Digital music protections cracked

A group of researchers claims to have defeated four different technologies being developed to prevent computer users from listening to copyright music for free.

Researchers at Princeton University, Xerox PARC and Rice University said they were able to remove invisible security measures placed on four music files by the Secure Digital Media Initiative - a group of 200 music, telecommunications and consumer electronic companies.Any reasonably sophisticated computer pirate intent on illegally distributing copyright music files could do the same, the researchers said. The claim, if true, strikes at the heart of efforts to protect copyrights and prevent people from listening to music for free using technology such as Napster.

"I believe all four of these schemes would have been cracked by pirates if they had been deployed," said Edward Felten, an associate professor of computer science at Princeton.
An SDMI representative said Monday that it was too early to verify the researchers' claims, but that complete circumvention of all four security schemes was a "fairly low-probability event." He said that even if the technologies were defeated, it would not prevent SDMI from devising strong and effective security measures.

"I expected some would have fallen," said SDMI's Talal Shamoon. "This is part of an empirical process to get the best technology." The security measures are designed to prevent illegal copies of songs that have been sent over the Internet from being played on a computer or by a portable digital music player. Devices that comply with SDMI would reject any files without the invisible security measures.

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