The new arrangement, expected to be announced Tuesday, will see Universal give Audible Magic a "fingerprint," or digital identification tool, for each song it releases, before albums are shipped to retailers. The company uses those fingerprints to identify copyrighted songs online or in other venues such as CD-manufacturing plants to help guard against unauthorized copying.
Audible Magic already has information from Universal and other labels in its databases, but getting the songs directly from the label before release will help make the identification business more efficient, Audible Magic CEO Vance Ikezoye said.
"What it does is accelerate the time to get music into our database," Ikezoye said. "That's when piracy is the biggest problem--right around the release date."
Audible Magic is one of a handful of companies that are creating increasingly ambitious systems that are aimed at identifying and potentially blocking music as it is swapped though peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa or other online services.
The company has created a library of audio fingerprints that it said allows it to identify close to 3.7 million songs on the fly, essentially by comparing the audio characteristics of a digital music file to the files it has on record.
Today, that system is largely used in CD-manufacturing plants to help the pressing plants make sure their customers aren't ordering batches of counterfeit compact discs. The deal with Universal is initially geared at preventing that kind of physical reproduction of unauthorized copies.
"With the growing concern about the physical piracy of copyrighted material, we believe (Audible Magic's technology) offers an accurate and reliable solution to verify the use of copyrighted content," David Benjamin, senior vice president of antipiracy at Universal Music, said in a statement.
But Audible Magic also is building a system it said will help identify copyrighted songs beingand potentially even block the trades. The company recently tested an early version of this network-monitoring tool at the University of Wyoming, where the software watched the traffic flowing through the college network to the outside world.
A public release of that file-swapping monitor software likely will be available by the end of September or early October, Ikezoye said.