Math genius claims to invent new piracy-protection technology:
- When Internet users started ripping off songs from the online Museum of Musical Instruments, they angered the wrong guy: millionaire mathematician Hank Risan.
Risan’s unorthodox museum is a Web site devoted to guitars and their role in music history, reflecting his personal interests as a collector, restorer and musician. The original version of the site boasted a virtual jukebox with thousands of songs from various musical eras and genres.
Then, early last year, the Recording Industry Assn. of America called to complain that Risan’s site was letting users play songs on demand without the record labels’ permission – a no-no under copyright law. Worse, visitors could copy songs with just a few clicks of a computer mouse.
Risan, who had used his computing skills to make a fortune in the financial markets in the 1970s, was mortified.
So he fought back.
He unplugged the site’s music and, dipping into his sizable bank account, put together a team of 16 software engineers in Santa Cruz. After more than a year of research and development, his venture – called Music Public Broadcasting – has developed a set of products that it says can give record companies, Hollywood studios and other copyright owners unprecedented protection against piracy.
….Risan’s museum is expected to show off one piece of the technology next month when it launches an online radio service featuring songs from 160 different genres and time periods. The music will be transmitted in a manner that Risan says will defy digital recording on today’s computers, something that the leading vendors of anti-piracy software haven’t been able to do for other services.
The company also has been demonstrating products designed to deter copying of CDs and DVDs, promote file sharing without piracy and beef up existing protections on the labels’ downloadable songs.
….After launching the museum three years ago, Risan hired a company in Scotts Valley, Calif., to add a virtual jukebox to the site. “The system that was put in place, I was assured, was secure,” he said.
He assumed the jukebox’s songs couldn’t be copied digitally because they were “streamed” to users, meaning that they arrived in small pieces that weren’t meant to be stored on the computer. Those pieces also could be scrambled as they were transmitted from the Web site.
But as piracy experts are fond of saying, anything that can be played on a computer can be recorded, regardless of how it’s protected. Encrypted streams and downloads must be unscrambled to be heard on a computer’s speakers or shown on its screen. And there are several programs that can intercept music or video on its way to the speakers or screen after it’s been unscrambled.
….Risan drew on his mathematical skills to come up with a different approach to the problem of unauthorized recording. Drawing on a branch of topology known as network theory, Risan said he could look at the networks a computer uses to move data internally and “visualize how to protect the copyrighted material as it transfers through those networks.”
The firm claims that its technology controls those pathways, letting copyright owners dictate what can and can’t be copied. “We control pathways that don’t even exist yet,” Risan said. [LA Times]
This is interesting, but consumers are going to reject that which prevents portability, which menas copying to a reasonable extent – nothing else much matters.