The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is aiming to create a standardized system for identifying digital-music files, so the owner of the copyright can track its use and collect royalties.

The RIAA will set the requirements for an identification system for music, and other sound recordings, said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president of the RIAA. To manage the project, the RIAA has selected Rightscom, a UK-based firm that has designed and developed identification systems in the past.

Embedded The system is comparable to bar codes on merchandise bought in stores, but instead of appearing in print on the package, the code would be embedded in the digital content. It would include any limitations on the use of the music, such as an expiration in a set number of days. The code would present a range of opportunities for offering music over the Internet in different ways, Sherman said. For instance, a user might want to buy one-time access to a database of 100 songs that can be played during a party.

Sherman added: "The idea would be that you would have encoded in the header of the file the information that rights holders would need to track the royalty payments for those uses. You just need to have a standardized way of doing that."

Industry wide The project will seek to involve other music-industry players, including distributors and retailers, Sherman said. He also stressed that the design of the new system will build on existing practices where possible, and incorporate features that support different sale, licensing and tracking activities that the industry feels are vital to the future of online music-commerce.

The RIAA claims a standardized-identification system for sound recordings would accelerate the digital delivery of music on the Internet.

The RIAA hopes the standardized system will be finished by the middle of next year.