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New tool designed to block song swaps

The product from Palisade Systems, scheduled to be available this week, has the enthusiastic support of the RIAA.

Network security company Palisade Systems this week will launch software designed to identify and block copyrighted songs as they are being traded online.

Created by software firm Audible Magic, the song-filtering software is backed strongly by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The software has also triggered interest in Washington, D.C., and skepticism in the peer-to-peer world and among some students and universities.

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Palisade's new tool is the fruit of a cross-licensing deal struck earlier this year, which also gives Audible Magic the rights to use Palisade's network-monitoring technology to offer a similar product. Palisade executives say their university customers in particular are interested in the song-blocking capabilities.

"It's the kind of thing we hear from universities or customers that act more as an ISP," said Doug Jacobson, Palisade's founder and chief technology officer. "They want to take the position of not filtering out all peer-to-peer (traffic)--stopping copyrighted works but not the other content."

Audible Magic's technology, which will be released as an option in the newest version of Palisade's PacketHound network-management services, has formed the centerpiece of an ongoing debate over the future viability of peer-to-peer networks. As the filtering technology begins to appear this year inside university and other networks, the intensity of that debate is likely to grow.

During early 2004, RIAA executives helped guide Audible Magic CEO Vance Ikezoye around federal government offices, advocating the song-blocking technology as a tool for stopping copyright infringement on file-swapping networks. If built into file-trading programs such as Kazaa or Morpheus, it could help block large numbers of illegal trades, the record industry group said.

File-swapping companies--some of which have contended that filtering their networks is impractical or even impossible--said they were skeptical of the claims, noting that neither RIAA nor Audible Magic had given them a demonstration of the filtering tools. Industry trade group P2P United says it has repeatedly contacted the company asking to see the filters in action.

Ikezoye said he still has not demonstrated the technology for the peer-to-peer companies.

"What we're looking for is a real serious business discussion," Ikezoye said. "At this point, it doesn't look like anybody's interested in real business."

Palisade's version of the technology sits inside a network, rather than inside a file-swapping program. If installed in a university, for example, it could look inside students' e-mails, instant messages and peer-to-peer transfers, seeking audio "fingerprints" that could be compared with information in Audible Magic's database.

If a match is found, the technology would block the transfer of the song midstream. Jacobson said the identification process would not work on an encrypted network, such as is used in several newer file-swapping programs. However, the Palisade software could act to block those applications from using the network altogether, instead of blocking individual song transfers, he said.

The new version of Palisade's PacketHound software will be available to customers this week, the company said.