SDMI announces challenge results

The ability to reproduce the hack was one of the key testing standards in SDMI's view. If an attack could be reproduced, then it would be seen as a serious threat. In order to qualify as a success -- and to claim the contest's prize money -- an attack had to be both able to be reproduced and to not noticeably affect the audio quality of the song.

Though Chiariglione, for the most part, declined to provide any more information than his statement revealed, he did say in an interview that SDMI had "gained an incredible amount of good information" from the contest and would have a further announcement about the test results on Friday. He also said that SDMI was "very, very near" to being released to the public and could be available as early as the end of the year.

SDMI is the name of both a consortium of more than 200 music, electronics and computer companies, as well as a technology designed to meet the challenges of digital music, such as payment and distribution control. SDMI issued a public challenge to hackers in September offering $US10,000 (around $18,500) to anyone who could successfully attack one of six SDMI technologies. Since then, a boycott was called, one technology was withdrawn, 447 entries were submitted and many rumours have flown across the Internet.

In October, the online magazine Salon.com reported that a number of the SDMI technologies had been successfully hacked. Wednesday's announcement seems to contradict this report. However, one of the most public groups to claim successful attacks of the SDMI technologies is not convinced.

The team, led by Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten, announced in early October that it had succeeded in defeating the four watermarking technologies offered in the challenge. Though that claim was disputed by SDMI, Felten and his team stood by their findings and issued a statement Wednesday reaffirming them.

"Our focus has always been on the scientific question of whether the SDMI's technologies, if deployed, could be defeated by pirates," the statement read. "We demonstrated that they could be defeated, by making small modifications to the music files so that the watermarks were no longer detectable but the sound quality was still acceptable.

"Instead of the scientific question, the SDMI has chosen to focus on who is eligible for the cash prize that they have offered. Since we chose to forgo the cash prize in order to retain our right to publish our results, we understand that the SDMI no longer considers us to be entrants in their contest. Their announcement regarding their contest does not invalidate our scientific results."

The end of the week may hold a number revealing announcements for SDMI. That is when SDMI's current meeting, being held in Washington, US, concludes. The end of the meeting will come after a further announcement about the results of the challenge, if all goes as Chiariglione indicated. Felten's statement also says that his team plans to publish their results at the end of the week. After that, SDMI's real viability may be at least a bit more clear.

Professor Felten's Web page is located at http://www.cs.princeton.edu/sip/sdmi/

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Sam Costello

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