One of the big problems faced by Music Information Retrieval researchers is how to get good data for MIR experiments. Even a small scale music classification experiment may require 10,000 songs. At $1 per song, that's $10,000 just for the data for a small experiment. Experiments with larger collections (100,000 to 1,000,000 songs) become impossible.

The situation is about to get even worse. Soon, we may lose all programmatic access to our music. As more digital music is sold (iTunes) or rented (napster) more of our music is wrapped up in a DRM container. The only thing we can do with such music is to play it with an authorized player. Doing anything else with the bits is forbidden. Even trying to get at the bits is forbidden thanks to the DMCA.

There are lots of things music consumers could do with the bits: music similarity classification, beat and tempo detection, cross fading from one song to another. There are many more things that MIR researchers can do with the bits. All will be lost if all of the bits are taken away from us. Our music will become 'listen-only'.

The fight for the bits is not over yet. There are some who are pushing for a sane DRM policy that protects IP but also promotes innovation and ensures access. Sun's Susan Landau is on the frontlines in the DRM policy battle. Susan gave a talk at the recent Sun Labs Open House called: Rocky Shoals and Bright Lights: DRM Directions that describes a "DRM policy direction that is a win/win/win for consumers, for technology developers, for content producers -- and for the Internet and society".


This complaint, "Listen Only Music" seems totally without basis in fact.
With current DRM, as implemented in iTunes, you can burn the song to CD, where it is no more protected than any song on CD.
But more fundamentally, as long as you can play music, you can hold up a microphone to the speakers. Nothing in DRM prevents you from doing research on the music. There is no technological barrier.
Now if this article is arguing that in some way when we purchase DRM-ed music, we enter into a contract not to do these things, and that we are breaking the law when we do, <em>that</em> is another matter. The barrier is solely legal, not technical.

Posted by David Oster on May 05, 2005 at 03:42 PM EDT #

David: Thanks for the comment. I must say that I respectfully disagree, Imagine a car manufacturer selling you a car with a license that says that you, the owner, are not allowed to open the hood to work on the engine. Of course you can work on the engine, they say, you just can't open the hood. So now you are lying on your back on the floor of your musty garage trying to find the oil filter. Yep, you say to yourself, there's no technological barrier, I can do everything I need from down here, but it sure is a real pain in the neck. It is the same with music. Sure I can burn all my songs and re-rip them. I figure with my tiny (for a researcher) 10,000 song collection this will take about 20 minutes per 10 songs or about 300 hours. The microphone/speaker solution takes about 600 hours. Now scale this up to 1,000,000 songs ... that's 30,000 to 60,000 hours of work. For a researcher that works 2,000 hours a year, that's nearly a career (15 to 30 years). No techological barrier indeed!

Posted by Paul on May 05, 2005 at 04:15 PM EDT #

Post a Comment:
Comments are closed for this entry.

This blog copyright 2010 by plamere