A German company is offering MP3 files for download, unencumbered
by DRM (digital rights management). Instead, the company Akuma
discourages copying by adding a unique “watermark” to each download.
Major record labels have mostly chosen DRM to protect their copyrights, limiting
the number of copies buyers can make of a downloaded track, and restricting
the music players they can use to listen to it. However, Akuma is taking a softer approach: The music store
sells MP3 files which can be played on almost any digital music player, but
adds a unique tag to each download using watermark technology from Germany’s
renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, which
helped create the MP3 audio compression algorithm. The watermark technology
makes slight changes to the data in sound files, such as a higher volume intensity
in a tiny part of a song, that are undetectable by even the best trained ears,
according to Fraunhofer researchers. If unauthorized copies of a download
turn up on peer-to-peer file sharing networks, the watermark allows
Akuma to identify the purchaser of a file and take action against them.
A single song title costs €0.89, (USD$ 1.13) an album €4.49. Akuma
offers MP3 files in a quality similar to CDs, with bit rates (a measure of sound
quality) from 192K bps (bits per second) at the low end to 320K bps at the high
end.

A German company is offering MP3 files for download, unencumbered
by DRM (digital rights management). Instead, the company Akuma
discourages copying by adding a unique "watermark" to each download.
Major record labels have mostly chosen DRM to protect their copyrights, limiting
the number of copies buyers can make of a downloaded track, and restricting
the music players they can use to listen to it.

However, Akuma is taking a softer approach: The music store
sells MP3 files which can be played on almost any digital music player, but
adds a unique tag to each download using watermark technology from Germany’s
renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, which
helped create the MP3 audio compression algorithm. The watermark technology
makes slight changes to the data in sound files, such as a higher volume intensity
in a tiny part of a song, that are undetectable by even the best trained ears,
according to Fraunhofer researchers. However, if unauthorized copies of a download
turn up on, for example, peer-to-peer file sharing networks, the watermark allows
Akuma to identify the purchaser of a file and take action against them.

A single song title costs €0.89, (USD$ 1.13) an album €4.49. Akuma
offers MP3 files in a quality similar to CDs, with bit rates (a measure of sound
quality) from 192K bps (bits per second) at the low end to 320K bps at the high
end. Like eMusic.com Inc., the German music download store hopes to break into
a crowded market by making song downloading a piece of cake. The German portal
requires no special download software and places no restrictions on the choice
of music player, including the iPod from Apple Computer Inc.