In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a New York not-for-profit corporation with a place of business in Washington D.C. 20036, corralled technology companies to form the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). The group set out to establish a system through which the public's use of digital audio files could be strictly governed. RIAA is . It represents entities which manufacture and distribute sound recordings, including the five major labels and many of their subsidiary labels.
SDMI quickly gained its reputation as a place where RIAA members could manipulate technology manufacturers.
Digital audio watermarks are frequency patterns imbedded within a recording that carry instructions. SDMI compliant files utilize techniques such as digital watermarking to dictate "usage rules" to SDMI compliant devices. For instance, dictating SDMI devices enforce the rules placed on a song by the record company about the number of copies that may be made of a file.
Security professionals have found the audio watermarks utilized by SDMI to be relatively easy to defeat.
The DMCA outlaws bypassing "digital straight jackets" put in place by the Copyright holder. It also outlaws telling others how to bypass those straight jackets. The computer code that describes how to circumvent the technology also teaches how the technology works. The RIAA, SDMI and Verance do not want security professionals published the code because it describes how the technology works and they have all made threats against security professional like Professor Felten of Princeton University, his research team and the conferences that publish his work that they are 'providing a circumvention device in violation of the DMCA'.
Professor Felten is one of the plaintiffs in EFF's challenge of the DMCA. The noted scientist is the leader of a research team that participated in the Secure Digital Music Initiative's (SDMI) "Public Challenge" (also know as "Hack SDMI") and successfully defeated the technology. His team authored, "Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge," explaining their research findings that was accepted for publication at the 4th International Information Hiding Workshop Conference in April 2001. Just prior to the conference, the Princeton Professor received a letter from Matt Oppenheim from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) that threatened a lawsuit against Professor Felten's team and their universities and the workshop organizers if the paper was published.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation asked the court to declare that Felten and the rest of his research team have the right to publish their paper and discuss their findings with others. The argument is based on the right of free of expression under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and fair use under the copyright laws.