Five record companies have joined with IBM to conduct market trials of a delivery mechanism for the secure digital music format the recording industry would like to see replace the easily pirated MP3 (CI No 3,560). The five companies – BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music – are all members of the Recording Industry Association of America’s Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), which is developing software to ensure that consumers must pay for the music they download. The six-month trial will involve a thousand or so cable subscribers in the San Diego area. If all goes according to plan, these pilot subscribers should be able to download 60 minutes of CD-quality music in less than ten minutes. IBM developed the delivery system itself, adding a clearinghouse for authorizing and processing transactions. The company says it has built a highly secure rights management capability similar to those used in major banks to ensure that financial transactions are authorized. The hoped-for result is that downloaded music can be transferred onto recordable digital media or a playing device only within the terms of pre-determined copy control policies. In other words, MP3 pirates begone. Whether internet users will embrace the SDMI trial at the expense of the people’s audio compression format remains to be seen.