Music stars embrace iTunes rival and pirate killer F4M

23 Nov 2010

Music stars including Kanye West, Cheryl Cole, Nelly Furtado, Duran Duran and Bryan Adams have all shown their support for a new technology that its creators claim is 1,000 times more accurate than DNA evidence, and could signal an end to global music and video piracy.

The software has been created by UK firm Friend4Music (F4M) which predicts its “fan-friendly” anti-piracy software will have a major and significant impact on ending music and video piracy on a global scale in the next decade.

The company believes its software could become the industry standard for eradicating and controlling global piracy.

F4M believes it has found a balanced solution to illegal file sharing and downloading of music, which last year alone cost the music industry £180m in lost revenues with more than 95pc of all music downloads being illegal.

The IFPI has also predicted that this will rise to £1bn by 2012 if nothing is done to combat and reverse the trend.

Root cause of global piracy

F4M founder Jonathan Friend believes the root cause of major global piracy comes not from the individual fans, but predominantly from a handful of illegal file sharers and original copies that become the source of all illegal downloads.

“Punishing the true music fan is not the way in which to solve piracy, but more a process of education and interaction between the fan and the artist,” said Friend.

“In almost all cases of mass illegal file sharing, just a handful of original copies become the source of all the illegal downloads. We have to get the balance right, it is imperative that we protect the intellectual property and copyright of the artist who creates the music and the record industry must also protect its revenues to allow for future investment in talent.

“The F4M anti-piracy software allows the artists and the record labels to focus on the major culprits and persistent offenders with the appropriate action in a targeted manner. This may be soft rather than heavy-handed, aiming at future deterrence or education, but whatever the approach, absolute knowledge enables decisions to be made that have never before been possible,” said Friend.

Digital watermarks

Using the F4M pre-promotion watermark service, advance copies of artists’ albums are sent securely and encrypted to third parties and media organisations.

F4M has provided this unique pre-release service to the artists via music promotion company DIJI DJ. The service has become crucial in protecting the music from early stages of piracy prior to the official release dates.

The technology behind the anti-piracy software is based around a unique forensic watermark of sound being embedded in each and every copy at the time the music or video is actually being downloaded. The content is impregnated with a unique sound code in a way that is imperceptible to the listener or viewer, and cannot be destroyed or removed without also destroying the value of the content. 

This code, etched into the essence of the sound or video, enables F4M to track and trace any copy anywhere across the world directly back to the original publisher within hours and in some cases within minutes.

This unique and impenetrable traceability provides a strong deterrent to content piracy without punishing the true fans by restricting their freedoms with encryption, or other such DRM-based security devices.

Canadian rock star Bryan Adams was the latest artist to use the F4M digital store on his website, where fans were able to buy his latest live album ‘Bare Bones’ directly from the artist.

Taking on iTunes

F4M also believes that its unique digital music and video stores which bolt onto an artist’s existing web portal, will also become the future and the way forward for artists to embrace a more direct “transactional relationship” with their fans, removing the primary need for them to use other services like iTunes and as the primary distribution model of their music. 

“The record industry is now moving to a pivotal point where the artist will have a more direct and immersive relationship with the fan. They will be able to sell anything from a live concert/studio album or video directly to their fans, effectively by passing the traditional routes that control the relationship with the music fan.

“Almost all third-party digital stores have a policy in place to protect their customer data and will not release this either to the artist or record label, thus creating a barrier in the artist/fan relationship. The F4M system provides direct contact between the artist and their fans, with complete access to all customer information, enabling the development of the relationship and future marketing opportunities.”

Friend says the F4M digital stores are also on average 30pc cheaper to run than iTunes and other digital stores in the marketplace.

An artist or record label can decide what, when and how to sell their content (albums, singles and videos), retaining greater profit margins and complete control over pricing, over what can and can’t be sold separately, and can maintain ownership of the relationship with their fans.

F4M is also finalising plans to roll out a new service for the live concert and festival marketplace with the launch of its “F4M Paperless Concert Ticket” which it believes will also stamp out counterfeit ticketing and the black market economy of ticket touts.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years