Feeds

Napster challenges EMusic monitoring plan

It's an invasion of privacy - Napster. No it's not - EMusic

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

Napster yesterday slammed music company EMusic's attempts to track downloads made across the MP3 sharing service as a violation of its users' privacy.

EMusic plans to monitor Napster's service to locate users sharing songs to which it owns the copyright. The digital music company said this week it had begun embedding a watermark in the tracks it offers for sale and would use that mark to pinpoint users trading its songs on Napster.

If it finds any, it will email the Napster user posting the tracks and ask them to stop. The user has 24 hours to do so - after that time, EMusic will ask Napster to boot them off the service.

Some chance, if Napster reaction to EMusic's plan is anything to go by. Napster CEO Hank Barry said his company will be "reviewing EMusic's interaction with the Napster system", ostensibly to ensure it doesn't infringe Napster's own privacy policy.

Responding to Barry's statement, EMusic CEO Gene Hoffmann denied his system is a threat to Napster users' privacy. "We're not maintaining information about any consumer," he said.

EMusic's argument is that its software essentially does only what any Napster user does: it looks at what tracks are available at a given time and downloads any it finds interesting. It, presumably, then checks for the watermark and uses Napster's own technology to contact the sharer.

EMusic's software has to maintain some record of which users it believes are infringing its copyrights. How else is it to check whether user x has obeyed its demand to cease sharing its tracks? How else is it to then ask Napster to yank the account of user x?

But since the identity of x is known only by EMusic, Napster and x themselves, that's hardly a privacy infringement. Napster could argue that EMusic has no right to know what x is up to, but the company has as much right as user y who wants to see if x has anything groovy to download.

It isn't like Intel's inclusion of an ID number in Pentium CPUs, which could be used to track a user's travels through cyberspace. EMusic simply tracks a song's progress through the Net.

Napster also claimed that EMusic's watermarking system was inconsistent with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but it's hard to see how. EMusic has every right, surely, to mark tracks it offers for download in anyway it sees fit, and there's no reason why it shouldn't use that mark.

In any case, EMusic isn't the only one monitoring Napster use. Metallica located Napster users it alleged were infringing its copyrights using the help of a US Internet consultancy. If they can do it, anyone can, and you can bet a number of interested parties already are.

Remember Sony's claim it would attack Napster users at source? We'd be very surprised if, as an interested party, Sony isn't monitoring Napster use, even if it's only by watching filenames. Companies like Sony have the resources to create and then stamp watermarks into all their media products, watermarks that can survive conversion to MP3. That, after all, is one of the goals of the Secure Digital Music Initiative.

True, the SDMI's technology may have been beaten, but the work continues. The point is, this highly monitored environment is the arena in which the likes of Napster and its users will have to operate, like it or not. Better then to work with it and, as we suggested yesterday, create a market that works for everyone - music companies, music sharing companies and music lovers. ®

Related Stories

EMusic to track Napster music swaps
We will block Napster at source - Sony exec
Hacker research team disputes 'hack SDMI' results
SDMI was cracked, and is doomed: count on it
SDMI embarks on Phase II of universal digital music spec

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft exits climate denier lobby group
ALEC will have to do without Redmond, it seems
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?