SDMI is the music industry forum trying to build a system for
protecting digital music against being illegal copying. The outfit
launched the Hack SDMI challenge
last month to invite the public to attack its digital
watermark technology and possibly win a $10,000 prize.
Computer scientists and electrical engineers at Princeton, along
with outside teams led by graduates of Princeton's computer science
that they were able to remove the watermarks placed in music files
by SDMI, without significantly degrading the audio quality.
Ed Felten, one of the leaders of the Princeton team, said Monday
that watermarks can help to mark ownership and track where files go
on the Web. But as a technology for preventing duplication, Felten
said watermarks falls short.
"SDMI's approach requires that every player have watermark
detection software or hardware in it, and that makes the pirate's
job much easier. Watermarking technology can work in some
applications, but not in this kind of public scheme," said
SDMI has received over 400 entrants to its SDMI challenge and is
currently evaluating them. Last week the organization refuted
claims by an anonymous group that said it had defeated all six of
the challenges posed by SDMI.
Felten said his group hasn't received official confirmation from
SDMI on its successful crack of the watermark. But the researchers
did get an automated confirmation from an SDMI e-mail system.
Previously, SIP has publicized a serious security flaw in
Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine, and an attack called Web
Spoofing. Next month, the Princeton group plans to make publicly
available on the Web its full research on SDMI's watermarks. In
doing so, it could be breaking a non-disclosure agreement all
participants consented to in entering the contest. But Felten said
he's not worried about getting into legal trouble with SDMI.
"We've looked at the terms and conditions very carefully in
deciding what we were going to do," he said.
Several groups previously announced a boycott of the SDMI
that they didn't want to be tools in the music industry's
But in a list of
frequently asked questions at its site, the Princeton team said,
"We believe that public discussion of the drawbacks of SDMI's
technologies will be beneficial in the long run."
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