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MP3 isn’t dead, but its licensing is

by Eric Frederiksen | May 18, 2017May 18, 2017 10:30 am PST

If you’ve been reading lots of tech sites online this week, you may have heard the MP3 is dead. But that’s just not the case. In fact, the now-ancient format may be stronger than ever.

No, the format isn’t dead – its bodyguards are. A few weeks ago, the Fraunhofer Society, which owned the licenses to the format, announced that all patents relating to the MP3 format have expired. As there are newer and more efficient codecs available, licensing it further just doesn’t make sense. To use the MP3 format in a product required a license from the Fraunhofer society.

MP3 is still a popular format

There are still millions of MP3s out there, and lots of reasons to use the format. While there are better codecs out there, MP3 is well-known and still in common use, especially among open-source programs. It’s also the file format that single-handedly caused a war on piracy and put portable digital music in enough demand that the iPod became a thing.

I remember downloading my first MP3s, and was blown away by how good the format sounded despite the files being just a couple megs. I’d guess that my first hard drive upgrade was a direct result of the format, as every album I owned ended up on my computer. These days, streaming makes it so easy to find that stuff that those kinds of measures just aren’t worthwhile like they used to be.

With that licensing expired, anyone can jam the MP3 codec into any software or hardware they like. So no, it’s not dead. It has a whole new lease on life.

Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...