Using an appearance with Justin Timberlake, the Microsoft chairman debuted a new music service, Urge, to directly compete with the iTunes music store and interface. Urge launches with over 2 million tracks for purchase or as part of an all-you-can eat subscription, an option the iTunes music store doesn’t have. The offering will include exclusive material from MTV, though it will not be compatible with iPods, which are currently the most popular MP3 player.
So, pay up: Attack of the MP3 patent hoaders
Now, you will find no shortage of people who will argue that SigmaTel-style patent hoarding is a natural and admirable form of capitalism. The exploitation of intellectual property is a core part of the global economy and will only become more so. There are huge sums of money to be made licensing I.P., and the semiconductor industry is a pioneer in figuring out how to best do so.
But to others, patent hoarding and the ensuing litigation is little more than extortion, a parasitical kind of behavior that could hamper innovation in the industry in the long run. When companies end up spending more to defend themselves than they do on research and development, everyone may end up suffering. It’s a topic that “How the World Works” intends to follow closely, and tracking SigmaTel’s adventures in I.P. licensing looks like an awfully good hook for the narrative.
SigmaTel’s press release: SigmaTel Expands IP Licensing Program with Acquisition of Original MP3 Player Patents; Newly Expanded Global Licensing Strategy Targeted at MP3 Silicon and MP3 Player Manufacturers
Later: A reader chides me for not at least mentioning that there are codecs that are *not* legally encumbered, notably Ogg Vorbis which has seen usage at the Internet Archive, Magnatune as well as throughout the open source community. (On the downside, the BBC seems to have dropped their Ogg project.) Thanks!