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It's virtually impossible to stop illegal copying or even figure out who a multimedia file really belongs to...isn't it?

You've probably done this yourself.

You download a file -- graphic, music, or video -- from the net. And at some point you show it to someone else, who says, "Cool! Where'd you get it?". And you answer, "Duh...I don't remember!"

Now imagine you've created that content (we've all been guilty of that on occasion, right? :-). What would it be worth to you to embed your own digital "signature" inside that file, so that even if someone grabbed a copy and put it on their own site, the original information would still be inside it so that anyone could check it and find out where it really came from and who it belonged to?

But what good is embedding information in an audio file if it screws up your listening pleasure? That's the point...AudioKey's technology is so advanced that you can't hear it.

AudioKey 1.0 from Cognicity, Inc.
Price: $499, or $99 for "Lite" version
Typical Requirements: (Windows) Pentium, 166 MHz or faster (233 recommended), 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), 5 MB hard disk space, SVGA high color mode, 1024x768 recommended, Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 4.0/SP3 minimum.

AudioKey screen shot

AudioKey comes in two versions: standard, which provides two levels of embedding as well as two levels of "strength" (regular and robust, sorry, "extra crispy" isn't on the list) as well as public and private keys. The "Lite" version only works with a single layer of embedded code and just regular strength embedding, no keys, and will batch-process only 5 files at a time, but it costs just $99, so it's perfect for small companies or recording studios. And it's written in C++ and Java, so it will run on Windows, Macs, or Unix.

Michael Robb, VP of Sales at Cognicity, Inc., clarified why AudioKey is important to people who maintain Web sites as well as content creators: "AudioKey and AudioKey Lite are really meant for source watermarking of audio content...ownership, audio identification, audit trail when licensing to a channel partner or doing syndication, rights to these partners, production info, contact information, etc. Source watermarks are not really for audit trails, but rather to easily and quickly identify source ownership and the actual product."

"Consider that MP3.com has 10,000 artists, the Indie ranks has 1,500 labels, that Cakewalk has 500,000 users, Digidesign has over 110,000 pro audio users -- how do you intend to identify the content owner if you don't have a mark in the content? We're not talking about Celine Dion or Madonna only here."

"In addition, if we have 30K CDs released every year, say 10 songs per CD...that's 300,000 new tracks! We mark books with ISDN, products with UPCs, cars with license plates, chairs and PCs...why wouldn't we mark our audio digital assets?"

He also revealed that they're working on "passive and active options for content protection and promotion" (which, I believe, is marketing-speak for "we can't announce the details yet, but it's going to be very cool"). I can tell you that they're about to release free readers, so that anyone can open up and encoded file and see who it belongs to.

If nothing else, think about how many times you've heard about copies of "restricted" material getting out...with the source encoded into it, you could at least track down the culprit responsible.

[ Click here to read about...the torture test! ]

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