Has the Recording Industry Really Won the War Against Napsterites?
That's right kids, the music industry's Wicked Witch of the West is slowly melting. In the last few days, two new tools have been released to aid in the fight against the "evil" file sharing ways of online music lovers. The triumphant victors: Napster with the latest version of its software, Beta 10 and Media Enforcer LLC, the developers of the music tracking software, Songbird. Can't you just hear the music industry now? Clicking their heels saying, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home."
Since the District Court's March 5th decision, in which the court ordered Napster to prohibit the Napster community from sharing barred copyrighted music, Napster has been progressively enhancing its system to more accurately and more extensively block access to barred music files. The latest development in this crusade is Beta 10: a new version of the Napster software that utilizes acoustic fingerprinting to identify the music files that are shared by the users.
An acoustic fingerprint is a small piece of data that delineates the distinctive sound recording of a music file, and can even distinguish between different versions of a single recording. The way acoustic fingerprinting works, is that every so often the Napster server will request the Napster application to create a fingerprint of the file a user is sharing and transmit it back to the Napster server. The fingerprint is then stored with other related information about the file in a database on the Napster server. The database can then be used to identify and block barred copyright music from the Napster community.
Kind of feel like you're being arrested with all this fingerprinting business? Continue on, it gets better.
While on Napster, users will never even know the acoustic fingerprinting is taking place. The files fingerprinted will be chosen by random from the files a user makes accessible to other Napster users. All the while Napster will work exactly as it used to, never disturbing the user with what's going on behind the scenes.
In other words, with Napster's new software, Big Brother's keeping tabs on you. However with Songbird, Big Brother's not just watching, he's tracking you.
Songbird is the first publicly available Internet search tool that can track the usage of copyrighted music on file sharing services. Developed by Travis Hill, a 20-year-old musician and motivated Internet entrepreneur, and his Utah-based technology company Media Enforcer LLC, Songbird can identify thousands of copyrighted songs in just minutes and if desired, the copyright holder can then take steps to get the song removed. While obviously useful for artists and independent record companies that were not part of the Napster litigation and want their copyrighted music blocked, Media Enforcer LLC says the software can also be used to give copyright holders a valuable snapshot of the popularity of authorized tracks on Napster.
However, I don't really get the feeling that tracking the popularity of a song on Napster was a huge motivating force behind the development of this software.
Available at iapu.org, Songbird can currently only search files on Napster. However, with further development it could be expanded to fit with other peer-to-peer services. To execute the Songbird software, the user types in the name of a song and/or artist, performs a search and then the details of up to a thousand music files are quickly found. Similar to Napster, Songbird searches all available Napster servers. Yet, Songbird differs from Napster in that it is not limited by the number of tracks it can find, as well as by spelling variations of artists. The drawback to Songbird is that it can only search tracks one at a time, making multiple searches of different tracks a timely exercise.
With the release of Beta 10 and Songbird, I find myself reminiscing about the good old days of the early Internet, you know a year ago when it was all about getting stuff for free. Whatever happened to those days? Oh, well. farewell free music. May you join the Fling Monkeys in the sky.
"Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!"
Media Enforcer LLC - www.mediaenforcer.com
Napster – www.napster.com
Songbird – www.iapu.org
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