Home > Uncategorized > Wartermarking & DRM Round 2: Amazon.com Watermarking Their MP3’s…

Wartermarking & DRM Round 2: Amazon.com Watermarking Their MP3’s…

September 26th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

About a month ago, I posted about a CNET article by Matt Rosoff which suggested that digital watermarking would replace DRM.  My suggestion was that it was pretty obvious that watermarking won’t "replace" DRM, it is merely another accepted application of it.

Here’s a really interesting story from Gizmodo about how, as mentioned in the article, Amazon is now claiming they are DRM Free whilst embedding digital watermarking into their purchased MP3’s.  The article is titled "Still DRM Free: Amazon’s MP3s Contain Watermarks, But Not the Privacy-Invading Variety." 

Interestingly, the author (Adam Frucci) shows an image featuring the audio substrates of the original recording, the watermarked encoding and the resultant subtracted watermarked artifacts:Watermarkwaveform

new MP3 store watermarks its MP3s, but only with information stating
where the songs were purchased, not who did the purchasing, according
to the online uberstore.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that
this issue has inspired me to ramble about the stupidity of the whole
idea of watermarking tracks with identifying info.

I mean, what would be the point? Most music that gets widely pirated
comes from scene groups that do rips from CDs, not from people who
legally purchase music online. It’s the same thing I never understood
about DRM: it only takes one copy getting ripped or spread around for
something to be easily accessed in the pirate-o-sphere, so why waste so
much time keeping normal people from sharing? I mean, even if they did
find some Kanye song in a girl’s shared Soulseek folder and it was ID’d
with some dude’s name, what does that prove? Not much. In any case,
Amazon doesn’t look to be doing anything of the sort, so bravo to that,
and another kudos to them for selling only straight-up MP3s. Now just
get all the labels on board and we’ll have the music store we’ve all be
clamoring for for so long.

I agree with the author that should we assume that the watermark just describes where the song is purchased, it does little good other than the concept that was raised in the previous article I referenced above in terms of what Universal plans to use watermarking for:

Universal can then use this data to
help decide whether the risk of piracy outweighs the increased sales
from DRM-free MP3 files, segmenting this decision by particular
markets. For example, it might find that new Top 40 singles are more
likely to find their way onto file-trading networks than classic rock
from the 1970s.

But that’s really not the reason for this post.  The reason for this post is the bold-faced, underlined text in the fourth paragraph above "according
to the online uberstore.
  The author is simply going on Amazon’s word that the artifacts only contain purchase origin data and nothing regarding the purchaser?

I find it odd that he’s not particularly concerned with validating Amazon’s claims and is willing to take them on face value that this is all the watermarks contain in order to support such a lofty title for the article. 



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