Cutting Edge Audio Watermarking
Piracy affects the music industry at different stages of release. A "leaked" version of an album appearing on the internet before the official release reduces the amount of sales made. This is easily understood however what is of interest is that while sales will occur despite this pirated copy being made available the loss in sales for the first week is more dramatic as most sales are made in the first week of release.
While I admit that what I do for a living is a dream come true, it’s still a job and how I make a living. Illegally downloading music is the same thing as asking an artist to truly work 100 percent for free. I spend a great deal of time and money on charities, but at the end of the day I would expect and hope to be compensated fairly for my work. It’s not a lot to ask for. Mandy Moore
These pre-release "leaks" are attributable to persons in a position where they can exploit their position such as studio workers, journalists who receive a copy for review, cd manufacturing plant staff etc.
The problem is that these persons cannot be excluded from being in a position to exploit the content and so it is the content that must be protected from them.
Current protection is offered in the form of watermarked cd manufacture. The process creates an identifier watermark which is placed into the audio stream in turn linked to a recipient list. An illegal copy of this content can be traced back to the offender. However this is a deterrent more than a practical solution. The packaging makes a clear statement that the content is protected however the tracing of an uploaded file becomes much more problematic. The watermark may not survive ripping the cd or consequent conversion to mp3 or other formats. A determined attack to remove the watermark will also succeed.
The effect is that the audio is no longer listenable. In the same way the watermarking systems work a recipient list is generated by the program with each recipient having an unique key.
This key is issued only to the recipient and is then used in the "Noise Control" compliant player to unlock the audio which reverts back to it's original state i.e. pristine audio.
The "clean" audio played from the player may be recorded by an individual by recording the audio feed from the sound-card however this process is a non standard procedure and inconvenient.
Most songwriters are not rich or famous. They are hardworking craftsmen who depend on these royalties to provide for their children. Stealing music is stealing from their families.”Matraca Berg
While the operation may seem clumsy in that the recipient needs to have a compliant player and a key to play the audio there are convenient solutions to this which make for easy access
The audio is supplied as raw data on cd rather than a traditional cd for playback in a cd player. The Noise Control player is included on the cd. It runs without the need to be installed. The recipient need only launch the application and enter the code supplied by email to play the audio.
A magnified Soundwave - Check out some DigitalWEED products here:
The interception of the cd does not pose a problem as the audio data contained on the cd is "noisy" and therefore unlistenable/unusable to pirate.
Further Application of Technology
An extension of the system is the use of the same technology as a promotional tool. A situation where a release contains a low level of noise which is acceptable but is an obvious loss in quality can be of value to promote the release. A degradation of the audio over time or over a number of specified plays is also of value as a promotional tool.
-Together with a protected "noisy" version and/or promotional versions there is the possibility to create a protected distribution system not only for private pre-release but also for general public release.
The potential to sell music within the digital environment which is protected by this mechanism and for purchasing the license which is the key code to unlock the music offers a vast potential not only to content owners to effectively control their content but to tackle the issue of digital piracy in general. Cloud based lockers and distribution have become part of the industry landscape and create further problems of piracy for content owners.
Enabling a system where the content is locked ("noisy"/unlistenable) and only un-lockable through an authorization layer containing specific data on the track, the purchaser and their device creates a secure and effective anti-piracy solution.
Combining the promotional version of Noise Control with the pre-release version allows for a flexibility in distribution. Each audio file can only be "cleaned" with parameters created by the initial application of "noise", the sellers code, the purchasers code and the player device code. While this is an extremely complex data transaction the user/customer/end user is unaware of it, for them they click buy and that's it.
However should they copy the file or redistribute the file illegally it will not play as the codes are protecting it from play on another system with another device. In fact the technology will not only play it "noisy" but will further increase the "noise".
As the file type: audio, video, image, document is irrelevant to the scrambling process of Noise Control the same application can be adapted easily for all digital content. The film industry also suffers from piracy and is significantly of more value than the audio industry.