Secure Digital Music Initiative

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The Secure Digital Music Initiative ( SDMI ; German Initiative for Secure Digital Music ) was created in December 1998 from a merger of the Recording Industry Association of America with its Japanese counterpart, the Recording Industry Association of Japan and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry . The industry association today includes computer - HiFi - and hardware - and software maker, the copyright industry and Internet service providers . The aim of the SDMI is to develop systems for theDeveloping digital rights management and implementing it across the board, u. a. by influencing hardware and software manufacturers, legislators and the public. Today around 200 companies participate in the industrial consortium.

While the SDMI is on the one hand engaged in the development of technical protection systems for MP3 and other audio formats - the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits plays a leading role in this - on the other hand it runs an unprecedented campaign to condemn MP3 across the board because it is nothing else as the "robbery" of protected music. All the musicians who give away their own pieces in MP3 format, for example to promote a new album or because they see it as an opportunity to bypass the gatekeeper function of the music industry, are deliberately ignored.

The SDMI competition

In 2000, as part of a competition, the SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) invited researchers to try to break the digital watermarking techniques it had invented. One after the other, the participants in individual sub-competitions were presented with various audio clips that were provided with different marking methods. Those participants who succeeded in returning a version of the excerpt without a watermark (while keeping the size of the signal loss as low as possible, although this requirement was not explicitly stated by the SDMI) would emerge as winners from the corresponding competition.

Edward W. Felten was part of this competition from the start. He had chosen not to sign the confidentiality agreement that would have allowed his team to receive cash prizes. Although the participants were given little or no information about the marking technologies, apart from the excerpts themselves, and the period of three weeks for the competition was also quite short - critics speak of difficult conditions - Felten and his group succeeded in Modify files in such a way that the SDMI assessment program detected the absence of watermarks.

The SDMI then stated that Felten had not removed the watermarks as the rules dictated, as it was a condition that the files should not lose any of their quality. She claimed that the result of her test program was invalid because one could remove the watermark by completely removing the file contents, but this would be inadmissible due to the condition of quality.

Indictment by SDMI

Felten's team then produced a scientific paper describing the methods he and his team had used to remove the watermarks from the SDMI. It was planned to present this paper at the 2001 International Information Hiding Workshop in Pittsburgh . Because of this, Felten was threatened with legal action by SDMI, the Recording Industry Association of America , and Verance Corporation. In doing so, they relied on the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act , arguing that the methods his team had cracked were already in the market at this point. Felten withdrew his presentation from the event and instead read out a brief statement on these threats. The SDMI and other copyright holders denied ever threatening Felton with lawsuit. However, it seems that at least the SDMI has announced legal action, as a letter from spokesman Matthew Oppenheim to Felten shows: “Any disclosure of the information that was won in the public competition could be for you and your team due to of the DMCA . "

Felten sued this group (supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation ) for a declaratory judgment that would confirm the legality of publishing their paper. The case was dismissed because of a lack of standing , with the judge noting that, "The irony is that the defendants said they would not sue anyone and the defendants triggered these acts by filing a complaint themselves."

The plaintiffs compare themselves with Galileos of our time, who are persecuted by the authorities. I fear that a more suitable analogy would be modern Don Quixotes who feel threatened by windmill blades, which appear to them like giants. There is no real controversy here.

Felten presented his paper at the USENIX security conference in 2001 . The US Department of Justice assured Felten and other scholars that the DMCA would not affect their work and stated that the threat of legal action was unlawful.


  2. RIAA Letter to Edward Felten ( Memento of the original dated August 3, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , The Register , April 9, 2001
  3. Source: SDMI cracks revealed , The Register , April 23, 2001


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