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Ringtone Shoplifters Hitting Unprotected Mobile Music Stores Could Threaten Industry
By Mi2N
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A startling study conducted by Qpass of 100 leading U.S. and European digital content websites revealed that more than one third of the sites are unsecured, allowing users to 'shoplift' music tracks and download them as free ringtones. The extent of the problem in U.S. may have already cost the mobile and music industries an estimated $40 million U.S. (33 million EURO) since the beginning of 2004, and a further $123 million U.S. (102 million EURO) by 2007, according to Qpass.

Qpass attributes this problem to the need for the mobile and music industries to enable users to preview music before they purchase it, an important part of the customer purchasing experience. Two thirds of websites tested offered preview music files between 15 and 30 seconds, the perfect length to convert into a ringtone.

Preview content can be secured by using streaming, embedded pre-listening or the use of a DRM-protected file format. The study of digital rights vulnerabilities on mobile music web stores was conducted as part of the ongoing development of the Qpass Content Delivery Platform, which offers a comprehensive solution for securing mobile content.

The websites tested included 42 mobile carrier portals and 58 online entertainment and music stores offering full track music downloads. Out of the sites tested, 40 percent of carrier sites and 31 percent of other portals such as online music stores and entertainment sites were unsecured. Ironically, some of the sites surveyed specialized in selling ringtones, which are inadvertently giving away their products for free due to the security hole.

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