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Friday, March 04, 2005

Hidden anti-piracy message aims at music scammers

A pair of New York inventors believe they can thwart music pirates by secretly burying an anti-piracy warning in a track, which is revealed if the copyright has been abused, New Scientist reports.

The warning - for instance, a voice from a record company boss, berating the user for piracy - exploits the fact that the tones of a musical instrument consist of a complex pattern of randomly-phased harmonics.

Inventors Mark Bocko and Zeljko Ignjatovic tweaked a few harmonics to shift out of the pattern and then used those shifts to convey a 20-kilobit speech message.

Their patented idea is to incorporate a software decoder in file-sharing applications, which encourage mass copying and are the bane of the music industry today.

The decoder would detect the telltale phase shifts and convert them into the warning message, causing them to boom out through loudspeakers or headphones, the British weekly reports in next Saturday's issue.

For legitimate listeners, though, the digital shifts are so small that there is no difference at all in the perception of the music.

Previous attempts by researchers to bury anti-piracy signals in copyrighted music and films have run into counter-measures by hackers, who filter out the message, and also compatibility problems in players.

Open source underlying MSN?

Could open-source tools be behind Microsoft's own MSN service?

An image posted online indicates that some of Microsoft's own developers apparently prefer open-source products to build Web pages than Microsoft's own proprietary software.

The image shows an error message generated from Microsoft's online MSN service in Brazil. The message, saying the MSN site is overloaded, indicates that it was written using the open-source scripting language PHP and that the database behind it is MySQL, another open-source product.

Certainly, those MSN Brazil developers are not alone in their fondness for PHP and MySQL. Those two tools are ingredients of the popular "LAMP stack" of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

But given that Microsoft fights tooth and nail against nearly all things open source, perhaps those same programmers had best keep their tool choice to themselves.