Volume 92, Issue 58

Tuesday, January 12, 1999



Private university a possibility

New renovation proposal costly but efficient

Frat finally pays up

Applied mathematics founder dies at 77

GM motors cash through U of T


MP3s bring music revolution

Caught on campus

MP3s bring music revolution

Music on the net has gone through a major revolution in the past few years.

Not more than five years ago, the music scene was largely restricted to files called MODs, which created music by using sound samples and playing them in various configurations. The end result sounded very typical of '80s music – very synthetic, very techno.

Today a new realm of possibilities has opened up thanks to the MP3. The MP3 format stands for MPEG one, compression layer three and originally served as the means of compressing movie sound tracks for movies released under the MPEG format, a technology commercially replaced by the DVD. Still, the compression was so effective for sound that the MP3 protocol was born.

MP3s reduce an average length song to about three megabytes of data. Given that you can normally fit about 12 songs onto an audio CD and that you can fit about 150 MP3s onto a data CD, the amount of compression is astounding. What's truly amazing, however, is there is little to no loss of sound quality in the transfer. In fact, several utilities allow you to put MP3s back into CD audio format if you happen to have a CD burner handy.

This compression also makes it very easy to send MP3s across the internet, as three megabytes translates to anywhere between five and 25 minutes depending on internet congestion. Realizing this, independent artists have begun using MP3s to showcase their work.

A large collection of freely distributed and, in many cases, high quality songs can be found at www.mp3.com and several other sites across the internet. Their collection spans from classical to rap music and they have also collated many tutorials on making your own MP3s and distributing them.

Of course, copyright issues surround the entire MP3 technology. The files are legal if used solely within the owner's personal domain, even if they are copies of copyright material because they fall under the realm of backups. MP3s may be distributed if the artist released them without copyright, but are illegal to distribute without permission if they are copyrighted. This means, in simple terms, that you won't be downloading Lenny Kravitz's latest songs off the net – at least, not legally. Adding credence to the argument that it is impossible to police the internet, thousands of pirate MP3s are exchanged each day across IRC and FTP sites.

Despite the gray legality of MP3s, several companies, including Diamond (www.diamondmm.com) have released portable MP3 players which work similar to a Walkman, but have no moving parts and thus less potential for breakage.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999