about the exhibition
The catalogue
A MP3 Chronology
From the beginning to december 1998
January 1999 to august 2000
September 2000 to december 2001
January 2002 to nowadays
I love you
origami digital
SMS museum guide
digitalcraft STUDIO (e)

Luca Lampo & Marina Serina [epidemiC]

A MP3-Chronology. Part 1: From the beginning to december 1998

The technological birth and "underground" childhood of MP3.

Moving Picture Experts Group approves MPEG-1 as standard for digital storage and retrieval of moving pictures and audio. MPEG Audio Layer III, or MP3, stores CD quality audio clips.

MPEG 1 or 2, Layer 3, or MP3, is an audio compression standard that allows tracks from an audio CD to be compressed into a digital file 1/10 of its original size. Once compressed, songs can be easily stored on a hard drive for playback on any Personal Computer, with virtually no loss in sound quality. Users can manage their music collection on their PC, home stereo connected to the PC, or Internet radio station. The small size of MP3s allows for hours of music to be stored rather than the one-hour limit of traditional CDs.

In California, the first musical document archive is created on a university server. “Since November 1993, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) has provided music distribution on the Internet by compressing audio with the internationally standardized MPEG Audio format. With the Internet experiencing tremendous growth (20 million current users and an estimated 1 million users added each month) we expect the Internet Underground Music Archive to be accessible to the majority of people with computers by the late 1990s. Our goal is to maintain a publically accessible, fast Internet site that archives the music, artwork and information of any musician, group or band that wishes their music to be internationally and freely distributed...” (from official statement). IUMA (, Santa Cruz, California) turned into Radio-IUMA (, an internet site still active today.

Foundation of “MP3 Audio Consortium” (M3C, A Mailing List used as a quorum for discussing MP3. “...None of us really had a patent interest in illegally copying music; we were simply blown away by the 'cool factor' of the new medium. We decided to form an official quorum for discussion of these issues, called The MP3 Audio Consortium (It was actually originally called 'The MPEG-3 Audio Consortium,' until Tristan Savartier of pointed out to us that MPEG-3 didn't exist and that MP3 really meant MPEG Audio Layer 3!). One of our members drew up a logo, and I set up a website and a mailing list. Nicknamed M3C, we grew quickly.” (from an interview with the founder of M3C).

Tomislav Uzelac, of Advanced Multimedia Products, creates the first player (software) for MP3 files, the AMP MP3 Playback Engine.

Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev leave the University of Utah to finish programming Winamp, a freeware for Windows destined to be the most popular MP3 file player. It soon becomes a shareware, needing a donation of ten dollars used solely to cover bandwith costs incurred by 30.000 downloads each day.(3)

Documents in MP3 format begin to circulate marginally on Internet. On university servers, enthusiast Home Pages,”Warez Scene” sites, IRC channels, “Free Webspace” services (,, HotLine servers, but especially FTP servers, where sites such as, e supply an excellent document search service.

Michael Robertson buys the “” domain from Paul Martin for one thousand dollars.(3) is founded in November 1997 with 3000 songs available for free download. In the next 12 months, it becomes the first music site on the Internet with 3 million hits monthly.

Economic lobbies, the beginning of the “property/freedom conflict”.

The first portable MP3 file player is launched on the market, called MPman as a paraphrase of Sony’s Walkman.(1)

With the author’s consent, makes available online “Sleeping with an Angel” and “Find a Way”, two new tracks by Billy Idol, the first of 1993. Capitol Records demands and achieves their immediate removal.(1)

Chuck D makes unpublished tracks from Public Enemy’s new album (“Bring the Noise 2000”) available for free download. His label “Def Jam”, a sublabel of PolyGram forces him to remove them and in response he breaks off his contract.(1)

Diamond Multimedia Systems is about to launch a portable MP3 player, the “Rio PMP300”, to cost $199 with a memory capacity allowing 60 minutes of high-quality music. Listening to MP3 documents will no longer be limited to Personal Computers.

October 1998.
Five of the pioneers in the rapidly expanding market for downloadable music - GoodNoise,, MusicMatch, Xing Technology and Diamond Multimedia - announce the formation of the MP3 Association, an industry trade group focused on the continued evolution and adoption of the MP3 standard. The Association will focus on three primary goals: promoting MP3 technology as the next-generation digital music format, educating consumers about MP3 and its legal use, and opening new creative avenues for musicians and developers. The MP3 Association will be exhibiting at the Webnoize '98 conference in Los Angeles, November 2-4.

GoodNoise Corporation,
based in Palo Alto, CA is an Internet record company harnessing the Internet as a platform for the sale and electronic delivery of music. With a compelling repertoire of leading-edge alternative and modern rock artists, the GoodNoise web site offers music fans an easy and convenient way to sample and purchase today's most exciting music.,
based in San Diego, CA was founded by Michael Robertson in November of 1997. With more than 3,000 songs available for free download, quickly became the 1st music download site on the Internet with 3 million visitors monthly. Today, more than 5 million songs have been downloaded from, where the DAM (Digital Automatic Music) program, an online label of sorts, offers artists digital distribution and a 50% royalty. More than 1,000 artists and 100 labels actively participate using as a promotional tool for their music.

based in Camas, WA was incorporated in February of 1997. The company develops complete MP3-focused digital audio solutions, allowing people to elevate their multimedia PCs into powerful components of their stereo systems.

Xing Technology Corporation,
based in San Luis Obispo, CA is the leading provider of MPEG audio and digital software. Since its founding in 1990, Xing has been the premier innovator in emerging media standards, including MPEG-2 video, DVD, and MPEG 1 or 2, Layer 3 (MP3) digital audio.

Diamond Multimedia Systems,
based in San Jose, CA is driving the interactive multimedia market by providing advanced solutions for home, business and professional desktop computer users, enabling them to create, access and experience compelling new media content from their desktops and through the Internet. Diamond's new Rio PMP300 is a portable, lightweight digital music player for mixing and storing up to sixty minutes of digital quality music and up to eight hours of voice quality audio from the Internet or a PC. The device uses MP3 compression and features a simple interface for easily transferring and converting files on the PC.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sues Diamond Multimedia and demands that distribution of the “Rio MP3 Player” be blocked. The RIAA accuses Diamond of violation of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA)and forecasts serious economic losses for the record companies. The preliminary sentence throws out the demand by the RIAA and the Rio portable player continues to be distributed, selling an average 10.000 units weekly.
Diamond brings counter-charges against the RIAA for violation of antitrust regulations, defamation and unfair competition. The final verdict, issued by the Court of California in June 1999, awards victory to Diamond Multimedia on the basis of a previous injunction: the case of Betamax VCR (Video Cassette Recorder), manufactured by Sony in 1984. Sony was accused of encouraging piracy but won the case by proving that although Betamax VCR indeed enabled copies of pirate cassettes to be made, this was neither its specific use, nor the use for which it had been designed and manufactured. In short, it would be unfair to punish Betamax VCR on the basis of possible use for illegal ends.

RIAA - (
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was founded in 1952. The RIAA is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes members' creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world. RIAA© members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.

In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; conduct consumer industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies.

The major record groups represented by the RIAA include: Sony, EMI, BMG, Time Warner, Warner Music, Seagram, Universal and Bertelsmann.

Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA)
In 1992 President Bush signs the Audio Home Recording Act. Defined by many a historic compromise, the ARHA is the first official document to recognize the consumer’s right to use and the retailer’s right to sell, all equipment able to record and duplicate, both in digital and analogue form.

Duplication is limited to domestic use and as such, the ARHA allows only a first generation of copies but prohibits serial use of the equipment for commercial purposes.

The compromise requires payment of a modest fee which is to go to the first “person” involved in the distribution process, the production or import company; no monetary compensation is required from the retailer or the end user. The sum, established as a percentage, is managed in common by the “Register of Copyrights” and by the “Librarian of Congress”: two thirds of the amount will go to the Sound Recordings Fund and one third to the Musical Works Fund.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a law passed by the Clinton Administration on 28 October 1998 on the basis of suggestions by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and consists of 5 articles devoted to the “protection” of copyright in the digital age.

The first article of the DMCA deals in particular with the technological aspects related to copyright, defining new classes of offence:
- Circumvention of Technological Protection (both for access to and for copying of protected data.
- Infraction of Integrity of Copyright Management Information The DMCA prohibits manufacture and sale of equipment or services violating one of the above prohibitions but it must be stressed that copying protected works is not expressly forbidden by the law. According to regulations on copyright, in some cases copying may be considered a “fair use” of a protected work.

The question remains of Copyright Management Information (CMI). This is only a sort of electronic watermark containing information on the work in question, the author, the copyright owner and other similar information.

Fortunately, the CMI is strictly forbidden to contain information on the user holding the object.

In this case also, the law provides for two possible offences:
- Falsification of the Copyright Management Information (CMI).
- Removal or alteration of the Copyright Management Information (CMI).

Hilary Rosen of the RIAA reports the discovery of “80 sites, mostly American, offering 20.000 MP3 files, 99% (per cent) unauthorized”.(3)

The Beastie Boys make five MP3 files available on their site free of charge with the live versions of “Intergalactic”, an unpublished track. Capitol Records demand their immediate removal and after the group threaten to break off their contract, persuade them to change format and make them available for listening in streaming.(3)

December 1998.
In New York during a press conference, the RIAA presents the project SDMI “Secure Digital Music Initiative”. The aim of the promotors of SDMI is to develop a global system for protecting musical works reproduced in digital form. In fact, current technology enables the creation of digital copies indistinguishable from the digital original, thus favouring manufacture and distribution of works without authors, performers, producers and record companies being able to receive their due royalties. The software and hardware manufacturers conforming to the regulations proposed by the SDMI should ensure digital audio distribution conforms to intellectual property laws.

Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) - (
The Secure Digital Music Initiative is a forum that has brought together more than 200 companies and organizations representing information technology, consumer electronics, security technology, the worldwide recording industry and Internet service providers.

SDMI's charter is to develop open technology specifications that protect the playing, storing, and distributing of digital music such that a new market for digital music may emerge. The open technology specifications released by SDMI will ultimately:
- Provide consumers with convenient access to music both online and in new emerging digital distribution systems,
- Enable copyright protection for artists' works, and
- Promote the development of new music-related business and technologies.

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