Audible Magic's Maginot Line Against P2P

by Gordon Mohr

A company called Audible Magic is now offering an
"anti-piracy" network
that purports to identify and block P2P file transfers of
copyrighted material, from a passive perch inside customers' networks. From their press release:

Audible Magic's CopySense (copyright-sensing) technology is based upon
patented techniques that generate digital fingerprints for audio content.
Fingerprints are generated by electronically "listening" to the song or
audio file, and do not depend on metadata imbedded in a file which can
be corrupted or changed.

But with easy, free, legal encryption -- as is being widely adopted by
file-sharing software -- passive network appliances can no more "listen"
to P2P file traffic than they can intercept credit card numbers.
Both kinds of user information can, and usually will, be protected by strong end-to-end encryption.

Thus this hardware solution -- requiring physical installation, weekly
database updates, and a deployment cost that scales linearly with the amount
of traffic to be monitored -- can be rendered permanently moot by a one-time
fixed-cost software upgrade, using free code libraries, making P2P
traffic opaque to passive eavesdropping.

That's a radically asymmetric battlefield, with the technology and economics rigged against the forces of control.

Like the pre-World War II Maginot
, it's an impeccable defense against a static, simpleminded attack -- but utterly worthless against the inevitable enemy adaptation.

Digital copy controls work no better inside the network than they do at the endpoints -- unless
you expect encryption to be outlawed.

And if encryption is outlawed, bayl bhgynjf naq glenagf jvyy unir cevinpl.

What do you think?


2003-11-05 11:48:29
I recently read their press release and had many of the same thoughts.

Furthermore, using fingerprinting technologies for enforcement is a bad idea. Digital fingerprints have not evolved fast enough to be 1) accurate enough 2) resistant to attack. If someone wanted to circumvent the fingerprint tech, it would only be as difficult as circumventing a digital watermark. And we know how well watermarks stand up to attack -- thanks to Ed Felten and SDMI.