This is just crazy and thought-provoking at the same time: Scott Matthews of Andromeda fame has come up with a program called Baudio that can convert any kind of digital file into an audio file. Think about that for a minute:
- What it does
Baudio converts any type of computer file into an audio file, without any loss of data. Baudio encoded files can likewise be decoded back to their original state.
For example, here’s what a picture of me sounds like as a Windows BMP (32k), a Photoshop PSD (51k), and a GIF (3k, pictured at right). These sample files were all saved as 8 bit, 11025 Hz, Mono, but they can just as easily be saved with other characteristics, such as 16 bit, 44100 Hz, Stereo (CD-quality audio).
Baudio is intended to encourage thought on issues surrounding file-sharing, derivative art, and the alternative copyright systems now under consideration. You can also conceivably use Baudio to glean some sense of the structure of a binary file.
We’re all aware of the popularity of file-sharing, and the music industry’s attempts to put an end to it. Similarly, others are concerned about the impact of copyright term extension, DRM, and the scope of Fair Use as applied to the creation of derivative works of art.
Additionally, intellectual property rights commentators are calling for new laws that would render what is now copyright infringement legal through some new means of compensating authors. Though file-sharing itself is file-type-agnostic (any type of file can be shared) the alternative compensation systems generally only apply to music.
How it works
The Baudio encoder adds a 44 byte header that transforms any type of file into a valid WAV file, and saves it with a “.wav” extension appended to the end of the file name. So, for example, hello.exe would become hello.exe.wav.
Conversely, the Baudio decoder takes a file and removes that 44 byte header and the trailing “.wav” extension, reverting it back to its original state.
Transformative and derivative art
Baudio raises questions regarding the nature of derivative works. On the one hand, the original file is left entirely intact, the only change being the addition of the 44 byte header. On the other hand, the file has been entirely transformed from some binary file (pdf, exe, doc, whatever) into something you can listen to.
In an effort to legalize file-sharing, many copyright commentators are proposing new systems to compensate authors. However, most of these systems only compensate music and not other types of files, such as movies, software, ebooks, and so on.
By transforming such non-musical works into audio files, Baudio enables the authors of non-musical works to benefit from a music-only compensation system.
So, for example, a film maker or software developer may choose to distribute their work encoded into audio by Baudio, thereby benefiting from these alternative compensation systems.
The next question is whether Baudio encoded files would be excluded from such compensation. However, such exclusion would in turn indicate a free speech failing of such an alternative system. Who gets to say whether any given audio file is a work of art, worthy of compensation?
Click over for more and to download it.
Are these converted audio files music? If not, why not? Does the fact that the “artist” (the converter) use a program not of his own device make him less of an artist? Is the conceptual element separable from the execution?