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Keep It Down, Music Hackers Told

April 25, 2001|From Reuters

A group of researchers who foiled four copyright protection technologies in a contest launched last year by the music industry is now being asked by the record companies to suppress its findings, one of the researchers said Tuesday.

The research group--composed of students and professors from Princeton and Rice universities and an employee of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center--had initially planned to present its findings Thursday at a Pittsburgh conference on information security but was threatened with legal action by the Secure Digital Music Initiative, a forum representing music and technology companies.

SDMI claims that disclosure of the findings could undermine the industry's efforts to prevent unlicensed copying of music.

"Our presentation was scheduled for 10 a.m. [EST] on Thursday, but at this point, it remains to be seen whether we will be going ahead" with it, said Edward Felten, a Princeton researcher and a member of the group.

The SDMI was formed to develop a standard for secure digital music distribution. Founding members include the world's biggest record labels--including Vivendi Universal's Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI Group and Bertelsmann's BMG.

In September, SDMI launched a $10,000 contest challenging people to hack into copyright protection technologies.

By November, it said it would pay prize money to two hackers. Felten's group claimed it had defeated four of the group's proposed watermarking technologies, which try to guard against hacking by using hidden signals in the digital music files.

Felten's group was not among the winners because it had pulled out of the contest before the final round due to the group's belief that the final round was unfair.

On April 9, Felten received a letter from Matthew Oppenheim, head of the SDMI Foundation and a senior lawyer for the Recording Industry Assn. of America urging him to refrain from disseminating his findings or face potential legal action.

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