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Scientist cracks music crypto

Extreme feather-ruffling by audio crypto boffin

As expected, a controversial scientific paper that describes how to disable security technology for digital audio files was presented for the first time on Wednesday evening at the Usenix Security Symposium in Washington DC.

Yet author Professor Edward Felten of Princeton University called the event a partial victory, since the organisations that worked to quash the paper in the past will likely continue their efforts.

Findings in the paper, entitled Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge, were discussed by Scott Craver, co-author and a member of Felten's research team.

"We believe that if this technology is deployed, it will be broken quickly," Craver said.

The paper was prepared in response to a challenge that the SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) organisation issued to the public last year, and describes in technical detail how watermarking security technologies that are designed to protect the copyright of digital audio files can be disabled.

The paper concludes that while watermarking is a valid security technology, it is not a good fit for protecting digital audio copyright because it would be expensive to implement and can be disabled without much effort.

After threatening legal action when Felten originally intended to publicly discuss the paper's findings in April, the SDMI and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) this time assured the authors that no legal action would be taken for presenting the paper now.

The two groups in the past threatened Felten and his colleagues with claims that the paper's findings violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids providing technology that bypasses industry controls limiting how consumers can use music they have purchased.

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