HITS Daily Double
"There is a line that can get crossed, and if you go further than academic pursuit needs to go, you've crossed the line and its bad for our entire community."
——Dr. Edward W. Felten


RIAA Tries To Stop Scientist From Publishing Paper On Digital Watermarks
The recording industry has threatened a Princeton computer scientist with legal action if his research group presents a paper at an academic conference this week describing how it is possible to circumvent an industry music-protection system, The New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the threat of legal action was made in an April 9 letter to Dr. Edward W. Felten by Matthew Oppenheim, the head of the litigation department for the Recording Industry Association of America and secretary of the Secure Digital Music Initiative, a copyright-protection group sponsored by the music industry.

The dispute casts a spotlight on an otherwise little-noticed field known as steganography, or the science of hiding information in plain sight, the report says. Techniques from the field are being used to create digital watermarks in the industry's effort to protect digital music against copyright violations.

The issue also pits advocates of academic freedom against the music industry, which is trying to enforce strictly a law that scientists say sharply curtails their ability to share their research publicly, the Times offers.

Felten and colleagues are scheduled to present the paper at the Fourth International Information Hiding Workshop, which is to begin Wednesday (4/25) in Pittsburgh.

But in an interview with the Times, Felten said the matter of whether to present had not yet been settled.

"We feel that its important for the scientific process that people can publish papers," he said. "It has still not been settled whether the paper will be passed out or whether the talk will occur."

Oppenheim said that the music industry was negotiating with the scientists in hopes of finding a way that the paper could be published without revealing secrets that would undercut the protection technology.

"There is a line that can get crossed, and if you go further than academic pursuit needs to go, you've crossed the line and its bad for our entire community," he said, "not just the artists and content holders, it’s everyone who loves art, and it's also bad for the scientific community."

Felten became embroiled in the dispute last year after his research team participated in a competition sponsored by the SDMI to test the security of a digital music copyright protection system. He and his team reportedly successfully disabled the system, but he has not yet published the details of how it was done.