MPEG Layer 3

What Is MP3?

MP3 stands for Moving Picture Experts Group technology, Layer-III. It is a format for compressing music which delivers almost CD-quality sound. A three-minute song can be stored in about three megabytes in MP3 format. In contrast, a three-minute song in WAV format, which also offers near CD-quality sound, would be about thirty megabytes in size. These benefits of MP3 makes it easier to store and transfer many sound files.

How Widely Used Is MP3?

According to several search engines, "MP3" is the second most searched for word on the Internet. There are thousands of sites on the Internet which offer MP3s, both legal and illegal. MP3 sites, especially illegal ones, are often jammed with visitors. MP3 has gained mainstream publicity by recently grabbing headlines in prominent newpapers and magazines. This recent publicity given to the MP3 format stands to make it even more popular.

What MP3 Products Are Available?

MP3 files are widely available on the Internet. There are about one hundred MP3 "search engines". They catalogue MP3 sites and search for MP3 files to make it easy for anyone searching for a particular file to find it. These search engines, even reputable ones such as the one from Lycos, often turn up illegal MP3 sites.

MP3 software is often distributed for free at MP3 sites. These include MP3 players as well as "CD Rippers", which allow anyone with a CD-ROM drive to copy songs from their Compact Discs to MP3 format.

MP3 "broadcasts" are also found on the Internet. Music afficianados with the proper equipment can play their favorite MP3s to audiences around the world.

Portable MP3 players are available on the market, the most popular of which is the Rio, produced by Diamond Multimedia. Most portable MP3 players sell for less than two hundred dollars. When the Rio was first released, The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep the Rio from being sold. RIAA claimed that the Rio was a recording advice, since it allowed users to download music from their computers onto the player, and as such, was subject to the provisions of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which requires manufacturers and digital audio recording devices to notify the Federal Register of Copyrights and pay a small royalty fee per device. However, Diamond Multimedia successfully argued that the Rio was simply a playback device.

Car MP3 players are also offered on the Internet, but these have not gained much popularity yet.

NEXT: MP3 and the Law

Emulation   |   Search Engines and Directories
Reverse Engineering   |   CD Burners


Ted LeVan   |   Huat Chye Lim   |   Marissa Mayer   |   Ann Rose Van

Computer Science 201 Final Project
Stanford University, March 1999