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CNNdotCOM Tools: MP3 Basics

(CNN) -- A federal judge found that MP3.com willfully violated copyrights and ordered the Internet music sharing company to pay for it -- but that doesn't mean you have to.

"The MP3, or digital music genie, is out of the bottle and all the litigation in the world is not going to get it back in," said Doug Gottlieb, associate editor at RollingStone.com.

Gottlieb joined us to discuss the MP3 explosion and the know-how you need to participate in it.

The MP3 file format, which lets users share, trade and distribute music digitally by compressing and transmitting high-quality audio files over the Internet, has been popular on college campuses because they can spare the high bandwidth. But the speed of a download on your personal computer depends on your connection speed. A download over a 28.8 modem could take five or six minutes, while a download over a high-speed connection could take only 30 seconds.

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CNN's Mary Kathleen Flynn talks with Doug Gottlieb of RollingStone.com

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If you have a relatively new computer or have recently upgraded to Windows 2000, you already have the software necessary for listening to MP3 files. For everyone else, free applications like RealJukebox, from Real.com, offer excellent MP3 cataloging software. Macintosh users can also download QuickTime, while PC users can choose Winamp.

Once you've installed the right software, you're ready to go hunting for tunes on the Web. RollingStone.com, emusic and MP3.com are among the big-named, more trusted brands out there. Some sites like emusic.com charge about $1 for each downloaded song, but the majority of sites allow free downloads. When you visit one of these Web sites, click the download link for any file you'd like to listen to and let it transfer to your hard drive. The MP3 file will then display in software like RealJukebox, where you can play it.

While you're listening, the MP3 controversy continues. The music industry maintains that music sharing software allows users to swap music illegally, promoting piracy. But Gottlieb compared MP3 to the old 45 RPM single, which wasn't a big money-maker for the label but raised awareness of the artist and made you want to buy other music by that artist.

"The recording industry in general is very used to doing business one particular way, and that's shipping plastic disks around the country on trucks and controlling the complete means of distribution," Gottlieb said. "Instead of looking to close down channels of distribution for digital music, the labels really should be looking to expand and facilitate the distribution of music."



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RELATED SITES:
CNNdotCOM
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emusic
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