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Open Source Music Fingerprinter Gets Patent Nastygram 487

Posted by timothy
from the their-patent-gives-away-the-secret dept.
Nushio writes "The code wasn't even released, and yet Roy van Rijn, a Music & Free Software enthusiast received a C&D from Landmark Digital Services, owners of Shazam, a music service that allows you to find a song, by listening to a part of it. And if that wasn't enough, they want him to take down his blog post (Google Cache) explaining how he did it because it 'may be viewed internationally. As a result, [it] may contribute to someone infringing our patents in any part of the world.'" Update: 07/09 00:31 GMT by T :Story updated to reflect that Shazam is multiplatform, not Android-only, as implied by the original phrasing.
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Open Source Music Fingerprinter Gets Patent Nastygram

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  • android hate (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:32PM (#32845918)

    it was an iphone app long before it was an android app

    • Re:android hate (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nushio (951488) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:45PM (#32846026) Homepage

      And there's a Windows Mobile, Nokia / Symbian, Blackberry app too. It's my fault for not Googling them up before hand..

    • Re:android hate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:43PM (#32846522) Homepage Journal

      it was an iphone app long before it was an android app

      What does it matter that it was on the iPhone before Android? It's hardly surprising, considering the iPhone was released years before the Droid. I admit there hasn't been the usual heavy complement of Apple stories today, but that doesn't mean you have to start looking for ways to create them from unrelated articles. In any case, this has almost nothing to do with any platform, except that the author wrote the code in Java so as to run it on Android.

      Back on-topic, the author has posted an update [google.com] which talks about the alleged patent infringment and includes the notices sent by the company. Classically, they hesitate to give actual patent numbers, but what it really comes down to is this: As the author says,

      I've written some code (100% my own) and implemented my own methods for matching music. [...] I'm just a programmer who likes to work on technical, mathematical algorithms in his spare time. And if enough people ask for the source code, I'd be happy to give it to them. Who would have thought that creating something at home in a weekend could result in a possible patent infringement!?

      But oh, no! Landmark claims

      Landmark Digital Services owns the patents that cover the algorithm used as the basis for your recently posted "Creating Shazam In Java".

      Well butter my biscuit and call me Daisy! Case closed! After all, they have a patent on "the algorithm". To be fair, the biggest instigator of this entire fiasco is probably his choice of using the commercial software's name in the article title. Going just by "Creating Shazam In Java", you might at first think he's attempting to completely re-create the software (for who knows what purpose). Of course, if you bother to read even the first few paragraphs it painfully clear that it's nothing of the sort. But because of this,

      The code isn't published yet, but I was planning on releasing it under Apache License to the open source community soon. [...] Since I don't want to end up like Dmitry Sklyarov [wikipedia.org], with the possibility of a lawsuit, I'm not going to publish the code anymore...

      If crap like this continues, independent software development in general (including a large chunk of FOSS) is doomed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest (867930)

        independent software development in general (including a large chunk of FOSS) is doomed.

        Only in countries silly enough to allow software patents. The rest of the world will laugh quietly to themselves as some countries bring themselves to a creative and technological standstill.

        • Re:android hate (Score:5, Insightful)

          by c0lo (1497653) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:02AM (#32847704)

          independent software development in general (including a large chunk of FOSS) is doomed.

          Only in countries silly enough to allow software patents...

          And the ones stupid enough to accept the crap ACTA will feed on their throat... actually, for those will be even worse: no allowing their software developers to patent but preventing them to use methods already patented in US.

      • by electrostatic (1185487) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:00AM (#32847694)
        There's a free app that recognizes similar content in MP3 and other audio files.

        Similarity is a useful program that helps you to find and remove similar, duplicate musical files (MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, FLAC, APE, WV, MPC) with the same or similar sound content, music tags (ID3,WMF,Vorbis). This is the best program where similarity of a sound part is checked, not just music tags or file content (byte to byte comparision). In addition the program analyzes the artist, title, album information from the music tags contained in the audio files and compare these with the appropriate entries in other files.

        You can adjust sensivity of searching criteria to find exact or similar files. In this way it is possible to identify similarly titles with smaller differences. Duplicate files can be deleted or browsed. The list of duplicate files can be sorted, exported to playlist, and acted upon.

        More at http://www.music-similarity.com/ [music-similarity.com] I wonder if it uses the purported patented technology.

        BTW, the assertion of a potential harm being caused by "...explaining how he did it because it 'may be viewed internationally. As a result, [it] may contribute to someone infringing our patents in any part of the world'" is certified bullshit.

        All patents are public documents -- they must be public in order to inform the world just exactly what it is that the patent owner actually owns. It's detailed in the Claims section. "If you don't claim it, you don't own it."

        Furthermore, a patent must "teach the invention," meaning that anyone "familiar with the art" shall be able to implement the invention with only the descriptions provided. If there actually is a patent for this technology, the cat is out of the bag.

        Patent courts in the US are very favorably disposed to inventors -- assuming the technology is actually protected. It sounds like maybe not, and so the bluster and shrill threats.

        • by Chowderbags (847952) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:48AM (#32850076)
          You must be talking about a reasonable patent system. Here in the US we don't bother with human readable patents or silly things like being limited to things you can actually explain. It's enough to say "and any similar techniques" and your patent goes to a narrow definition of a subset of an obscure problem to suddenly encompassing damn near everything even remotely related to it. Half the time you can just state the problem itself and that's good enough. No need to actually solve anything, as if anyone would want to get their hands dirty to actually invent anything anymore.
  • Well, really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 (802533)
    Don't get me wrong, this really sucks for the guy and is completely unfair. But this sort of thing happens all the time. If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms. It's sort of not newsworthy anymore. I'm probably going to get flamed for saying this, and maybe I even deserve it, but it's true.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bhlowe (1803290)
      Why Mr. van Rijn use their proprietary name in his blog post? (Creating Shazam In Java) Of course they are going to respond exactly as they did. And much sooner had he not used it. Seems like this is a no brainer cause for a C&D letter to help protect their investment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > Why Mr. van Rijn use their proprietary name in his blog post?

        Because it damn well pleases him to do so, and in the USA, at least, he is free to do so with impunity as long as he does not use it in a way that might mislead the public into believing that they are getting said product when they are not. A trademark is not a copyright.

        • Re:Well, really... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:39PM (#32846502) Journal

          > Why Mr. van Rijn use their proprietary name in his blog post?

          Because it damn well pleases him to do so, and in the USA, at least, he is free to do so with impunity as long as he does not use it in a way that might mislead the public into believing that they are getting said product when they are not. A trademark is not a copyright.

          [Emphasis mine.]

          Look, I'm on van Rijn's side. However, I can appreciate that a blog post entitled Creating Shazam in Java could "mislead the public" even though it might not mislead the technically savvy. If I wrote a blog post entitled Creating Microsoft Office in Java you'd better believe I'd get a message from the folks in Redmond.

          IMHO, if Landmark has any beef here at all, it's that their trademark is threatened, and feebly at that.

          • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Altrag (195300) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:30PM (#32846826)

            Don't even have to RTFA, or even the summary.. Just the tagline says specifically that its a patent claim. Whether or not the claim would actually stand up in court is up to a judge should it get that far (never mind international concerns), but everything I've seen so far tells me that Shazam has all the right in the world to at least make the claim.

            As far as I know, neither "easy after someone else has thought of it" nor "it didn't take me very long" are terribly good defenses in a patent case. The one you're looking for is "figured it out before someone else has thought of it", which this guy obviously didn't do given that he specifically set out to duplicate the abilities of an existing product. At this point his only defense is to show that his algorithm is sufficiently improved over (or at least different from) Shazam's that it would warrant being called 'innovative' (at least in the US.. I don't know about the EU's rules). Also, being his own code isn't a defense in a patent case (whereas it would be a defense in a copyright case if it could be proven).

            • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:48PM (#32846938) Homepage Journal

              everything I've seen so far tells me that Shazam has all the right in the world to at least make the claim.

              The claim being that in software, once you do something, nobody else can do anything similar, even if it doesn't use any of their code or procedures. If the end result is the same, then whoever the most money to spend on legal fees is the winner. It's a fucked up way to run a railroad.

              So, once someone made a word processor, nobody else should be able to make a word processor. And once somebody made a program that can play music files, nobody else should be able to write a program that can play music files.

              "Innovative" has become such a cheap word. It really doesn't mean anything any more. When a word like "innovative" becomes a legal term of art, innovation ceases.

            • Now hold on there (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Do you understand the basic concept of a patent? To earn the monopoly you have to publish your idea. The idea becomes part of the public domain. If someone else republishes your idea the the system works as intended. A patent is not a copyright. This sounds to me like the patent holder really doesn't want to honor the bargain he agreed to. The monopoly is on implementation. We can publish code examples to our hearts content as long as we don't run them.

    • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swabeui (1291044) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:45PM (#32846028)
      Injustice is always newsworthy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spazdor (902907)

        And there are no slow news days.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918)

      If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms

      It only happens so often because the first time [wikipedia.org] no one cared.

    • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:18PM (#32846322)

      BoingBoing has a good write up (http://www.boingboing.net/2010/07/08/patent-holders-legal.html). Most interesting was the fact that Landmark Digital Services took exception to the technical details of a patent being discussed. I think most people (myself included!) believe that reading a patent should tell you precisely how to replicate something, but there's a subtext to this story implying that is not the case here. I think a situation where a patent holder treats someone discussing a means to replicate patented technology as though they where handing out trade secrets is pretty interesting, certainly ./ worthy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SkunkPussy (85271)

        essentially the patent office is liable for contributory violation of patent law because by publishing the patent they are encouraging someone somewhere in the world to violate the patent.

      • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOSPAM.beau.org> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:52PM (#32846950)

        > I think a situation where a patent holder treats someone discussing a means to replicate patented
        > technology as though they where handing out trade secrets is pretty interesting, certainly ./ worthy.

        In a sane world making such an admission in a legal filing would be grounds for voiding the patent since patent law requires dislosure of everything a person skilled in that field would need to know to implement the patented tech. The idea of patents is to trade full disclosure for a limited monopoly on commercial exploitation of the idea. However as soon as a patent is filed others may begin using your patented tech as a base to build their own innovations on. Of course they will need to license your original tech to sell theirs and you will have to license theirs if you want to incorporate it, etc. Of this are vast portfolios built of cross licensed codependent patents.

        But we live in bizarro world. Sucks don't it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CajunArson (465943)

          In a sane world making such an admission in a legal filing would be grounds for voiding the patent since patent law requires dislosure of everything a person skilled in that field would need to know to implement the patented tech.

          We do live in a sane world (well at least in this regard).. if Shazaam admits it did not disclose the "best mode" for practicing its invention, or that it did not disclose enough information in its patents to "enable" the "person having ordinary skill in the art" to practice the in

    • Re:Well, really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Blackbrain (94923) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:37PM (#32846484)

      Don't get me wrong, this really sucks for the guy and is completely unfair. But this sort of thing happens all the time. If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms. It's sort of not newsworthy anymore.

      The only reason that these things happen is that every time these things happen everybody looks around and says "Well, these things happen..." and THAT'S why they happen!

      If you see something, say something...peace out.

  • by nebaz (453974) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:33PM (#32845932)

    IA (definitely) NAL, but I thought the whole purpose of patents (other than protection) was to disclose the invention in full (not behind trade secrets) in exchange for knowledge of how the invention is done/made. Have the patent owners given any implementation details about their application?

    • by MadCow42 (243108) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:44PM (#32846012) Homepage

      Yep - I bet he's hit on a Trade Secret of theirs in his blog post and/or development work, and they're just trying to scare him away from posting the details. Trade Secrets are only secrets as long as nobody else knows about them - there's no protection on them other than that.

      The patent holds NO ability to stop him from disclosing ANYTHING - anything covered by the patent is by definition publicly disclosed in the patent itself. If it's not there, it's not covered. Period. The "international viewing" holds no water either - there's nothing preventing someone from viewing the patent from another country.

      He can go tell them to fuck off. He can probably sue for SLAPP or something like that too. I would!

      In addition, my understanding is that this goes even further - there's nothing preventing him from developing his own implementation of their patent. The only issue arises when he distributes it beyond himself. IANAL, so this part I'm only 99.9% sure on. :)

      MadCow.

      • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:50PM (#32846076) Journal

        At least in the US you have absolutely no recourse against someone who independently (not an employee, etc) develops one of your trade secrets. They can even patent it themselves and force you to pay a license fee!

        That's the trade off between patents and trade secrets.

      • by Nushio (951488) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:03PM (#32846182) Homepage

        His implementation was different than their's, and if that's the case, they've got bigger issues, as one of their developers wrote a PDF on how Shazam Works. [columbia.edu].

        And this guy certainly wasn't the first to write an article about How Shazam Works [wordpress.com] either.

        They're afraid of the code.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:06PM (#32846212)

        Exactly. If it were copyrighted, it'd be different, but if his work falls under a patent, there's nothing they can do as long as he doesn't offer his software for sale or in any products, or make it available as a binary. It's just like LAME, and various open-source decoders for patented codecs. The source code can be distributed freely, it's only when someone uses it that the patent holders have to be paid. The patent holders can only sue people who use the final product, and of course that's pretty difficult to figure out since anyone can download the source code and compile it.

        The situation is more murky for anyone who distributes compiled binaries, though, which is why most US-based Linux distros don't include LAME or any MP3 decoders, but usually provide convenient ways for you to download these things and install them with one or two clicks.

        Fuck 'em.

      • by Grond (15515) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:11PM (#32846254) Homepage

        In addition, my understanding is that this goes even further - there's nothing preventing him from developing his own implementation of their patent. The only issue arises when he distributes it beyond himself. IANAL, so this part I'm only 99.9% sure on. :)

        I'm afraid you're wrong here. In the US, a patent gives the patentee the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing the claimed invention. 35 USC 271 [cornell.edu]. Now, of course, the patentee must actually sue for patent infringement, and that's unlikely in the case of garage tinkerers (those that don't post everything online, that is), but there is no exception to patent infringement for 'developing your own implementation.' There is a research exemption related to preparing data that will be presented to the FDA [wikipedia.org], but that's not relevant here.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CajunArson (465943)

          While what you said is true, if this guy's blog post is only explaining how Shazaam works, without actually DOING what Shazaam does (e.g. offering source code), then he hasn't done any of the enumerated actions that a patentee can exclude others from doing. He does walk a fine line though... if he says: "Here's what Shazaam does, and here's my code to download that will do it for you" then he is coming very close to an "offer to sell" (giving it away for free is a little tenuous, but any monetary advantage

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by radtea (464814)

            He does walk a fine line though... if he says: "Here's what Shazaam does, and here's my code to download that will do it for you" then he is coming very close to an "offer to sell" (giving it away for free is a little tenuous, but any monetary advantage he gets, even advertising revenue from page hits caused by people visiting & downloading the patented code.)

            The fine line seems to me to be between the software as implemented and the patent claims description of it.

            Suppose I do the following:

            1) Create a custom parser that is designed to do nothing but read a particular patent document on the the USPTO's website.

            2) Add a backend to the parser that generates machine code--possibly via an intermediate form like C++, Python or Java--that is nothing but a representation of the steps outlined in the patent.

            3) Run said machine code.

            At what point have I violated the pat

      • by ascari (1400977) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:48PM (#32846550)

        As far as Trade Secret goes: Shazam's own Avery Wang published the ins and outs of the Shazam algorithm in Proceedings of the ACM back in 2006. The paper also mentions similar systems by Phillips and others that go back to 2001 and beyond. There's also a reference to a talk by Shazam's Avery Wang at an international conference in Baltimore in 2003. They've plastered their secret sauce for all the world to see for years, and now they fuck with this poor guy!

        Ironically, the example in the ACM article was the Beatles song "Let it be". That's precisely what I would suggest Shazam does.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by 1984 (56406)

          This isn't Shazam. Odd sounding, but Shazam doesn't actually own the Shazam algorithm anymore, although it does retain the right to use it. Landmark LLC is a separate entity.

      • by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:00PM (#32846600) Homepage
        Weirdly, Shazam have published a fairly thorough paper [columbia.edu] on how their search algorithm works. While devoid of any actual code, it doesn't seem as though the blog in question has given away any trade secrets that aren't easily derived from this paper and other bodies of work online.

        Of course, by threatening the guy Shazam & LDS have created their very own Streisand Effect; this is front page on /., Digg, Reddit, YCombinator, etc., which means millions of people have now seen the "infringing" code, with many saving it or tweaking it. I'm certain someone will mirror it in a country that doesn't validate software patents as well. One also wonders if they're going to sue Google or demand they clear the cache.

        As for me, I won't be using their software, and I will be contacting them to register my disgust, though it probably will make no difference in their attitude.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:45PM (#32846024) Homepage Journal

      Bizarrely, the USPTO doesn't require code for software patents; I assume other patent offices worldwide, in those countries which allow software patents, follow the same practice. You can't patent a mechanical device without schematics (I think) but for software, a vague description of the algorithm -- too vague to be of any use in implementation -- is enough. This is yet another example of why the idea of patenting things that aren't physical objects is fundamentally broken, but don't expect the situation to change any time soon.

  • What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Barrinmw (1791848) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:33PM (#32845934)
    Patents are open for viewing aren't they (with the exception of the NSA)? So if they have a patent for something, then how can they order someone to take down information that a supposed patent covers?
  • Shazam... (Score:3, Informative)

    by e4g4 (533831) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:34PM (#32845944)
    ...was a call in service, long before it was an Android app - and an iPhone app before Android even existed (in the mainstream, anyway). Why is it singled out as an android app?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:40PM (#32845980)

      Because iPhones suck.

    • Re:Shazam... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nushio (951488) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:41PM (#32845988) Homepage

      Because I didn't Google it up properly. And Slashdot doesn't let me edit the story submission after I hit send. Its my fault.

      • Re:Shazam... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by e4g4 (533831) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:49PM (#32846060)
        A story submitter, on Slashdot, humbly and openly admitting a mistake. My hat is off to you, sir. Here's hoping some of the people responsible for the more absurdly sensationalist summaries (your submission is certainly _not_ one of those, just to be clear) that creep onto the front page take your precedent as an example. I won't be holding my breath, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        I'd suggest that you email timothy directly. He is the only actual editor at Slashdot, and I know from personal experience that he does correct stories. Also: thanks for the submission, it's well above the usual iPhoneM$TerrorWatchList crap.
  • by UndyingShadow (867720) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:35PM (#32845952)
    Is that a Barbra Streisand [wikipedia.org] song I hear?
  • I call bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seeker_1us (1203072) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:43PM (#32846008)
    One: you cannot patent code. Period. There's plenty of cases where people have written (and released) code that some patent covered (ffmpeg anyone). The code itself is free speech.

    Two: you cannot use a patent as a method to censor free speech.

    Three: any US patent can be viewed internationally. A patent is by definition NOT a trade secret. Even if this guy's software DID use a patent-encumbered algorithm, his post cannot "contribute to someone infringing ... patents in any part of the world."

    Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

    • Re:I call bullshit. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... .com minus distr> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:51PM (#32846092) Homepage Journal

      One: you cannot patent code. Period. There's plenty of cases where people have written (and released) code that some patent covered (ffmpeg anyone). The code itself is free speech.

      They didn't patent code. They patented the method and system. And you can certainly patent those. In fact, the fact that it's not the code, but the method, that's patented is why he was infringing even though he did it in Java and they did it in C#. Patents are not copyright.

      Two: you cannot use a patent as a method to censor free speech.

      Nope, but you can use a patent to prevent someone from using your invention without your consent.

      Three: any US patent can be viewed internationally. A patent is by definition NOT a trade secret. Even if this guy's software DID use a patent-encumbered algorithm, his post cannot "contribute to someone infringing ... patents in any part of the world."

      Yes, because if someone takes his code and runs it, then they're infringing. Therefore, he's contributing to the infringement.

      Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

      Nope, but his post is viewable by the entire world. And someone could infringe in the US, where the patent is, by using his code.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:49PM (#32846062) Homepage

    ,,,the fundamental nature of patents. Patents are published, by the PTO. This means that anyone, "international" or otherwise, can already view them. Furthermore, it is settled law that discussion of a patented invention, including detailed explanation of how to implement it, is not infringement.

  • Use pHash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by b1ng0 (7449) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:54PM (#32846110)
    Use pHash [phash.org] instead, my open source perceptual hashing library that can detect similar audio, video, images and text files. It does not use Shazam's patented algorithm, which isn't all that great anyhow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sonamchauhan (587356)

      Thanks - this is why I read Slashdot! :)

      Is your library similar in concept to Complearn? (http://complearn.org/) From their homepage:
      CompLearn is a suite of simple-to-use utilities that you can use to apply compression techniques to the process of discovering and learning patterns.

      The compression-based approach used is powerful because it can mine patterns in completely different domains. It can classify musical styles of pieces of music and identify unknown composers.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:12PM (#32846268) Homepage

    I mean, on the spectrum of software patent insanity, they're being relatively restrained and civil. They seem genuinely to be trying to head off competition for an invention that they are implementing and selling - which is the point of patents - rather than acting like patent trolls and trying to gouge money for something that they never implemented.

    Of course, it sucks, software patents doubleplus bad, Fight The Man, counter sue them for a hundred beelyon Euros, Attica! Attica! Attica! and so on, but comparing a couple of polite "please don't make us do anything you'd regret" emails to Adobe's assraping of Dmitry Sklyarov [wikipedia.org] is rather hyperbolic. And yes, I have a "Free Dmitry Sklyarov" t-shirt, thanks for asking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      This fellow is in the Netherlands, where non-commercial use of patents is entirely legal. Any threats of legal action are uncalled for, and suggesting he take down his blog post when Shazam has published an even more detailed white paper is simply beyond the pale.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:46PM (#32846534)

    I RTFA, and he posts pretty much the entire source code of his implementation in the original blog post. That is what they were upset about: implementing the patent *and* distributing it. Had he merely discussed the methods Shazam used, it probably wouldn't have been a problem. However, I can go to his blog, cut-and-paste the code into a text editor, and have a working clone of Shazam. That is fairly cut-and-dry patent infringement, minus commercial gain and sidestepping the issue of software patents.

    It's not like he was just talking about the process.

    • Generally, the courts have held that source code is akin to a 'diagram', not the device itself.

      It's perfectly legal to distribute diagrams of devices that implement patented methods. The patent holder can demand you make a note that it uses such a method, and is illegal to operate without a license, but can't actually stop you from distributing the diagrams.

      Yes, it's weird a normal person can spend five minutes turning a diagram into a device.

      OTOH, plenty of patents use already existing devices in novel ways, like 'entertain a cat with a laser pointer', which, now that I've described it, a good fraction of the people out there can implement with even less work then compiling. That's a silly, but real example, but there are real, serious patents on the use of medicines, for example, in novel ways, or adding tiny impurities to a well known process to make it better. Those are just as easy to implement.

      Describing ways for people to make devices that implement patented methods, no matter how simple it is to turn it from 'diagram' to 'device', is legal. And source code has consistently been held to be 'diagram'.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:50PM (#32846556)

    There are several services doing this same general thing, might as well support the ones that aren't a-holes!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reapman (740286)

      Thanks for the tip, gonna be removing Shazam myself and trying out this new one.

  • Posible prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:07PM (#32846670)

    The name of this proyect that seems to be prior art is Tararira (music retrival by sung query). It's from Uruguay, and does recognition of music just humming at a microphone. Proyect was created in 2004 and have code published.

    http://iie.fing.edu.uy/investigacion/grupos/gmm/proyectos/tararira/ingles.php3
    http://iie.fing.edu.uy/investigacion/grupos/gmm/proyectos/tararira/descargas/tarariraEN-src-0.1.tar.gz
    http://iie.fing.edu.uy/investigacion/grupos/gmm/proyectos/tararira/descargas/tarariraEN.tar.gz
    http://iie.fing.edu.uy/investigacion/grupos/gmm/proyectos/tararira/descargas/tararira.pdf

    Tararira is a query by singing system. The problem of music retrieval by sung query (QBH, query by humming) consist of building a machine capable of simulating the cognitive process of identifying a musical piece from a few sung notes of its melody.

    A melody is described by a sequence of notes, so it is natural to compare melodies by means of the similarity of their constituent notes. For this reason, the problem can be divided in two stages: the transcription of the voice signal into a sequence of notes and the search of this pattern in a MIDI melody database.

    Tararira originates in July 2004 as the graduation project of Ernesto López, Martín Rocamora and Gonzalo Sosa at the IIE of the Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de la República.

  • obvious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:25PM (#32846790)

    Just about all computer-based signal processing related to anything at all is performed in the frequency domain so passing the raw data through an FFT (or at least an FT) first is a no-brainer.

    Calculating a hash is the blindingly obvious and standard approach to getting a semi-unique signature for mostly any data.

    Both the FFT and the hashing would likely be the first thought of any competent software engineer tasked with solving this, in as much as using a screwdriver to undo a screw is obvious to a mechanic.

    Don't even software patents have to require at least some concept of originality and non-obviousness?

  • Wimp out. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AJWM (19027) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:44PM (#32846920) Homepage

    No patent numbers? "Algorithm" in unreleased code? At least put up a token resistance and ask for details.

    We need more responses like Blue Jean Cable's response to Monster [slashdot.org] when Monster Cable tried something similar.

  • by bferrell (253291) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @10:12PM (#32847030) Homepage Journal

    It's a wholly owned subsidary of BMI... As in BMI/ASCAP?

    It's the record companies again.

  • previous works (Score:3, Informative)

    by NynexNinja (379583) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @11:07PM (#32847260)
    Around 2000, an open source program called "songprint" was written which does this, and then MusicBrainz Tagger was written shortly after, but not as open source. After that, Pandora.com came out which capitalized on this.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:19AM (#32847756) Homepage Journal


    Dear Shazam,

    My algorithm is not the same as yours. Specially, it differs in this key code section:

    while (shazam==evil_patent_troll) {
        shazam.bake_in_hell(temperature=EXTRA_HOT);
      }

    Sincerely, Timothy

  • by psergiu (67614) on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:41AM (#32848738)
    Creating Shazam in Java
    A couple of days ago I encountered this article: How Shazam Works

    This got me interested in how a program like Shazam works... And more importantly, how hard is it to program something similar in Java?

    About Shazam

    Shazam is an application which you can use to analyse/match music. When you install it on your phone, and hold the microphone to some music for about 20 to 30 seconds, it will tell you which song it is.

    When I first used it it gave me a magical feeling. "How did it do that!?". And even today, after using it a lot, it still has a bit of magical feel to it.
    Wouldn't it be great if we can program something of our own that gives that same feeling? That was my goal for the past weekend.

    Listen up..!

    First things first, get the music sample to analyse we first need to listen to the microphone in our Java application...! This is something I hadn't done yet in Java, so I had no idea how hard this was going to be.

    But it turned out it was very easy:

    1 final AudioFormat format = getFormat(); //Fill AudioFormat with the wanted settings
    2 DataLine.Info info = new DataLine.Info(TargetDataLine.class, format);
    3 final TargetDataLine line = (TargetDataLine) AudioSystem.getLine(info);
    4 line.open(format);
    5 line.start();
    Now we can read the data from the TargetDataLine just like a normal InputStream:

    01 // In another thread I start:
    02
    03 OutputStream out = new ByteArrayOutputStream();
    04 running = true;
    05
    06 try {
    07 while (running) {
    08 int count = line.read(buffer, 0, buffer.length);
    09 if (count > 0) {
    10 out.write(buffer, 0, count);
    11 }
    12 }
    13 out.close();
    14 } catch (IOException e) {
    15 System.err.println("I/O problems: " + e);
    16 System.exit(-1);
    17 }
    Using this method it is easy to open the microphone and record all the sounds! The AudioFormat I&rsquo;m currently using is:

    1 private AudioFormat getFormat() {
    2 float sampleRate = 44100;
    3 int sampleSizeInBits = 8;
    4 int channels = 1; //mono
    5 boolean signed = true;
    6 boolean bigEndian = true;
    7 return new AudioFormat(sampleRate, sampleSizeInBits, channels, signed, bigEndian);
    8 }
    So, now we have the recorded data in a ByteArrayOutputStream, great! Step 1 complete.

    Microphone data

    The next challenge is analyzing the data, when I outputted the data I received in my byte array I got a long list of numbers, like this:

    01 0
    02 0
    03 1
    04 2
    05 4
    06 7
    07 6
    08 3
    09 -1
    10 -2
    11 -4
    12 -2
    13 -5
    14 -7
    15 -8
    16 (etc)
    Erhm&#8230; yes? This is sound?

    To see if the data could be visualized I took the output and placed it in Open Office to generate a line graph:

    Ah yes! This kind of looks like 'sound'. It looks like what you see when using for example Windows Sound Recorder.

    This data is actually known as time domain. But these numbers are currently basically useless to us... if you read the above article on how Shazam works you&rsquo;ll read that they use a spectrum analysis instead of direct time doma
  • by RichiH (749257) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:09PM (#32852214) Homepage

    I uninstalled the app immediately and left them with a one-star rating plus a link to explain the background. Also, I uninstalled them as malicious. Feel free to link http://tinyurl.com/3a93ed8 [tinyurl.com] in your one-star ratings.

    Get SoundHound instead. It's better anyway. Now that I have SoundHound, I am actually glad that Shazam made me look for alternatives.

    Again:
    http://tinyurl.com/3a93ed8 [tinyurl.com]
    http://www.soundhound.com/ [soundhound.com]

    PS: It would be evil to install them just to uninstall them with one-star ratings. I could not condone that.

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