This was news to me. It might be news to you too:
MP3 is NOT free to use if you're an online publisher. BUT - let me be clear - there are some opt-outs. It appears you don't have to pay any license fees if:
It's for personal use or non commercial reasons (not generating income). OR - if your company revenue is below $100,000 a year.
Now, these rules might change of course. Make sure to check these yourself and ensure you're up to date by visiting mp3licensing.com for full details.
However, when there's alternatives I don't see why anyone publishing audio online would want to or should publish in MP3 format.
So what's best alternative? Well - it's all about OGG.
Okay, a slightly strange name. Here are facts:
OGG is just as high quality as MP3.
OGG is just as quick to download as MP3.
OGG is open source - this means no fees due, ever (for full details on OGG visit vorbis.com).
The only current downside of OGG is that it isn't as widely supported by audio players as MP3.
BUT - I'm convinced this will change. As more and more online publishers say "No!" to paying hefty and unnecessary licensing fees, more and more audio will be published online in OGG format, meaning more and more audio players will support OGG.
So if you're currently publishing audio online in MP3 format, what does this mean for you?
Well, my advice is to convert your audio from MP3 format to OGG format, without delay.
Now I'll admit it can be a little bit time consuming, but once it's done, it's done. And would you rather make a little effort to convert your audio, or pay licensing fees year after year?
So how do you convert MP3 to OGG? Easy - use an audio converter. You'll find a ton of high quality free ones by searching download.com and also sourceforge.net. My personal favorite is WinLAME (awful name, great software) from winlame.sourceforge.net.
So use WinLAME to convert your MP3 to OGG. Pay attention to keeping MP3 and OGG files around same size (I've actually found OGG files to be slightly smaller). And then compare audio quality. I'll be surprised if you can find any difference between them.
Now this conversion process might take a while. For about six hours of audio it took my computer at least a couple of hours of processing time. But I just left computer to it and came back when it was done. You can even leave this process running overnight if you have a lot of audio to convert.
Now here's an extra snippet you need to pay attention to:
Some OGG audio has "Tags". Tags are extra information inside audio file which often includes name of song for example.
At this time (this will probably change) some audio players have trouble playing OGG with "Tag" information in them. So take tag information out. It's easy and doesn't affect audio in any way - here's how you do it: