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Fed up with Napster and MP3, the Recording Industry Association of America issued a challenge to the Internet community in April 2001. It offered a contest, inviting contenders to download half a dozen digital music samples from the Web, and offering $10,000 to anyone who could defeat its new encryption devices, called “digital watermarks,” which protected the music samples online.

A team of academic researchers, led by Professor Edward Felten at Princeton University, took up the challenge and, in three weeks, successfully downloaded the music samples and analyzed and removed the watermarking devices � success, according to the “oracle” that judged the competition. The researchers decided to publish their results, turning down the $10,000 prize, as permitted by the “click-through” agreement they entered in the contest.

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