July 26, 2004

Mousetrapped? [7:10 am]

Today’s Boston Globe is full of the news that RealNetworks has announced that their digital music files from their online retailing can be used on iPods: RealNetworks says music now transferable to iPod and RealNetworks Upgrades Software for IPod. So the question is going to be just how Jobs wants to position Apple in the face of what certainly could be litigated as a DMCA anticircumvention violation.

RealNetworks Inc. says it has created technology that allows songs purchased through its online music services to be played on Apple Computer Inc.’s popular iPod player, just a few months after complaining that Apple was rebuffing attempts to form an alliance.

[..] On Friday, Glaser said the new system, called Harmony Technology, will let people securely transfer music bought using RealNetworks’ music download services to an iPod or virtually any other portable music player.

[...] Glaser said the new system works by essentially translating the various antipiracy technologies, to make the players’ systems compatible with RealNetworks’ system. RealNetworks said it was not concerned that the system would be illegal.

See also CNet News’ RealNetworks breaks Apple’s hold on iPod;

Note that The Register’s Real to ‘free’ iPod from iTunes Music Store asserts that this is not likely to be considered anti-circumvention, but rather software license violation and/or straight copyright infringement

Since the system does not bypass target DRM technologies, it’s unlikely to fall foul of the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbid such intervention.

However, it could present Real with legal challenges if Apple believes its intellectual property was suborned during the development of Harmony. As yet, Apple has not commented on Harmony, and is probably waiting to see exactly what the software can do before responding.

RealNetwork’s press release: RealNetworks Introduces Harmony, Enabling Consumers To Buy Digital Music That Plays On All Popular Devices; Wired News’ copy of the AP newswire: RealNetworks: Files Play on iPod; Slashdot: Real Networks Hacks iPod; .rm & Real Store for iPod

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