of the problems will be widespread, because they are intrinsic to digital information, no matter what content it carries. The problems include distributing digital information without losing control of it, struggles over standards and formats, and evolving the shape of industries as the new technology changes the previous balance of power.
The problem, or opportunity, has hit music first for a variety of reasons. First, files containing high-fidelity music can be made small enough that both storage and downloading are reasonable tasks. Digitized music on a standard CD requires about 10 megabytes per minute of music; with a format called MP3, that same information can be compressed so that it occupies about one-tenth as much space.2 As a result, music files currently require about 1 megabyte for each minute of music (or about 45 megabytes for a typical album) yet offer generally acceptable (though not quite CD quality) sound. With multigigabyte disk drives common, dozens of albums are easily stored directly on a hard drive or inexpensively written to writable CDs.3 Video, by contrast, contains a great deal more information: A digitized 2-hour movie (e.g., on a DVD) contains about 5 gigabytes of information.
Second, access to digitized music is abundant, and demand for it is growing rapidly. Numerous MP3 sites offer free MP3 playback software, songs, and albums. With a 56K modem (which provides a sustained transfer rate of about 5K bytes/second), a 5-minute song takes about 17 minutes to download, an album about 3 hours. With access to high-speed network connections growing more commonplace (e.g., at work and on campuses), sustained download speeds of 50K bytes/second and higher are widely available, making possible the transfer of a song in under 2 minutes and of an entire album in about 18 minutes.
2MP3 is shorthand for Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) 1 Layer 3. Other compression techniques are available that offer even higher compression ratios, making the files smaller still. Although the MP3 format has been the most recent concern of the recording industry, problems involving digital music and IP arose some years ago, with the proliferation on the Web of unauthorized versions of songs written in MIDI format, and recordings in WAV and AU format (see Box 1.2 in Chapter 1 for an explanation of formats and file compression).
3A gigabyte of hard drive space can hold 1,000 minutes (roughly 20 albums' worth) of music; desktop machines routinely ship with multigigabyte hard drives and can thus easily hold 50 to 100 albums. The hardware to write one's own CDs was a few hundred dollars in 1999 and is sure to become cheaper, and a blank recordable CD costs about a dollar. Using MP3 encoding, a recordable CD will hold 10 albums' worth of songs. Hence to someone with the equipment, the marginal cost of copying an album is approximately ten cents and is sure to decline further as technology improves.