Technology that helps musicians protect copyrighted material has found new life in a mobile app that sheds light on political advertising. The SuperPAC app records political ads from TV or YouTube and displays the name of the group that paid for the ad. SuperPACs are political action committees that do not contribute to individual candidates, and therefore can raise unlimited amounts of money without running afoul of campaign finance laws.
The SuperPAC app uses TuneSat, a software program that records audio and runs it against a database. TuneSat makes money by charging musicians a fee to monitor the Internet and tell them if their copyright is potentially being violated. It’s also used by the popular Shazam app that can tell users the name of a song when it comes on the radio.
Jennifer Hollett and Dan Siegel are the developers of the SuperPAC app; they met in a social television class at MIT and started the app as a class project. After graduation, they continued the project, working through the MIT Media Lab’s Glassy Media production company. Right now the app is free and is only available for the iPhone.
Hollett and Siegel say the app can identify any political ad in their database, whether it is paid for by a PAC or by one of the campaigns. They say their goal is to bring more transparency to the political elections this fall. Since Super PACs have the potential to vastly outspend the campaigns, voters can make better decisions when they understand which messages came from the candidates themselves.
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