

In addition to major and independent record labels, many preeminent technology companies – AOL, AT&T, IBM, Lucent, Matsushita, Microsoft, RealNetworks, Sony Corporation and Toshiba — support the initiative. It is expected that many other large and small companies will join the effort. Enclosed in the press kit are supporting statements already received from Aris Technologies, Diamond Multimedia, Headspace, Iomega Liquid Audio, Samsung and Texas Instruments.

“Creating a voluntary, open security specification benefits everyone, said RIAA’s Rosen. “It will enable consumers to conveniently access the music of their choice. It will encourage artists, producers, songwriters, publishers, recording companies and others in the music industry to make their music available in new ways, knowing that it will be more secure. It will also encourage technology companies to move forward with interoperable products and services.

“This initiative is about the technology community developing an open security system that promotes compatible products in a competitive marketplace,” said Rosen. It’s not about the recording industry imposing a standard on technology companies. We’ll simply provide guidance on the needs of our industry and its customers.”

“The recording industry has long been a beneficiary of new technology,” said IFPI’s Berman. “Music CDs are household items today because we were quick to adopt this superior technology years ago. We see the Internet, high-density discs and other music delivery channels as providing enormous opportunities for us. This global initiative will help us put music in the hands of more people, in more ways, than we could have ever dreamed before.”

“We must establish an appropriate method to protect copyright,” said Nobuo Ikeguchi, president of the Recording Industry Association of Japan. “It is one of our most important issues. The RIAJ is eager to cooperate fully — offering our knowledge and experience — in the implementation of SDMI.”

The SDMI Forum
The SDMI will be an open forum for all commercial companies significantly involved in technologies relating to digital music. Participating companies will be encouraged to bring their approaches to digital music security and to work together to establish and document an open architecture and specification for protecting music. Many companies and established groups are currently developing approaches and solutions to secure digital music. The forum will provide a means to build upon and harmonize these efforts. Products and services that conform to the open standard will have compatible and interoperable security features, and will be certified as SDMI compliant.

The recording industry’s role in the forum will be to provide guidance as to the features attractive to artists, record companies and consumers. The effort will include representatives of independent record labels to ensure that the initiative is inclusive, and that all points of view are represented. Other music industry groups will also be invited so that the forum will understand the important work being undertaken around the world by music publisher and songwriter rights organizations.

The SDMI Timeline
The SDMI Forum is expected to begin operations in early 1999. The objective is to have a specification completed in time to allow conforming products to be available for the 1999 holiday season.

Note: Today’s announcement was webcast on the Recording Industry Association of America’s site: You can access an archived audio/video recording at this site.

Secure Digital Music Initiative Q&A

What is SDMI’s mission?
The million of SDMI is to enable consumers to conveniently access music in all forms, artists and recording companies to protect their intellectual property and technology and music companies to build successful businesses in their chosen areas.

To accomplish this goal, SDMI will actively help develop an open and interoperable means for providing security for copyrighted music in all existing and emerging digital formats and their respective delivery channels.

Led by members of the worldwide recording industry, SDMI will create the SDMI Forum, which is an open body of companies involved in digital music. Forum members will be invited to bring their individual approaches to the task of developing an open music security architecture and specification. The companies will work together to make their varying products and solutions interoperable. The final specification will be available to all interested parties.

So why now?
The worldwide recording industry recognizes that many companies are developing approaches and solutions to provide security for music that is digitally distributed via CD, high-density disc, the Internet and other means. For example, some companies am currently working to develop standards for high-density discs, which may become the medium for the next generation of music. Others are launching marketplace trials for the digital distribution of music, which may open a new marketplace for the consumption of recorded music.

The technologies and standards involved in these initiatives provide an opportunity to positively impact the security of copyrighted music. However, there is also a risk that the marketplace will fill up with incompatible products and services, which would be detrimental to consumers, artists and recording companies. SDMI will build upon and harmonize these ongoing efforts, as well as deal with other issues not currently being addressed. The goal is to encourage a marketplace of interoperable products that will benefit consumers and spur innovation.

How will the SDMI Forum be structured?
The SDMI Forum is designed to be a practical, commercially-motivated mechanism to rapidly effect interoperability among the various approaches to digital music security that exist or are in development. It brings together companies whose products and services are critical to the distribution of digital music in all formats and through all channels.

Within the forum, the recording industry provides an environment where technology companies can work to make the security elements of those products and services as interoperable as possible, and ultimately to create an open specification for digital music security. This specification will then be available to all companies involved in the delivery of digital music.

The structure of the SDMI Forum will be finalized in upcoming weeks based on discussion among representatives of the worldwide recording industry and the technology companies that choose to participate in SDMI. These technology companies have a great deal of experience developing open standards, and it makes sense, therefore, to get the benefit of that experience in structuring SDMI to operate efficiently, effectively and fairly.

It is likely the structure will consist in part of a Steering Committee of technology companies and a Recording Industry Board (including a Music Industry Advisory Council to provide input from other music industry groups). It is also likely that participating technology companies will work together in technical working groups on specific issues, and that a professional staff will manage the day-to-day operations. Such support can be provided by the technology consulting firm, Global Integrity (a division of SAIC), which, along with Scient helped develop SDMI.

How will the SDMI Forum operate?
It is not the intent of the recording companies to dictate to technology companies, via the forum, the details of the digital music security specification. Instead, the recording companies will provide guidance on those requirements deemed important to the fundamental interests of the recording industry and its customers. The technology companies will oversee the definition and implementation of the open security architecture, as well as the creation and update of the detailed interoperability specification.

It is the intent of the SDMI Forum to start with the substantial commercial security innovations that exist or are presently under development. These include approaches and methods from ongoing joint activities involving the recording and technology companies, as well as those independently developed elsewhere.

Once a specification is fully defined, the forum will issue on “SDMI mark” to identify products and services that are compliant with the specification. The mark will be a seal of approval that indicates a product or service meets the requirements for security, performance (i.e., robustness and audibility), and interoperability developed by the forum.

What are the criteria for SDMI Forum membership?
Any company that meets the SDMI Forum criteria can join at any time. Membership is open to all commercial companies that are amenable to industry cooperation and open architectures and that have:

  1. Significant direct activity in, or affecting, digital music security;
  2. Strategic financial relationships or investments that affect the music industry, or the potential for such activities, investments or relationships in the near future; or
  3. High visibility in the music marketplace and/or a significant music industry technology “mindshare.”

Is there a fee for Joining the SDMI Forum?
The proposed SDMI fee structure is $50,000 for membership at the highest level (i.e., on a steering committee of technology companies) and $10,000 for all other members. If it is necessary to continue the SDMI Forum after 1999, those fees will be $25,000 and $5,000, respectively, for each year thereafter. All costs of adapting vendor company products and systems to comply with SDMI will be borne by the respective vendor companies.

How does a company join?
To join the SDMI Forum, contact: Pertti Visuri, Ph.D., President, Electronic Markets for Global Integrity at 4180 LaJolla Village Drive, Suite 450, LaJolla, CA, 92037, Telephone: 619-458- 4902, Email: pertti.visuri[at]

What Is the timeline for SDMI?
The structure of SDMI will be organized in early 1999, and the SDMI Forum is expected to begin operations in earnest by February 1999.

The subsequent process of developing and implementing a detailed SDMI specification and SDMI compliance process is expected to require approximately six months. This means that a draft of the SDMI system specification could be completed by mid-summer 1999, and the first release version of the SDMI system specification could be available a few months later. The “SDMI mark” will be available shortly thereafter. Assuming the participating vendors implement SDMI features as they are developed, it is reasonable to envision vendors offering SDMI-compliant products and solutions for the 1999 holiday retail season.

How does SDMI relate to other music industry activities?
There are a number of ongoing activities that involve recording companies and various technology companies. Most are focused on medium and/or technology-specific upsets of digital music that involve, to varying degrees, digital music security.

SDMI is not intended to replace or disrupt ongoing activities. Indeed, SDMI intends to build upon the progress made by these groups in such areas as common vocabulary, principles/frameworks and data formats. The companies involved in these ongoing activities will be represented within SDMI.

SDMI is intended to harmonize more narrowly-focused efforts so that digital music can be secured across a variety of media and delivery methods. This harmonization will occur in a pragmatic, market-driven manner, as SDMI will solicit the participation of all the companies involved in these digital music activities, as well as all other interested companies. The companies will be encouraged. to bring their approaches and solutions — including those from other ongoing digital music activities — to the SDMI Forum.

By dealing directly with the technology companies on a commercially-motivated basis, SDMI will be fostering interoperability between technologies and solutions that are considered by those companies to be commercially feasible. This will significantly reduce the time necessary to bring open, interoperable digital music security to the marketplace.

RIAA, Alexandra Walsh – (202) 857-9264
The Weber Group, Laureen McGowan – (617) 520-7087

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