A Savior For the Music Business and an Orwellian Nightmare For Pirates?

Could this be a record executive's dream come true and the end of the need for watermarking as we know it? CantaMetrix has announced the further development of a new technology, MusicDNA, that the company claims is capable of identifying and tracking the billions of existing as well as new MP3 files on the Internet and providing an exact accounting for the copyright, "thus enabling legal file sharing and linking value-added data to songs."

CantaMetrix also announced that, in order to develop MusicDNA, it has secured its second round of financing from two European venture capital groups, including investments from musician Eric Clapton and an American VC company. CantaMetrix says that "Mr. Clapton's investment in the company speaks to the importance MusicDNA will have in monetizing the works of artists in the digital age. CantaMetrix has pioneered a technology that will have real impact on the growing relationship between the artist and the Internet, whose interests are sometimes at odds."

The company anticipates that, with industry-wide adoption of its MusicDNA registry and tracking method, the system will enable copyright holders to identify their content usage across all forms of networks, thus ensuring that ownership and royalty rights are fully "monetized." According to CantaMetrix, MusicDNA will be formally launched in the coming months with key strategic partners.

MusicDNA is an extension of the CantaMetrix music search, recognition, classification and recommendation engine (see previous story). It combines DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology and psychoacoustic modeling to process each song in a manner that the company claims is highly efficient, objective, consistent and scalable.

CantaMetrix explains how the process works: "Each song contains intrinsic patterns of sound that are unique to that composition and can identify and distinguish it from other songs. The patterns form the basis for a unique MusicDNA profile that remains intact irrespective of codec or bit rate. A MusicDNA Analyzer can be located, for example, on the web crawler of a large search engine, to ensure that the search engine only points to legal music. Alternatively the analyzer can be incorporated into a piece of client software residing on a PC to ensure that the music being transferred is the correct music and the complete song."

Morten E. Astrup, an investor in the company, explains: "Obviously copyright protection is a seminal issue confronting the new economy at the moment, and music is at the heart of the matter. With CantaMetrix MusicDNA, the Napsters and Scours of the world can now account to the labels, artists, and songwriters who have been shortchanged in the Internet economy. It's all about providing a revenue model for the industry that also makes sense for the artists." The company's Max Wells expresses his hopes for the process, adding that "as the industry transitions from music as a product to music as a service, MusicDNA could conceivably have the greatest single impact on the digital music business since the creation of the MP3 format."