Billboard, Biometrics and Tales from the (Musi)Crypt

It's been a while so apologies – you regular reader(s) you know who you are!

So Musicrypt is suing a bunch of other promo CD people to try to maintain their "enormous lead" in this area. Well, these guys are quite something. I have to say for a Canadian outfit they behave as if they are from Texas. I first met this gang about four or five years ago at Midem when they were first displaying their biometric password based solution. At the time they were focused on using this to solve the overall distribution of music problem, then cleverly they switched to the rather more niche area of promo CDs. Luckily for them as the power of the web grew, the problem of journalists leaking advanced copies of music they got sent for review or buzz generation purposes meant that Musicrypt got to look rather more useful on this front than people had before. There were plenty of other good people who had been bashing away trying to persuade the labels and radio stations in particular to use some kind of closed download inside a propietary network type solution to maintain confidentiality of promo CDs. In fact I recall back in the early nineties there were satellite based companies who charged labels for the service of doing the otherwise very difficult task of transmitting simultaneously to all the UK's commercial radio stations, the same promo single for radio airplay only at the same time – and at an especially appointed hour. We used to make a big deal of that in my days at Virgin, but the web of course blew all that out of the water. Mind you I wonder how many record label press offices now have a private RSS feed set up for all their media outlets – fewer than you'd think – there's an opportunity there.

Anyway, Billboard Bulletin is reporting that Musicrypt are suing several of its competitors for breach of patent over their patented encrypted promo music distribution system. I guess this gets them into Billboard Bulletin like nothing else will. They're claiming that their patent extends beyond the biometric solution that they have uniquely to anyone who is distributing promo CDs to radio stations for labels using whatever other encryption method they choose. It looks a little thin to me – but a great PR coup. But far be it for me to be cynical about this, two of my good friends are on the Advisory Board of this company, the ubiquitous Gerd Leonhard – now CEO of Sonific and Rupert Perry – all round good guy and ex-very senior EMI bod. I must admit too that I'm sure these guys bought me lunch once so the least I can do is to fan the flames of their law suit. I do recall trying to persuade them to change their name as well – but they weren't having any of it. Tales from the Crypt or what!


Frightening! Downright Spooky! The most telling point though may be the note at the bottom of the article in Billboard Bulletin that states:

"Musicrypt has an exclusive partnership with Billboard Radio Monitor to market and promote its DMDS in America."
So there you have it – the impartial nature of the medja!

BTW if you were wondering what this biometrics thing is:It is an interesting technology that involves the computer capturing the speed of the interval between your keystrokes when you type in your password as well as also the pressure that you apply to the key when you enter it. The process requires the user to enter their password several times over in order that the computer can learn your particular biometric keystroke entry signature. So the password is no longer the issue it's how you type which is and this is clearly pretty hard to fake. The problem was how long it takes for the computer to gather an average picture which is representative enough of you to be individual and precise enough to be pinned down to you but loose enough to take into account your natural variations in typing. Interesting stuff – not sure if they've taken it any further since then but they've been very single minded in their pursuit of record labels to get this implemented.

The other really great thing about Musicrypt is that their CEO is called John Heaven – he may not be from there but he is convinced that's where he's going! Why else would a start up doing so well suddenly turn patent troll and start aggressing its competitors. After all, presumably there have been other people in the field of protecting promo music for some time, what's all the aggro about? Well it is really hard to read this one. Certainly Musicrypt have been very aggressively promoting themselves – as any good start up should – but somehow the tone of this seems more than usually aggressive. No doubt their reward will be in Heaven – it just remains to be seen where exactly Heaven will be at the end of all this.


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