Music body announces anti-piracy technology
The music industry-led Secure Digital
Music Initiative (SDMI) yesterday announced its chosen copyright
protection technology for phase one of its hardware specification.
And the winner is (rips open gold envelope): Aris Technologies for
its 1998 album, MusiCode.
Aris' watermarking system will now be built into emerging SDMI-compliant
devices, such as digital music players from Philips
and Matsushita, and future versions of Diamond
Multimedia's Rio. It will also ultimately be used to stamp
official SDMI-compliant digital music files.
During the SDMI's Phase I period, players will essentially play
any music track downloaded to them, including those encoded in the
However, when Phase II begins, and neither the SDMI nor the
broader music industry has said when this will take place, players
will need to be upgraded in order to play tracks using the Phase
II watermark. Upgraded players will still play old MP3s, Phase I
SDMI-compliant tracks and whatever other formats the manufacturer
chooses to support, but pirated Phase I and Phase II tracks will
Of course, that's the plan, but fears remain that the music
industry may well be tempted to use Phase II to render all
pre-Phase II music formats obsolete -- the original idea behind
the SDMI's two-stage implementation process.
The concern here was that when the SDMI's specification becomes a
standard part of all audio equipment, as it surely will, Phase II
would, say, prevent a new CD player from playing pre-Phase II
discs. In fact, this is probably unlikely to happen in any event,
since by this point the consumer electronics and music industry
will be pushing DVD Audio, and winning consumer support for that
format will largely be contingent on ensuring backwards
Speaking of DVD Audio, it's interesting that the 4C Entity, a
joint venture between Toshiba, IBM, Intel and Matsushita,
yesterday said it too had selected Aris' watermarking technology
as the basis for its own DVD Audio anti-piracy system.
And what's this we see: Aris' president is one David Leibowitz who
just so happens to be a former Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA) executive VP and general counsel. The RIAA has, of
course, been at the forefront of the anti-MP3 movement and
the subsequent formation of the SDMI. Online conspiracy theorists
are going to love this...