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DRM for 1'3" of Silence 637

jc42 writes "In the latest entry in the battle over Digital Rights Management, a fellow has blatantly ripped off a "tune" from the iTunes Store. "Tune" is 1 minute 3 seconds of silence. To compound his crime, he has posted the tune on his web site for anyone to download. I downloaded it to iTunes, and it played just fine (but now I suppose I'm a criminal, too). I wonder what John Cage and Mike Batt would have to say about this? Will lawyers for Apple or Ciccone Youth send a C&D letter? If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?"
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DRM for 1'3" of Silence

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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:46PM (#11770125) Homepage
    At least that's one song who's lyrics won't offend the FCC.

    Or do you think they mught just be committing quiet obscenities? Better ban it anyway just in case.
  • John Cage (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso ( 153703 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:47PM (#11770130) Homepage Journal
    Actually, if it was John Cage, you would hear the performer turning the page.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:49PM (#11770171)
      No, if it was John Cage he would shadow-kick your ass.
    • Re:John Cage (Score:3, Informative)

      by gmaestro ( 316742 )
      I could have sworn the Cage 4'33" was usually performed by memory. So while the sound of the piano lid opening and closing, perhaps the performer placing his watch on the stand might be heard, there should be no pages turning.

      You are correct, however, that the point of the Cage piece is environmental noise, a concept I'm sick of explaining.

    • Re:John Cage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rune-bare-rune ( 74864 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:12PM (#11770488) Homepage
      The representatives of John Cages estate appearantly thought Mike Batt [] infringed Cages copyright with a track on his 2002 album "Planets" [].

      "As my mother said when I told her, 'which part of the silence are they claiming you nicked?'. They say they are claiming copyright on a piece of mine called 'One Minute's Silence' on the Planets' album, which I credit Batt/Cage just for a laugh. But my silence is original silence, not a quotation from his silence."
    • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:50PM (#11770996)
      Somebody already mentioned Frank Zappa here, which reminded me of this:

      Guy In The Audience: "Whipping Post"!
      FZ: Say that again please
      GITA: "Whipping Post"!
      FZ: "Whipping Post"? Ok, just a second . . . (Do you know that?) Oh sorry, we don't know that one. Anything else? Hum me a few bars of it, please, just show me how it goes, please. Just sing, sing me "Whipping Post" and then maybe we'll play it with you
      GITA: Ooh-ooh-ooh . . .
      FZ: Thank you very much. And now . . . Judging from the way you sang it, it must be a John Cage composition, right? Here we go, "Montana."
  • This is just dumb. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) * <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:47PM (#11770131) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, but no. As I seem to recall, there is a minimum number of notes required in order to copyright something. As a corallary, you could not write a "book" with the contents being the word "the", and then sue everyone for breach of copyright. In other words, raw, unadulturated silence cannot be copyrighted; it needs content.
  • OMFG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You people waste so much time and thought finding new ways to split hairs. Get back to work.
    • Re:OMFG (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:10PM (#11770471) Homepage
      Yes, it does sound absurd, but I really don't think this is splitting hairs because it is specifically addressing the extent to which the DMCA can be enforced. This could very well become a "test case" that might prove to be important.

      Then again...
    • Re:OMFG (Score:4, Funny)

      by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:50PM (#11771001)
      Actually, it's all part of their evil plan. They will copyright silence, then refuse to sell that track anymore, and then sue anyone who's NOT listening to music, as they are listening to silence, which is copyrighted, and hasn't been legally purchased.

      Therefore, you must always listen to music to avoid fines. In this way, they will sell more music.

  • Quality (Score:2, Funny)

    by theantipop ( 803016 )
    That song has still got to be better than most of the music on iTunes.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:47PM (#11770141) Homepage
    You have the right to remain silent.
  • by Corporate Drone ( 316880 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770148)
    If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?

    Well... you could always claim that your MP3 was a collection of 5 seconds snippets of the "tune", and plead Fair Use...

  • by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770154)
    But only got the message,

    "Nothing to hear here. Move along."
  • At least in some countries there is a right to make a parody.
  • I wanted to find an mp3 of 4'33'' the other day. I searched all the filesharing networks... there wasn't one *anywhere*!
  • Already Slashdotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by BarryJacobsen ( 526926 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770163) Homepage
    Article is already slashdotted, here's the google cache:

    I'm gonna preface this by saying that I love Apple and their products and I hate the RIAA and their shortsightedness. My only complaint with Apple is the restrictive DRM built into iTunes Music Store songs (also, those new G5s could be a little cheaper).

    In protest, I've committed a real crime and documented the entire process. But it shouldn't be that way and that's why I've done it. Come and get me, Apple! Come and get me, RIAA!

    It all started with a free song code from the Pepsi iTunes promotion. I tilted several Pepsi bottles at the local Ralphs (just look for random letters under the cap), found me a winner and scored a free song.

    You may not know this, but there are several tracks that you can buy from that iTunes Music Store that consist of nothing more than total silence.

    Here's one from Ciccone Youth (a Sonic Youth side project):

    So I bought it.

    Then, I wanted to play this song on another device other than my iPod (I own a Creative MuVo TX MP3 Player). No go. The Digital Rights Management (DRM) makes it impossible to transfer the song to my other MP3 player unless I go through some ridiculous steps which involve burning the purchased song to a CD and then ripping it. This causes a noticeable loss of sound quality due to the song being recompressed. Totally unacceptable. I want pure silence.

    So I stripped the DRM using JHymn, a cross-platform application that unlocks your DRM'ed songs and keeps the original's sound quality. This is absolutely, positively illegal according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

    One law broken, one to go.

    One file is legal, the other one is definitely not. Can you spot the one that'll get me in trouble? I'll give you a hint: it's the one without the little lock over its icon.

    There's just one law left to break. I'm offering this very file for download here on my website. So go ahead, download it (1.1 MB) and break the law with me. Right click, save as, and crank it up on your favorite portable electronic music player.

    If this little stunt gets me in trouble, you'll be the first to know.

    You can help stop the RIAA and their nonsense at Downhill Battle.

    Find out more about protecting your digital rights online at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website.

    Silence is golden. Get involved.
    • And here [] is the link to that cache. The pictures are even still working.

      For now.
    • Not true (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:56PM (#11771081) Homepage Journal
      the Digital Rights Management (DRM) makes it impossible to transfer the song to my other MP3 player unless I go through some ridiculous steps which involve burning the purchased song to a CD and then ripping it. This causes a noticeable loss of sound quality due to the song being recompressed. Totally unacceptable. I want pure silence.

      So I wondered how the various codecs handle silence. That seems like an easy optimization for the codec implementor. Here's what I did:
      1. created a 10-second silence sound file in Sound Studio 44.1/16/stereo
      2. exported it to AIFF
      3. opened it in QuickTime player and re-saved it as AAC/128/best quality
      4. opened that file and re-saved as AIFF
      5. encoded that file to MP3/192/joint stereo/best quality in Audeon
      6. opened that file in QuickTime Player and saved it to AIFF
      7. opened that file again in Sound Studio
      I zoomed all the way in on the digital waveform, maximum magnification, and scrolled through all 10 seconds. All the bits were pinned at 0.

      So, while the guy is right in almost every case, he picked a really bad example to make this particular argument on. If he had burned to CD and ripped, assuming is CD-ROM drive is good he'd have pure silence in the re-ripped soundfile.

      There must be something in the iTMS that's public domain that would make a better example.
  • |_ (Score:4, Funny)

    by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770165) Homepage Journal

  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:48PM (#11770166)
    Lack of bandwidth appears to have stopped him already. Here's Google's cache:

    Google Cache []

    Is there something more to this than an uninteresting thought experiment in regard to IP and DRM?
  • Go figure, we silenced a clip of silence.
  •'s digitally encoded silence!
  • They're all infringing on Paul Simon.

    "The Sound of Silence" [] was recorded back in '65. Just shows you how little originality is left in the American music scene today ...

  • Let me be the first to say, "Thank you Mirrordot! []" and "Thank you Google Cache! []"
  • Precedent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alphakappa ( 687189 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#11770193) Homepage
    What kind of legal precedent would this create if it ever came to court? On one hand he has probably violated the DMCA by circumventing the copy-protection on the song. On the other hand, all he has is a song that is devoid of any content. (Could you compare it to a thief who broke into a house only to find it empty - would it not be a crime, if he knew beforehand that the house was empty?)

    Plenty of questions to be debated here..
    • Re:Precedent (Score:4, Informative)

      by jeblucas ( 560748 ) <jeblucas@ g m a i l .com> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:17PM (#11770539) Homepage Journal
      Why has he violated the DMCA? Doesn't that require that he make, sell, or produce a technology or service that circumvents DRM? In fact, if you read the DMCA (crazy, I know), you'll find:
      Section 1201 divides technolgical measures into two categories: measures that prevent unauthorized
      access to a copyrighted work and measure that prevent unauthorized copying of a copyrighted work. Making or selling devices or services that are used to circumvent eith category of technological measure is prohibited in certain circumstances described below. As to the circumvention in itself, the provision prohibits circumventing the first category of technological measures, but not the second.
      I know this guy thinks he's a hilarious supergenius, but:
      • you can't copyright silence, so this is moot.
      • you are allowed to circumvent DRM to copy copyrighted material that you own.
      Everyone's an expert. Read this: []
      • Re:Precedent (Score:3, Informative)

        by dafz1 ( 604262 )
        The file was never copied, so your point about circumventing DRM to copy is moot. If you read the summary provided, it says:

        "This distinction was employed to assure that the public will have the continued ability to make fair use of copyrighted works. Since copying of a work may be a fair use under appropriate circumstances, section 1201 does not prohibit the act of circumventing a technological measure that prevents copying. By contrast, since the fair use doctrine is not a defense to the act of gainin
  • Copyright (Score:4, Funny)

    by ojthecat ( 842071 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#11770197)
    The only problem with this is that Microsoft has just been issued a patent for a method of producing no sound via a mp3 data stream.
  • I was always under the impression that copyright was a means of giving a temporary monopoly to the creator of creative works.

    As there is nothing whatsoever creative about a minute or so of silence, I don't see there as being any copyright to infringe upon.

  • Old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thebra ( 707939 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#11770202) Homepage Journal
    This has been done. []
  • No.

    On the other hand, what if it had some very low noise? Perhaps something recorded a few hundred yards from a beach? Something subtle and minimalist? Does it become patentable then?

    Anything with nearly zero information content (via compression) shouldn't be patentable, but this is such a nerdy testing-the-limits-of-the-system thing to do that I can't help but watch.
  • by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#11770227)
    If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?

    No. First of all, no one has a copyright on any length of pure silence. You can copyright SOUND RECORDINGS. Pure silence is the absence of sound, and is therefore not copyrightable.

    However, you could record yourself sitting in front of a piano (ala Cage) and the various ambient sounds recorded would technically be a unique work, and as the original author you would own the copyright on that SOUND RECORDING.

    This guy is violating the DRM agreements that Apple set forth, so Apple could pursue him.

    As explained above, the pure silence is not copyrightable, so the RIAA has no beef.

    If the guy forgot to remove the album artwork from the file, then he is infringing the copyright of whoever owns the album artwork copyright, and they could sue him.

    What is he really trying to prove? The point is lost on me due to his ineptitude.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by el_gordo101 ( 643167 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:54PM (#11770250)
    One foot three inches of music?
  • by techmuse ( 160085 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:55PM (#11770275)
    1'3" of silence sounds very impressive when played backwards - especially the backwards lyrics. :)
  • by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:56PM (#11770288)
    I'm offering this very file for download here on my website. So go ahead, download it (1.1 MB) and break the law with me.

    Letter to from the RIAA:

    Dear PlasticBugs,

    It has come to our attention that you are hosting copyrighted material on your website. In the past we have dispatched goons. Unfortunately this takes up to a week.

    In order to more effectively destroy your ability to distribute copyrighted material, we have decided to destroy your server by providing a link to its content to a very popular website's front page.

    We wish your server well in its next life.


    • by jc42 ( 318812 )
      Heh. I really think that I should send an apology to him for mentioning his site on /.

      Actually, the problem is probably even worse than just /., since I've found a similar link on Dave Barry's blog [] (registration required). I wonder how many readers Dave has, compared to /.? I have seen comments on his blog about how they've "slashdotted" some poor server. I wonder if the Miami Herald has the bandwidth to withstand the onslaught ... ;-)
  • John Cage (Score:3, Informative)

    by jargon ( 75774 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:58PM (#11770307) Homepage
    It is useful to see some of this within the larger copyright context of John Cage [] and Mike Batt []'s copyright dispute over Cage's piece, 4' 33" [].
    Cage's estate won that case - or rather, recieved a large settlement out of it.

    This is a bit of a commentary [] on the ordeal.

  • Um ... okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Durandal64 ( 658649 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:00PM (#11770336)
    Let me get this straight. Someone makes a "song" that's 1m 3s of silence. Some other guy makes an audio file that is 1m 3s of silence. He's daring someone to sue him, and everyone here is already screaming about it? No one's done anything! Apple hasn't sued. The artist hasn't sued. The RIAA hasn't sued. What's the big deal?
    • Re:Um ... okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LesPaul75 ( 571752 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:34PM (#11770744) Journal
      But, the point is that because of the ridiculous copyright laws in this country, someone could sue. And they might even win, based on the precendents set by the RIAA's other lawsuits (e.g. suing 14 year olds and winning).

      I think this is a fantastic example of just how nonsensical DRM, the RIAA, and the music industry in general are. Kudos to the guy who thought of it.
  • Wow Compression (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfried ( 122648 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:01PM (#11770346) Homepage
    man 1.1 MB for just silence you would think nothing would compress down to almost nothing.

    Realy take a look, whats hard to compress, variance.
    The song is the same the entire track. so realy that could be compress quite nicely. no need stereo is silence after all. no need for a bit rate, its silence.

    Frankly I am a bit disapointed in the compression.
    • Re:Wow Compression (Score:3, Informative)

      by LesPaul75 ( 571752 )
      Actually a good point about MP3 (and similar) compression schemes. They have a fixed bitrate. So when you compress a song, you say "compress this audio down to 128K bits per second" and then the algorithm throws away all of the frequency data that won't fit into that many bits. So, even if it's dead silence, the algorithm is still going to fill up 128Kb for each second of silence (even though it's effectively filling that 128Kb with zeroes). Even if you use VBR (variable bit rate) compression, the algor
      • Re:Wow Compression (Score:5, Informative)

        by Leto-II ( 1509 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:43PM (#11770905)
        Even if you use VBR (variable bit rate) compression, the algorithm still tries to average a certain overall bitrate, so the result is the same. It would be nice if you could just say "compress this song using as many bits as you need to make it sound good," but unfortunately the phrase "to make it sound good" is very subjective. The algorithm doesn't know what sounds good.

        Bzzt. Wrong. VBR schemes in formats such as OGG, MPC, and others are based on "quality" as opposed to bitrate. There's certainly a correlation between the two, but the idea is to have compression levels linked to quality as opposed to size.

        Even with MP3 you can have VBR encodings that go down to 32 bps during silence. Check out LAME's "alt-preset" (just preset in recent revisions) command line options for damn good quality based settings.

        See Hydrogen Audio [] for more information than you could ever want.
  • Couple Issues. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:01PM (#11770349) Homepage Journal
    I think there are few issues here, the main one that DRM was cracked and put on the web, doesnt matter what the song was, that was illegal in the USA. I couldnt get on the website, but if its the same file with DRM disabled, thats a problem.

    Converting to a non-copyprotected format is already allowed, since they let you burn iTunes to CD. And since they already allow you to convert to one format, you could argue that point that you are just converting to another for personal use.

    And the tune itself is nothing but silence, which seems flawed, as there is only 1 silence by nature itself, doesnt seem logically to be copyrightable.

    Myself, I stopped using iTunes, as it doesnt carry the music I want, a few only radio stations do, so I use stream rippers, which is the same as saving off a radio. Not illegal yet, but wouldnt stop lawsuits, they can use for anything.
  • by Sloppyjoes7 ( 556803 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:08PM (#11770441)
    As evidenced by Mike Batt being sued by the John Cage Trust, [] people have been sued for copying silence.

    Apparently, his minute of silence "infringed" on the late John Cage's 4'33 of silence.

    No joke. No legal precedence was set, as the matter was settled out of court. (I wonder how much the trust got out of suing someone for copying silence.)
  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:09PM (#11770461) Homepage
    But on the other hand, I'm kind of getting sick of cover versions...
  • by lxt ( 724570 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:51PM (#11771011) Journal
    As a music student, I feel perhaps it is my duty to point out that a proper live performance of 4'33" isn't actually "silence". If you were to hear the piece live, you'd be hearing the sounds of the nervous shuffles, coughs, expectant wheezes of all the people around you. That's the point of the piece.

    Seeing as 4'33" is actually written out in music, to record the piece you must perform it, using a piano. Even a studio recording will not be perfect silence, and a live recording will have a noticeable amount of background noise, maybe with the occassional cough, giggle etc.
  • Missing the point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ecloud ( 3022 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:19PM (#11771341) Homepage Journal
    What they told us in music appreciation class is that the point of John Cage's piece is that the audience does not realize that they are the ones giving the performance. There are always some ambient noises, and this piece gives us a chance to stop what we are doing and pay attention to our environment.

    So it is hard to claim copyright on a recording of ambient noise, which by its nature is a "public good" (if it can be said to be any kind of good at all).
  • The Law... (Score:4, Funny)

    by NoseBag ( 243097 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:39PM (#11771584)
    "If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of exactly the same length and put it online, would I be infringing their copyright?"

    The Law is silent on this issue.
  • No Infringement (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @07:23PM (#11771951) Homepage
    > If I were to make my own MP3 silent tune of
    > exactly the same length and put it online, would
    > I be infringing their copyright?


    a) The work contains no protected elements.

    b) Independent invention is a complete defense.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner