How MP3 Was Born

Karlheinz Brandenburg often is cited as the inventor of the music format. But he credits many for a discovery that has upended the music business

Karlheinz Brandenburg doesn't like being labeled the "inventor" of MP3. He points out that the most popular format for digital music on the Internet is the work of at least a half-dozen core developers and many others who made important contributions. Even folk-rock singer Suzanne Vega inadvertently played a walk-on role in the creation of MP3. "I know on whose shoulders I stand and who else contributed a lot," says Brandenburg, now director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Ilmenau, Germany.

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