CD music industry gets code to track pirates

A sound signature system that can be embedded into audio files will prevent music pirates copying CDs, its UK developer claimed this week.

The system – based on a hidden number code – has been developed by technology specialist Cambridge Consultants and is designed to help the music industry counter the widespread copying of music tracks on the internet.

As the code is stored in the actual track, rather than the surface of the CD or magnetic tape, any broadcast via the internet or other medium will enable authorities to find out where the track came from.

This will enable companies to find out the original purchaser or source of the copied track, said consultant engineer Dr Roger Sewell.

The code could represent both the originator of the music, such as the music company, and the CD’s buyer, he said. ‘The number might, for example, contain the credit card number of the person who paid for the recording.’

The signature cannot be removed by hackers, claimed Sewell. ‘We had a team trying to remove the watermark. The team’s work was fed into the design process, so it is as hack-resistant as we know how to make it, and not removable by any technique we tried during the development programme.’

The signature, or watermark, can even cope with deliberate sound distortion, if hackers attempted to change the stereo’s normal bass and treble controls in an effort to damage or obscure the signature, he said.

The watermark could also protect films and television programmes when embedded into their soundtracks, said Sewell. Studios could give each issue of the film’s reel a number and any illegal copies could be traced back to thecinema that received the original.