Jupiter Communications has certainly made a name for themselves with
elitely-priced new media conferences and marketing data/reports. Now
they've entered the world of the music business with the first "PLUG.IN"
symposium, subtitled "new music meets new technology" at Cooper Union in
New York City (July 16-18).
Along with keynote speakers like NARAS's Michael Greene, performing
artist Laurie Anderson, SPIN's Bob Guccione, Thomas Dolby, and Prodigy's
Ed Bennett were a bevy of new music media from N2K (Music Boulevard/Jazz
Central Station) to SonicNet to Xing (Streamworks) to Knitting Factory
and THEGIG, and many more.
However, one of the most important participants was an exhibitor who
presented a special demonstration of a new platform for online
distribution of music that promises an effective copy protection scheme
for audio files downloaded onto a hard disk: EURODAT's AudioSoft(TM)
This is the first serious contender for a comprehensive system for online
distribution, and calls into question the predictions of such figures
as Esther Dyson that information will be devalued as a commodity because of
the ease of multiplication and retransmission. AudioSoft(TM) manifests a
new protocol with several very important aspects:
This technology is designed for recorded audio, and will not accomodate
the multicasting requirements for live streaming of audio, but it is the
first complete approach to distribution of recordings that has appeared
in the marketplace. It remains to be seen whether EURODAT can manage to
establish itself solidly (they will be aiming mainly for intranet and
other proprietary platforms, at first, given the much better performance
on faster platforms), but this is the first serious candidate to do so.
- A proprietary 6-part encryption scheme applied to a split-file format
(header and data), designed so that a second copy of a data file will not
be readable by a copy of the header, effectively enclosing the downloaded
data in a "virtual bottle" so that it is tied directly to the disk it was
- Interfaces with any of the new secure-transaction protocols (like
First Virtual, CyberCash, etc.) for instant payments.
- Real time logging and accounting of all transactions, for immediate
revenues and archived for later auditing.
- A custom compression algorithm for maximum efficiency, with several
"levels" according to the bandwidth of the user's connection, including a
low-level fidelity that will work acceptably through modems.
- A file format that allows for future implementation of video,
time code, synchronized text, MIDI, multiple simultaneous channels, plain
text and URL references.
- Legal data incorporating information necessary to adhere to
multinational copyright regulations.
- Except for encryption "black boxes" that will be freely licensed in
binary form, an open protocol intended to allow any developer to create
systems that interface with a single standard.
- An option for different payment rates for one-time play and
permanent/saved downloads, for cheap previews prior to final purchases.
One of these days, catalogs such as those listed on this site won't have
to make their customers wait for delivery through hard mail:
AudioSoft(TM)-based systems may simply load it onto a waiting disk at
home, where it will be secure, paid and high-fidelity, after an
inexpensive (or even free) pre-sample.
Now we're talking....
-- Dan Krimm