The Music Industry is lashing back at the implications of RealAudio and MP3.
It cringes at the idea that recordings can be uploaded without any regard for
copyright or royalty payments.
In an effort to stop the unlawful distribution and sales of pirated music and
develop a method for protecting Web-distributed audio files, more than 130
companies and organizations from the consumer electronics, Internet service
provider, security technology, and recording industries created a forum at the
beginning of 1998 called the Secure Digital Music Initiative (pronounced
"sodomy"). The initiative proposed a two-phase plan for developing a publicly
available file format for playing, storing, and distributing digital music.
Phase I, which was completed in June, 1999, defined a standard for
manufacturing portable devices that can play both unprotected and protected
music formats. The audio files contain a digital watermark. The detection
software is manufactured by Verance (www.verance.com). Portable players that
conform to Phase I specs are currently being manufactured.
However, the Phase I devices couldn't tell you whether a digital audio
file was protected or not. That had to wait until Phase II technology
With the Phase II technology, when you play files that are protected by digital
watermarks (SDMI Phase I compliant), the device will automatically let you know
that their software can be upgraded to play future Phase II compliant music. If
you choose not to upgrade, all of the music that you've compiled can still be
played, but the players won't play the new SDMI Phase II compliant
However, it appears that SDMI Phase II is slipping into
cryogenic stasis. The last press
release from SDMI.org dated May 18, 2001, basically throws in the towel on
Phase II. SDMI admitted that there was no concensus for
adoption of any combination of the proposed technologies, and that Phase II
would fade away, although the digital watemark remains in widespread use.
the final blow
In response to a challenge posed by SDMI, the digital
watermark developed by Verance was cracked by a research team at Princeton
led by Professor Edward Felton. Professor Felton intended to
present the findings at the Information Hiding conference, co-sponsored by
the Naval Research Laboratory.
But rather than pay Professor Felton's team the prize
for meeting the challenge, the RIAA, SDMI and Verance collectively
threatened to sue Felton if he presented his findings, or
otherwise dislosed how he circumvented the SDMI.
The basis of SDMI's threaten lawsuit was that Felton was not
allowed to publish or present the results because it would run afoul of the
DMCA’s anti-circumvention statute.
Felton has critized content companies for attempting to gain
unprecedented control over copyrights, including ones that don't necessarily
have. He has also compared DRM infrastructures to perpetual motion
machines, suggesting that content providers might better spend their time and
money on developing piracy tracking applications.