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SAN DIEGO (CAP) - Following the announcement by Sony BMG that the record giant would be removing digital rights management from some of its online music downloads comes word of a deal between Sony and the Recording Industry Association of America to implement new technology aimed at controlling the consumption of music.
"It's called a Listener Management Device, or LMD for short," said Sony BMG sales president Thomas Hesse. "And what it does is remove the burden of digital rights from the media itself and put it onto the listener. Music piracy is now a thing of the past."
According to a patent application filed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the LMD is a small device surgically implanted in the ear that is specially coded with certain single-frequency wavelengths (SFW's) depending on the songs or albums purchased by the owner. Those wavelengths match SFW's missing from the original recording, creating a full linear modulation that allows the owner to hear the song. Without the SFW, the song is not decipherable.
"It is basically like an audio puzzle," said clinical audiologist Dr. Shankar Roe, who is credited with inventing the technology behind SFW's. "The song has all the pieces except one. The listener buys that one piece, and then they are able to see - or hear - the entire puzzle. But without that piece, the puzzle is incomplete - inaudible."
And because the LMD that contains the song's missing SFW is surgically implanted, consumers can't share songs among each other without each having purchased the song. Roe said two people could be standing next to each other and if only one has the implant, only that person will hear the song. He said the other person will hear what amounts to "digital dirt," a garbled mash of sounds not unlike a worn-down digital audio tape.
"Really this is in the best interests of the consumer," said RIAA president Hilary Rosen. "Under the old way, we'd nail you for even hearing a song someone else played, because that's sharing. But this way, once you've bought a song, you can listen to it anywhere. It really is win-win."
LMD's will cost around $12.99 and are expected to be available in department and retail stores as early as next month. The necessary surgical procedure can be performed as outpatient and is therefore covered by most insurance carriers with a copay. Labels on LMD packages will warn against attempting to perform the implant without the aid of a medical professional.
Roe said he hopes that someday his technology can be used to help deaf people to hear, although it may be years before that happens due to concerns over funding.
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