Confident copyright technology group is really hacked off

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A confident music and technology group offered $10,000 to anyone who could hack into their copyright protection technologies – and lost out twice over.

Founding members of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) include Universal Music, BMG, Sony Music, Warner Music Group, and EMI Music. They have launched a crusade against digital piracy – but refused to identify the hackers who won the contest.

The competition caused embarrassment for the SDMI when researchers from Princeton and Rice universities and the Xerox Palo Alto research centers claimed to have defeated four of the five watermarking technologies. The technologies that withstood the challenge included both watermark and non-watermark solutions.

The group received 447 submissions in the first round, in October, and a second round determine if submissions were repeatable on music or not. They said they had learned important lessons about what could work in the marketplace.

Edward Felten, a faculty member of Princeton and one of the researchers who claimed to have compromised the technology, said his group’s entries were not considered in the final round of the contest, although their claims had not been refuted.

Felten said his group did not believe the second round was fair because SDMI provided much less information than would normally be available to real hackers. SDMI wanted them to operate in a vacuum without access to the technology, he said.

Bertelsmann last week announced an alliance with Napster, in an effort transform the company into a paid service.

SDMI

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