The companies behind the MP3 standard are creating new digital rights management (DRM) features for the endemic multimedia audio format.

Thomson and Fraunhofer – the companies that own the patents to MP3 technologies – are working to implement DRM within the standard.

They believe that digital distribution will emerge as a "significant mass market" and do not want their standard – which has become synonymous with music online and generates royalties for the firms – to miss out on any potential profits.

The new DRM-enabled MP3 standard will be available for free to MP3 licensees. The first devices and services to implement the format are expected to appear by the end of 2004.