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Shazam!

“You either embrace technology or it passes you by.”

This is the credo that I have lived by for nearly 30 years.  This ideology would never come into play more so than it did today while grading assignments for my class.

Their project was relatively simple.  The students had to take still photos around campus and put them into iMove to create a video slideshow.  They needed to add text to each photo, as well as background music.  I told the class the music must be royalty free, which I provided to them from my own music library.  If they did not like my musical selections, they were free to seek out tunes on their own.  I explained to the class that you must pay a hefty fee to use a song that has been published; although this was just a class project, I’ve always made a point of making sure my students fall into good habits right from the start.  I’m guessing not everyone was tuned into this conversation.

As I sat down to watch and grade their videos, one student used a music track that definitely was not mine.  This was not unusual, except there were vocals in this track; that was unusual.  Most royalty free music libraries do not contain tracks with vocals, since it could potentially clash with any other audio (such as a voice-over) that may be in the production.  The only way I could be sure the track was royalty free was to ask the student where she got the music…or was it?

Thinking fast (or as fast as I could think), I pulled out my iPhone and opened up an app called “Shazam.”  Shazam is a commercial mobile phone based music identification service using a mobile phone’s built-in microphone to gather a brief sample of music being played.  An acoustic fingerprint is created based on the sample, and is compared against a central database for a match. If a match is found, information such as the artist, song title, and album are relayed back to the user.  After a few seconds, we had a match (“Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap).  I emailed the student and told her that she would have to switch the audio track to receive credit on her project.  If this had happened a few years ago, I would have had to confront the student and probably take her answer at face value.

That is of course, unless I extracted the metadata from the song.  Got to love technology.

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