No, The MP3 Song Format is Not “Dead”

Over the past two days or so, you might have read a few news articles about how the famous MP3 song format was “dead”. Well, we wish to inform you that it’s actually almost opposite of that.


MP3 became an iconic format for today’s generation, who used it in place of the bulky CD format for devices like the iPod and other audio players. It was a savior in audio format as it allowed for almost 10% compression in size but retaining the same quality of sound as found on a physical CD. Since the late 1990s, the MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (a.k.a. MP3) became the go-to format for downloading (mostly illegally) music on the web and storing the same on our favorite devices.

Last month, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), the inventor of the iconic format, terminated its licensing program, giving birth to stories that MP3 was “killed”. Fraunhofer IIS said in a recent statement:

On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated. We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the defacto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades.

But most folks missed what the real deal behind the announcement was. Last month on 16 April 2017, the MP3 technology actually became patent-free in the United States when U.S. Patent 6,009,399, held by and administered by Technicolor, expired. Until now, Fraunhofer and his company used to earn a small fee from every MP3 player (like the iPod) sold in the market in addition to commission from audio software and codec companies. This new development simply means that the format is now license and royalty-free. It now allows users and corporate companies to use the format without paying any royalty to the inventor.

In short, the announcement made by Fraunhofer has nothing to do with MP3 being “dead” or “killed” — don’t let those news articles fool you. Your favorite songs on your iPod/iPhone/computer won’t suddenly stop playing. It basically translates to the end of Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS)’s patent-licensing program. Over the last few years, newer formats like the AAC have gained more popularity because of its ability to carry the same quality as MP3 but at a more efficient rate. Most streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music use that or the OGG format.

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