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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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  • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#11770192) Journal
    Or do you think they mught just be committing quiet obscenities? Better ban it anyway just in case.

    Why not? They went after The Kingsmen for "Louie Louie", taking its unintelligibility as "proof" that it has nasties in it...
  • 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..
  • Old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thebra ( 707939 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:50PM (#11770202) Homepage Journal
    This has been done. []
  • by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) * <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:52PM (#11770216) Homepage Journal
    White noise has content. So, sure, go ahead and copyright -your- white noise. But, so long as someone else didn't mimic yours (which wouldn't be too hard -- or even desired, what with white noise being essentially random), they'd be fine. In other words, as Hunter S. Thompson would say, "Just put your TV between channels, pump up the volume, and listen to the wonderful white noise." And not sweat the copyright.
  • by shurikt ( 734896 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#11770235)
    I haven't tested it, but there's a pretty good chance that the digitally encoded silence actually contains some white noise or other artifact of the digitizing process. Would that be copyrightable?
  • by L-Train8 ( 70991 ) <> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#11770237) Homepage Journal
    Well, it may not be copyright infringement, but if he cracked the DRM to access the silence, it is indeed a crime under the DCMA. Which is one of the big problems with the DCMA. Even if you have a legal right to the material that is copy protected, you cannot crack the copy protection without committing a crime.
  • by Pionar ( 620916 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @04:55PM (#11770272)
    It has nothing to do with how many notes. It's whether it's marginally creative. In this case, I think it'd be up to a judge. A consumer would argue that silence is inherently not creative. A copyright holder would argue that it's not just the silence, it's the position of it on the album, the significance of the length, the "innovativeness" of silence as an expression of art, and so forth. Frankly, since the threshold for creativity is quite low (hell, you can copyright a directory of people just because you've ordered it in a certain way), I think Apple's got a pretty good case.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:|_ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:09PM (#11770449) Homepage Journal
    Now I just need to copyright an empty space of a specific shape. Maybe I should DRM a PDF that is just a single blank page of paper.
  • 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."
  • Re:John Cage (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Antibozo ( 410516 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:21PM (#11770585) Homepage

    The point of 4'33" is not so much environmental noise as the act and experience of listening.

    A friend of mine who is not a John Cage fan was once dragged to a performance of 4'33", not knowing anything about Cage or the piece. A short way into it, he got fed up, stood up and berated his companion loudly, and marched out of the room. No doubt this was one of the better performances.

  • by jwcorder ( 776512 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:22PM (#11770594)
    That's not the issue. The issue is he broke the DRM. If I take an empty box and put it in a safe in my house and leave the front door of my home standing wide open, then you walk into my house and crack the safe and take the box, you have committed multiple crimes.

    Is it stupid? Yes. Is it illegal, most certainly.

  • by bitslinger_42 ( 598584 ) on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:41PM (#11770862)

    One thing I find noticablly missing from this discussion is the fact that a recording of a performance of Cage's 4'33" would not, in fact, be the audio equivalent of a zero-byte file. Cage's intention, as documented here [] was that there can be no such thing as listening to the total abcense of sound. A recording of a performance of 4'33" should include the ambient noises from the recording situation (made better now through improved recording techniques).

    I guess that one could "perform" the performance by listening to the whole piece on a computer where the music file is 4'33" of nulls and end up listening to the ambient noise in the listening environment (my ears ringing, in my case, due to audio abuse I subjected them to in my youth), but that would probably be more of a computer-induced performance of the piece rather than an accoustic recording of another performance, which would include audience noises (i.e. people shifting in their seats, polite coughs, etc.) as well as environmental ones (i.e. air handling system cycling, wind movement in an outdoor environment, etc.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @05:47PM (#11770944)
    "How did we let the entertainment industry get away with this?"

    I've been asking for 5 years on /. how the FBI became the enforcement arm for the RIAA and MPAA, and I always get modded as flamebait.

    I've given up, because either there's a lot of trolls (or astro-turf'ers) from record companies, or most of the kids here are brainwashed about copyrights; they think a copyright is magically juju.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 24, 2005 @06:06PM (#11771199)
    They are basically the same band. For anyone who's interested, SY gives away DRM-free music [] (mp3s) on their site.
  • 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).
  • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suckmysav ( 763172 ) < minus caffeine> on Thursday February 24, 2005 @09:27PM (#11772891) Journal
    John Lennon & Yoko Ono had a track on their "Life With the Lions" album [] that was called "Two Minutes Silence" and thats all it was. Two minutes of silence so you could say that this 1.3 minutes of silence is just an incomplete rip-off of that track and is therefore a blatent copyright breach.
  • Silence is golden (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jchap ( 628091 ) on Friday February 25, 2005 @02:46AM (#11774607) Homepage

    On the general issue of x minutes of silence being a stupid, head up one's own arse, pretentious load of crap idea, of course it is.

    However if you think about it, the silent tracks are only a waste of money because they're so inaccurate. I'd happily pay good money for an entirely silent track that was exactly 4.123332949843985439843843... minutes long - ie where the mantissa contained a couple of MB of information (with a good beat)!

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