Audible Magic's technology aims to get around the problem of matching digital copies of songs that do not use a universal naming convention or format. Audio fingerprinting captures characteristics of a song that can be compared to files found on peer-to-peer networks and elsewhere regardless of the file name or type.
The companies said they expect to begin implementing an audio fingerprint system by the end of the year.
The Audio Magic deal comes as music companies struggle to create effective tools to force consumers to pay for songs that are increasingly available for free online. The Secure Digital Music Initiative, an industry-backed effort to develop anti-copying technology, stalled last year after researchers at Princeton Universitydigital watermarks at the last moment before their approval as a digital music security standard.
Others that have offered audio fingerprinting services include Relatable, which provided technology to Napster after the file-sharing pioneer was ordered to unauthorized songs from its network last year. The technique put a significant dent in unauthorized song-swapping on the service, but a federal judge determined that the filtering was not sufficient, leading the site to effectively shut down.
It's unclear how EMI would use fingerprinting technology to directly thwart file swapping on peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa. Unlike Napster, such services are not apparently subject to content filters because they do not use a central clearinghouse to direct people to copies of music stored on their networks.
In recent weeks, however, the entertainment industry has threatened to bring copyright lawsuits againstcaught trading unauthorized works. In addition, the technology could be used to track the most popular songs traded on peer-to-peer networks without leading to direct action against file traders.
In addition to tracking unauthorized usage, EMI will use audio fingerprinting to assist in audits of licensed use of its music, for example, from Webcasters.
Under the deal, EMI will make current and forthcoming music from its catalog available for Audible Magic's fingerprint database, which includes some 3.4 million songs, through agreements with partners including Loudeye Technologies.
"We believe Audible Magic systems will provide us with the ability to understand and capitalize on the opportunities offered by the evolving digital marketplace," Jay Samit, senior vice president of new media at EMI, said in a statement.