NetMD for Minidisc to Computer*
Audio Uploading: A Proposal

* Including PC, Macintosh and Unix/Linux computers

Eric Woudenberg (on behalf of many), May 2002


Sony's recently announced NetMD extension to the Minidisc format provides the first direct "data" connection between PC and MD. NetMD systems transfer compressed, ATRAC audio at up to 32 times realtime from PC to Minidisc with no generational loss and greatly simplify the transfer process as well.

All NetMD capable Minidisc machines are equipped with a USB interface that allows quick and reliable connections between the MD component and PC. It is a feature that Minidisc users have long wished for, not to say expected, considering that the MD's digital optical disk is essentially a computer data storage medium.

However, today's implementations of NetMD still fail to fully integrate the Minidisc with the PC. What remains critically lacking is the possibility of moving audio directly from Minidisc to PC. Anyone wishing to transfer MD audio to a PC is typically reduced to making an analog "recording" of the MD's output signal on their PC; a cumbersome process that generally degrades the signal and always proceeds in realtime (a 5 hour LP4 disc takes 5 hours to transfer, but would take less than 10 minutes were NetMD-based uploading possible).

High-speed, lossless audio upload is a critically important function for those using Minidisc in a creative capacity. Minidisc is, and will undoubtedly remain, a superb field recording device. As the diffusion of computers and the Internet increase, so too does the need for a simple and direct method of moving audio material captured on Minidisc into the networked world. From artists and journalists to scientists and engineers, innumerable Minidisc users would directly benefit from such a capability, were it available.


It is possible that Sony (a content provider) has not provided NetMD audio upload capability due to concerns that it would foster copyright infringement. However, the recording and consumer electronics industries appear satisfied with content protection schemes that prevent the digital copying of copyrighted material. Without abridging this principle in the slightest, we propose the following:

  1. Allow material recorded through the analog input jack of Minidisc equipment to be uploaded to PC, in compressed (i.e. ATRAC and ATRAC3) form.
    Sony made identification of copyrighted and non-copyrighted recordings part of the original Minidisc standard. Every Minidisc recorder tags its recordings to indicate whether a track was recorded through the unit's analog jack or its digital one.
  2. Allow this compressed data on the PC to be directly converted to "CD format" files (i.e. 16 bit, 44.1kHz PCM audio). Users are subsequently free to do what they like with the CD format audio (write to CD, convert to MP3, perform editing operations, etc)
    It is not necessary that ATRAC files be stored on the PC for this operation; simultaneous conversion of the compressed audio to CD format as it is being uploaded would suffice.
  3. For material recorded through the digital input jack of Minidisc equipment, likewise allow uploading to PC in compressed form, but restrict its use on the PC to playback only through Sony's OpenMG Jukebox software, thereby satisfying the stricture against unlimited digital propagation of copyrighted material.
    Restricting digitally recorded tracks to playback-only status on the PC, by way of OpenMG Jukebox, would still allow users to create a PC-based "Jukebox" of their Minidisc music collection. This would satisfy many who have long awaited a home MD changer. It would also strengthen the position of Sony's OpenMG Jukebox software, making it a centerpiece of many an MD fan's home HiFi system.

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