Chiariglione, the Father of the MP3
Very few people on the European or international panorama defy clear classification. Those that do are usually entrepreneurs, managers, business leaders or inventors. Leonardo Chiariglione not only succeeds perfectly, but has also achieved international acclaim. Chiariglione, an engineer from Turin, with 32 years at Telecom Italia, ended his career there as vice-president of their Multimedia Division. He is the inventor of the MPEG system, the forerunner of Mp3, MPEG-1 (video CD), MPEG-2 (digital television and set-top box) and MPEG-4 (mobile telephone media). Today, Chiariglione, who left Telecom Italia over a year ago, is considered throughout the world as a key figure in the field of the research and construction of new communications standards for the future.
How would you define yourself, Mr. Chiariglione?
"A creator? An inventor? Not an entrepreneur, that's for sure. Perhaps a manager? We might just say that I am the inventor of a mechanism, in the sense of a standardisation system rather than a material object, from which were developed standards that the business world has used in a wide range of products. This mechanism is the MPEG: its products are the Mp3 and potentially many others in the future."
We can say, then, that you are a creator. Instead of designing exclusive fashion wear, you are creating logical communications systems. Is that difficult?
"The system has been around for sixteen years, and is the result of the hard work of a large and dedicated team. A few weeks back we held the last MPEG meeting, the 71st since the start of this venture. There were 320 of us, coming from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of expertise, from the entertainments industry to telecommunications.
So now that you no longer have an operating role in a large firm, are you still a creator?
Yes, certainly. But basically as a digital media strategist. Today my goal is that of creating a global standardisation system, known as the Digital Media Project (DMP). The Mp3 was a real triumph, something made available to people everywhere. It hasn't always been used as it should have been, but that does not change the fact that it represents a huge step forward in the way we communicate".
Mp3s have been the source of much heated debate, since it is impossible to protect the rights of those whose works are downloaded from the Web for free. Do you feel responsible in some way for what happened afterwards?
"The aim of the Digital Media Project is precisely that of developing a communications system without boundaries or limitations. But it also aims to establish a system and regulations which will allow the producers themselves to have their work acknowledged. One year into the project we held a fourth international meeting, in which we began to set down the first technical specifications. The task is just as difficult as that carried out on MPEG, but we are also expecting to resolve at least some of the problems that arose with the introduction of Mp3."
But the disputes regarding these problems have raged on. Will you be able to resolve all the ongoing problems?
"Standardisation systems cannot solve everything. Above all, they cannot prevent those I call irresponsible dealers from continuing to behave as in the past.
Who are these irresponsible dealers?
"People who decide to place their goods on the market and distribute them over a very wide area, without any system of control. It is obvious that some things will disappear into thin air. In other words: if you commit a robbery, the responsibility lies with the person who commits it, and not with technology or standardisation systems. My goal is to make available to everyone the possibility of transmitting whatever they want to whoever they want, within a framework of systems and clear regulations".