posted Nov 22, 2000

Emusic Tracks Napster Naughties... Or Does It?
Music & MP3
11/22/2000; 10:27:37 AM

'Emusic engineers have developed a tracking system that can identify infringing materials on Napster -– something the file-trading company said was impossible.'

Ok, so how are they doing it...?

'By tracking the MD5 checksum, which uniquely identifies the original source of a song, Hoffman said that Emusic would be able to track files that were being made available from one individual to other Napster users.'

Flatly wrong. MD5 checksums are specifically designed to show single-bit errors. If you so much as change the ID3 tag of an MP3 from "The Beatles" to "the Beatles", the MD5 checksum will be quite different.  Not to mention any given song could have tens of different encoding jobs done on it, with different lengths, bitrates, and qualities.

This is not a technology to track MP3s, this is a technology thrown together to either A: Get free press from unskeptical reporters who would love to write a "Napster was Wrong!" story (as reporters have just as many opinions as the rest of us) or B: show off to some ignorant judge or jury how music can indeed be "tracked" and almost certainly be paid by somebody for doing so. In the real world, this only slightly better then useless... with some care, you might be able to track a particular encoding, but even specific MP3 files tend to mutate; changing the ID3 tags is easy.


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