Moving music with a touch

While pirated music is flourishing online, much to the chagrin of the music industry, it’s only now record labels are looking at moving tunes around internally using digital technology.

One of the pioneers of this movement is EMI Music Canada in Mississauga, Ont., which recently completed the

secure delivery of music files from recording studio to record label to radio stations across the country via the Internet using Musicrypt’s Digital Media Distribution System (DMDS).

EMI sent the single “”Generation Genocide”” by Canadian recording artist Jersey to Canadian rock stations in 17 cities, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montréal and Halifax, completely protected from illegal use thanks to DMDS’ one million-bit encryption and biometric authentication.

The journey of Jersey single began at EMAC studios in London, Ont., and then onto EMI’s Artist & Repertoire (A&R) department using DMDS. Subsequent mixes were transferred from Metalworks Recording Studios in Mississauga to EMI’s head office.

Before Musicrypt, music was moved around on CDs, says Rob Brooks, vice-president of marketing at EMI Music Canada. “”The A&R department might burn copies internally for key people in the company to hear something new before we get too far along with it. Once everything was approved out of A&R, we would make a larger number of advance copies in the manufacturing plant and send those out to our field staff.”” Copies would then be delivered to radio stations and end consumers.

“”The bottom line is you’re physically moving these CDs,”” says Brooks.

While eliminating CDs is an obvious cost-saver, the main driver for EMI’s test run of Musicrypt’s DMDS was security — one of the reasons illegal versions of a song can be found on the Internet is that someone was able to obtain a physical copy of the music they’re not supposed to have.

Brooks says there are three major areas of concern, beginning with the participants in the music industry itself.

“”Without pointing fingers, but including all of us, leaks have occurred from studios, bands and their managers, from inside the record company and from media people,”” he says.

The other security concerns are from the discs sent out to various stakeholders, and finally, those bought by the consumer.

“”It is in the interest of the industry to find ways to protect these areas of concern,”” says Brooks. “”Musicrypt identifies and addresses the first one.””

Musicrypt’s DMDS uses biometrics — songs are encrypted and can only be unscrambled using a password based on a user’s typing pattern and rhythm, commonly known as keystroke dynamics.

“”To be totally 100 per cent secure,”” says Brooks, “”we need all three functioning in harmony, and we need it done globally.””

Brooks says EMI worldwide is looking at several systems, including Musicrypt, and is closely watching its Canadian test.

“”They are quite interested in the end results, which on Jersey have been quite successful.””

He says Musicrypt DMDS did not pose any major learning curves or pressure on its IT infrastructure.

The mission of Musicrypt has always been to deliver music securely, says John Heaven, the company’s president and CEO, but the original intent in 1999 to securely deliver tunes to a consumer market turned out not to be a viable business model with the skyrocketing popularity of file-sharing software such as Napster.

“”If you want to send a valuable property down a public highway, you’d better make sure it’s secure,”” he says. “”What we wanted to provide is an electronic Brinks truck that’s also easy for users to deal with.””

Heaven says Musicrypt knew a password to protect a digital file was simply not going to be enough — password sharing to access copyrighted material is rampant in the online world, notes Heaven.

“”People will not share passwords to access things they want to secure such as their bank account, but they will easily share passwords for music,”” he says.

Tying users to their IP address doesn’t work, says Heaven, because broadband providers assign IP addresses dynamically. Linking a user to the serial number of their hard drive works well, but that means they can only use one computer to access the service.

Meanwhile, at EMI, it’s still possible to pirate music from the studio or one of the links in the chain, but with Musicrypt DMDS it will be easy to track down the culprit, says Brooks.

He says EMI Canada had nothing to lose if the test hadn’t gone as planned.

“”There isn’t anything else, so to go through the steps of doing the test was not a burden of any sort,”” Brooks says. “”It was something we all hoped would be successful. If it turned out not to be we’re no further behind. Step one in my mind has been accomplished.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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