MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression. It is a common audio format for consumer audio storage, as well as a de facto standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on digital audio players. MP3 is an audio-specific format that was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group. The group was formed by several teams of engineers at Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen, Germany, AT&T-Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, USA, Thomson-Brandt, and CCETT as well as others. It was approved as an ISO/IEC standard in 1991.
The use in MP3 of a lossy compression algorithm is designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording and still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for most listeners. An MP3 file that is created using the mid-range bit rate setting of 128 kbit/s will result in a file that is typically about 1/10th the size of the CD file created from the original audio source. An MP3 file can also be constructed at higher or lower bit rates, with higher or lower resulting quality. The compression works by reducing accuracy of certain parts of sound that are deemed beyond the auditory resolution ability of most people. This method is commonly referred to as perceptual coding. It internally provides a representation of sound within a short term time/frequency analysis window, by using psychoacoustic models to discard or reduce precision of components less audible to human hearing, and recording the remaining information in an efficient manner. This is relatively similar to the principles used by JPEG, an image compression format.
Windows Media Audio (WMA) is an audio data compression technology developed by Microsoft. The name can be used to refer to its audio file format or its audio codecs. It is a proprietary technology that forms part of the Windows Media framework. WMA consists of four distinct codecs. The original WMA codec, known simply as WMA, was conceived as a competitor to the popular MP3 and RealAudio codecs. WMA Pro, a newer and more advanced codec, supports multichannel and high resolution audio. A lossless codec, WMA Lossless, compresses audio data without loss of audio fidelity. And WMA Voice, targeted at voice content, applies compression using a range of low bit rates.
Digital rights management
While none of the WMA codecs themselves contain any DRM facilities, the ASF container format, in which a WMA track may be encapsulated, can. Windows Media DRM, which can be used in conjunction with WMA, supports time-limited music subscription services such as those offered by unlimited download services, including MTV's URGE, Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music Unlimited and Virgin Digital. Windows Media DRM, a component of PlaysForSure and Windows Media Connect, is supported on many modern portable audio devices and streaming media clients such as Roku, SoundBridge, Xbox 360 and Wii. Players that support the WMA format but not Windows Media DRM list protected titles as unplayable. Unadvertised, but clearly present, is the risk users take downloading tracks for which they have paid. Relocation of a track (from one device to another) may be regarded by software as justification to inhibit playback. Such relocation can occur during the normal course of business, without intent to violate a copyright holder's rights. Digital rights may be claimed for works in the public domain.