Cuckoo Egg

What Does Cuckoo Egg Mean?

A cuckoo egg is a modified MP3 file that looks like a copyrighted song and is spread through the Internet without the consent of the copyright owner. The initial part of the song, typically the first 30 seconds, includes the original song. The rest of the song is replaced with a repetitive cuckoo clock sound or a combination of random voices that are not copyrighted. A cuckoo egg file also has the exact same playing time and file size as that of the original copyrighted MP3 file.


Cuckoo egg files are piracy deterrents that spread like viruses but do not harm computers.

Techopedia Explains Cuckoo Egg

The objective of cuckoo egg files is to discourage MP3 sharing and downloading.

The Cuckoo Egg Project was initiated by Stefanie and Michael Fix. As a musician, Stephanie was concerned about the illicit distribution of copyrighted music via Napster. The cuckoo egg concept is based on the cuckoo bird, which lays eggs in the nests of other birds. Since Napster resembles a large MP3 file nest in some ways, Stefanie and Michael Fix identified this as the perfect place to lay cuckoo eggs.

The first cuckoo egg was released in June 2000. Since then, users have posted thousands of negative messages targeted toward the Cuckoo Egg Project website. Systems vulnerable to cuckoo eggs include Napster, Gnutella and other similar networks without file authentication provisions.

Ironically, although these files are created to deter piracy, many consider cuckoo eggs illegal because they use copyrighted content in the initial 30 seconds. However, because a cuckoo egg only contains a 30-second clip of an original sound recording, and has a fair intent to discourage MP3 piracy, this use of copyrighted materials would likely fall under fair use guidelines.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…