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Music Unbound - Forum






EURODAT's AudioSoft(TM) system

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) system.

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:

  • 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 loaded to.

  • 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.
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.

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
posted 7/17/96