Apple’s Real Mess

July 29, 2004

Apparently Apple is a little nonplussed with Real’s announcement that they’ve found a way to put their own DRM’d AAC files on the iPod.

“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod and we are investigating the implications of its actions under the DMCA and other laws”

Gee, and I remember back when Hacker Ethics weren’t dirty words at Apple.

Oh well, lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas, lie down with the music industry and wake up with lawyers, I guess. Not that Apple has historically been shy about litigating their way around problems instead of innovating.

What would be interesting would be if this actually shaped up to being a court battle to try to overturn this kind of use of the DMCA…

The provisions of the DMCA to prevent people from reverse engineering rights management technologies were supposed to be to prevent people from engineering ways to infringe upon copyrighted materials (for example, removing the copy protection on a game so you could copy it for some non-fair-use purpose). Here it doesn’t appear that Real is offering ways to let you make copies of your iTMS-purchased music (what the DRM is protecting, and what Hymn does do), but rather a way that people can put other similarly protected music on an iPod. That should be under “interoperability”, which the DMCA supposedly allows.

In other words, the ox that’s getting gored here isn’t copying music, it’s possibly competing with iTMS to sell legal, protected music downloads for the world’s most popular MP3 (well, AAC in this case) player.

Is preventing competition what the DMCA is all about? There’s another good reason to get rid of the thing.

(Obviously that’s a rhetorical question — what the DMCA appears to have been about since the get-go is protecting the profits of those who invest heavily in politicians.)


Not surprisingly, Real has a response.

“Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod,”

Which almost made me shoot coffee out of my nose, considering how hard they worked to keep consumers from choosing what all adware features they would get when installing RealPlayer in previous versions. But still, maybe they are turning over a new leaf.

Regarding the DMCA, Real says:

“Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real’s music store in a way that is compatible with the iPod, Windows Media DRM devices, and Helix DRM devices. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any digital rights management system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software.”

Windows Media DRM? Uh-oh… Is that an 800lb Redmond gorilla we see lurking in that spec?

Be Sociable, Share!


Got something to say? [privacy policy]

You must be logged in to post a comment.