A Technical Answer For Music File-Swapping? - InformationWeek

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8/15/2003
03:24 PM
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A Technical Answer For Music File-Swapping?

As the music industry battles in court, a vendor offers a database option

With the music industry's battle against file-sharing culprits encountering more twists and turns than the lovers in a country-music ballad, one major label made a move that could eventually provide a technology tool to combat copyright infringement.

Universal Music Group last week became the first major label to include its new releases in Audible Magic Corp.'s RepliCheck database, a tool CD manufacturers use to keep from unwittingly pressing discs with copyrighted music. Companies and universities could use the database to monitor for music file-swapping.

The recording industry is having trouble with its subpoena-filing campaign to get Internet service providers and universities to name those engaged in music file-swapping. Late last month, Pacific Bell contested the Recording Industry Association of America's interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it easier for copyright holders to obtain subpoenas to stop digital theft. A federal court ruled Aug. 8 that MIT and Boston College needn't comply with subpoenas because they were filed in Washington, D.C., not Massachusetts. Last week, a group of ISPs, called the Net Coalition, sent a letter to the RIAA questioning the validity of its campaign.

Universal's move is a major endorsement of Audible Magic's technology just as Audible is planning to market a network appliance to universities, ISPs, and businesses that they can use to monitor file-sharing activities. Audible's database is a library of 3.7 million songs in waveforms that track sounds, rather than text-based attributes stored as metadata. The network-sniffing technology tries to compare files moving through a network against that database and block unauthorized files.

The RIAA last year sent a letter to Fortune 1,000 companies urging them to stop illegal file-sharing on their networks, but it hasn't pursued any legal challenges against companies. Jupiter Research analyst Lee Black says companies may try to stop file-sharing, but not because of copyright concerns. They're worried about file-swappers hogging their bandwidth.

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