Napster Adds New Fingerprinting Technology

By | April 20, 2001 at 12:00 AM

A mere two weeks after Napster told Judge Marilyn Hall Patel that using audio fingerprinting to block copyrighted recordings is not technically feasible, the file-sharing behemoth has licensed fingerprinting technology from a Alexandria, Va., company called Relatable.

Napster will use Relatable’s “TRM” fingerprinting technology, which extracts sonic features from the first 30 seconds of an uncompressed audio file and creates a small data packet out of them. That packet, called a fingerprint, is said to be a better representation of tracking than a file name or tag, which users can easily change.

Napster interim CEO Hank Barry has repeatedly asserted that fingerprinting has not been proven to work in a high-volume system. Many technologists agree, saying that there are several ways that the fingerprinting technology can be defeated. For example, if a user has cropped, equalized, or boosted the levels of a track, that song will not be recognizable to the fingerprinting software, and thus, will slip past Napster’s filtering system. In addition, Napster will have to either build or license a database of artist/title information that is linked to the identifiers generated by Relatable’s software.

Napster also plans to use Relatable’s technology to track files for a commercial service it’s launching in July; a high-pressure project that will involve considerable work. Exactly when the new fingerprinting technology will be implemented, remains to be seen.

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