Supporters and opponents of MP3 discussed the problems of digital music technology last week on Capitol Hill.
Representatives of emusic.com and the Recording Industry Association of America described digital music technology to the 120-person audience and spent 90 minutes lobbing criticisms at each other.
The US Congress is not considering any legislation dealing in any way with digital music standards - either MP3 or SDMI - and neither side is asking the legislature to intervene.
A representative of The Forum on Technology and Innovation said it organized the briefing in response to frequent questions from congressional aides about what MP3 was.
Robert Kohn, chairman of MP3 distributor emusic.com, spent most of his time slamming technologies that restrict the redistribution of audio files. He singled out SDMI, saying it was a pain to use and promised to be as big a flop as Divx, the pay-per-use digital video disc format that failed earlier this year.
Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said that SDMI was needed "to prevent the upload onto the Internet" of pirated songs. MP3, on the other hand, isn't up to snuff technologically, she said. "The sound quality isn't as good as it should be."
RIAA launched the Secure Digital Music Initiative late last year to combat digital music piracy. Music publishers use SDMI-compliant devices to encode limits on content that restrict customers from copying or redistributing songs they have purchased. As Rosen told senators Wednesday, "The record industry is not afraid of the Internet. We are not afraid of piracy. And I don't think the MP3 phenomenon has been a terrible thing."