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Follow-up to Amazon MP3 Watermarking

AmazonbustAs a follow-up to my blog entry here regarding Amazon.com and MP3 Watermarking…

Alex Halderman over at the Freedom To Tinker blog yesterday posted an entry that seems to confirm the theory that Amazon.com is not individually tagging each MP3 file purchased and that any file downloaded with the same title is identical to that downloaded by another user:

Last week Amazon.com launched a DRM-free music store.
It sells tracks from two major labels and many independents in the
unprotected MP3 file format. In addition to being DRM-free, Amazon’s
songs are not individually watermarked. This is an important step
forward for the music industry.

Some content companies see individualized watermarks as a
consumer-friendly alternative to DRM. Instead of locking down files
with restrictive technology, individualized watermarking places
information in them that identifies the purchasers, who could
conceivably face legal action if the files were publicly shared. Apple
individually watermarks DRM-free tracks sold on iTunes, but every
customer who purchases a particular track from Amazon receives the
exact same file.

The company has stated as much, and colleagues and I
confirmed this by buying a small number of files with different Amazon
accounts and verifying that they were bit-for-bit identical. (As Wired reports,
some files on Amazon’s store have been watermarked by the record
labels, but each copy sold contains the same mark. The labels could use
these marks to determine that a pirated track originated from Amazon,
but they can’t trace a file to a particular user.)

This is good news and I thank Alex and his friends for doing the dirty work and actually confirming these statements instead of just parroting them back and taking Amazon’s word for it.  The rest of Alex’s blog entry provides good insight as to the risks — legal, security and otherwise — that swirl around the contentious topic of DRM.  Please read the article in its entirety.


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  1. Adrian
    October 3rd, 2007 at 12:48 | #1

    Bravo to Amazon for having the guts to do the right thing.
    Watermarking is a form of DRM as it is attempting to place individual identity into a digital object (see US patent 6611599). Speaking as a security technologist, I struggled for years attempting to make this type of technology work (see US patent 6119229), which it can do reliably when the object owner has a vested interest in the security of the digital object. It fails miserably when used for applications when the consumer is not necessarily trustworthy. This is especially true with digital media, where filters used in video and music production are freely available that can detect and remove the watermarking as a 'noise' artifact.
    What makes me particularly mad is this does not benefit me, the consumer. If fact, it reduces the quality of media. It can be demonstrated that the introduced watermarking has a not very subtle negative affect on sound quality (despite music industry claims to the contrary).
    These features are intended to protect the IP rights of the producer … and don't get me wrong, I support that … but not at my expense in getting a lesser quality product. Despite the fact that it can be demonstrated DRM does not work it is still shoved down the throats of consumers. We get kludgy DRM~watermarking hacks because the media producers have been unwilling to adapt their business model to one that supports the medium.
    Once again, Bravo to Amazon for ignoring the anti-consumer watermarks.

  1. June 28th, 2009 at 03:56 | #1