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Real Networks Hacks iPod; .rm & Real Store for iPod 456

Posted by Hemos
from the real-competition dept.
alphakappa writes "According to Cnet, Real Networks is expected to announce on Monday that it has found a way to make its songs play on the iPod. Now songs bought from the RealPlayer Music Store can be played on the iPod. Earlier Real had made it possible for songs bought from iTunes to be played on RealPlayer by transparently starting the iTunes authentication in the background. However since Apple has not licensed the technology to make file formats playable on the iPod, the latest Real initiative could be construed as reverse engineering. How would this fare under the DMCA? Or is it just for the tiny ones?"
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Real Networks Hacks iPod; .rm & Real Store for iPod

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's highly unlikely that this is 'true' reverse engineering. If I recall correctly isn't that when there are two groups, one group documents and the other codes? In this case I'd very much expect the same people who programmed also did the infomration gathering and legally that's always been a bit grey.
    • by GigsVT (208848) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:18AM (#9800126) Journal
      That's a cleanroom implementation, and is usually used when you want to copy the functionality of someone's work and not run afoul of copyright laws.

      The key in the cleanroom approach is that you already know how the copyrighted work... works. That would be after any reverse engineering, or if you happened to somehow have copyrighted sourcecode or schematics, etc.
    • Bear with me, as this is probably all IANAL cack, but, if Apple don't eventually sue Real, or do and lose, this means that it will be a legal confirmation that "converting" DRM information from one format to another is not circumvention, and thus legal.

      In which case, if the community were to create an open, free software DRM spec, it would then be possible to create free software that could legally, and without violating DMCA/EUCD smunge .m4ps between FairPlay and, I dunno, let's call it OpenPlay.

      So, prov
      • by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:20AM (#9800571) Journal
        Bear with me, as this is probably all IANAL cack, but, if Apple don't eventually sue Real, or do and lose, this means that it will be a legal confirmation that "converting" DRM information from one format to another is not circumvention, and thus legal.

        Well, IANAL either, but my understanding is that if Apple doesn't sue Real, there isn't legal confirmation of anything. Of course, if Apple sued and lost, that would be a precedent case for a certain type of DRM circumvention to be allowed. However, I'd expect Apple to win if they sue.
        • by koranth (587305) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:55PM (#9805667)
          if Apple doesn't sue Real, there isn't legal confirmation of anything.

          IANAL but I work in the distribution end of the entertainment industry so I've had to pick up a more or less working understadning of copyright law.

          if that understanding is correct, if Apple chooses not to sue, it does set a precedent. Not suing can be used by lawyers as a de facto acceptance of the practice, which in turn can be construted to be evidence that it isn't illegal. This is why Disney sues elementary schools that paint murals with Mickey Mouse; if they didn't, and someone made a hentai Minnie Does the Matterhorn film, Disney would have established a precedent that using their characters without permission is fine with them, and would have a much harder time in their lawsuit.

          When the DMCA was written and adopted, it was acknowledged by the government as likely overbroad and that it would be up to the courts to work out the exact issues. So if Apple chooses not to sue, the courts then likely find that what Real did was not reverse engineering - they just don't work that out until the next time someone gets sued for a similar feat of reverse engineering.

          So this is the Hobson's choice the DCMA visits upon Apple - either file an expensive lawsuit that will likely have backlash from industry intelligencia, or let it go and possibly open the door for all sorts of reverse engineering down the road - which is certainly good for consumers and engineers, but gives Apple less protection over its profit margins down the road, and could even lead to a class action lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders for not taking "vigorous" enough steps to protect intellectual property.

          (Whether those protections are valid or not is left as an excercise to the reader, because it's sort of beside the point in terms of this discussion.)
      • Since the explicit stated goal of the reverse engineering project is interoperability, no offence has been committed.

        But Open Source and DRM -- at least, not the corporations' idea of DRM -- don't sit well together. The power to control what works and what does not work lies with the eventual user (who has the source code and the decryption key), not the supplier. A user could lock out certain suppliers, but not the other way round. So, say, picking some names at random ;-) Pat can make sure that the file "super_new_kernel_2.7.tar.bz2" came from Linus, and not from Bill or Ken. Pat can send a reply that only Linus can read, but once Linus has received it, then Linus is automatically granted the ability to control who may or may not read it.

        The only reason why Apple's, and Microsoft's, proprietary DRM systems "seem" to work {there are holes you could get a bus through, sideways. Mic trained on speaker? Analogue line-in? Logic analyser on PCI bus listening out for digital data meant to go to sound card? USB protocol analyser prtending to be USB sound card?} is because the source code is hidden from the users. The security is entirely dependent on the idea of making it difficult -- not impossible -- for the user to decrypt the file other than by running a particular program, supplied by the content vendor, which has a limited user interface that restricts its functionality. Hell, you don't even need the full source code; just the right portion will do.

        My point is, once you give a user the source code to the player and the encryption key, then the user is in charge. {Of course, even a closed-source player running under Linux -- assuming anybody would tolerate such a thing -- would be vulnerable to a hijack of /dev/dsp, which is not beyond the wit of a competent C programmer -- just write a dummy "sound card driver" that snarfs data into a file, and process it later.}
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There's nothing worse than Slashdot for information about legal issues. People spout off without actually knowing what they are talking about but don't bother to tell everyone they are talking out of their ass.

      Reverse engineering is not an illegal activity. And something created through the process of reverse engineering is not illegal, even under the DMCA. So what makes some reverse engineered products illegal?

      a) They use too much of the original products copyrighted design, software, documentation,
    • I must be missing something.

      You can play lots of formats on an iPod. All Real (or anyone else) has to do is remove any DMA restrictions on their AAC files and the job is done. Now, if they are saying that they process their files so that they are protected AAC (FairPlay) and will play on the iPod then there might be an issue.

      If Real was saying that you could take FairPlay protected tracks purchased from iTMS and play them on some other device then they would likely have a very serious problem. Simply say

  • Makes you think... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by another_henry (570767) <slashdotNO@SPAMhenryhallam.cjb.net> on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:03AM (#9800018) Homepage
    This really shows up how stupid the DMCA and similar laws are. What possible reason could there be why Real shouldn't be allowed to do this?

    If they can figure out how to play their format on the iPod, I say more power to them.

    • by bani (467531) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:05AM (#9800031)
      ...because apple doesn't want them to?

      After all, the DMCA wasn't designed to protect copyrights -- it was designed to prevent competition.
      • In this case, Real would be in violation of the software license on the iPod, and would not be infringing on the DMCA. I personally hate the sheer disgust associated with the DMCA, because it has its merits, even if it has a few shortcomings. The fact that ISP's can avoid complicity with just a few steps in crimes that are associated with the internet is awesome. The fact that it extends copyright law into areas previously viewed as fair use is a bit of a bummer, but that's what elections are for.

        NOTE: Bot
        • by Pofy (471469)
          >In this case, Real would be in violation of the
          >software license on the iPod,

          WHat makes you think that Real have aquired a license (I think the article said they had not) and then broken/violated it? If they do NOT have it or have agreed to it, they can't possible violate it.
          • I can guarantee you, without question, that they purchased at least one iPod over at Real, since they had to test write their software for it (requiring testing, etc.). Everyone using an iPod agreed to the software agreement involved in its use. Real is fucking screwed here, and I cannot believe they did something this dumb.

            There are some companies you can piss off, and Apple isn't really one of them here.
            • Everyone using an iPod agreed to the software agreement involved in its use.

              Just how? Certainly they never sign such. It'd be good if this lead to a test in court of the validity of shrinkwrap licences so beloved of software companies.

              • Update (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Johnny Mnemonic (176043) <mdinsmore@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:23AM (#9800605) Homepage Journal

                It'd be good if this lead to a test in court of the validity of shrinkwrap licences

                More likely, Apple will release a iPod update with COOL NEW FEATURES L@@K which oh yeah, btw, breaks compatibility with real-purchased songs.

                So then your iPod will not play your Real purchased library, until Real reverse-engineers it again, and who knows how long that'd take. So you'd have perhaps hundreds of dollars of songs on your iPod that you couldn't get to for an indefinite period of time; and Apple would just shrug their shoulders when you complain.
        • by jeffasselin (566598) <cormacolinde@gma ... com minus author> on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:24AM (#9800614) Journal
          he fact that ISP's can avoid complicity with just a few steps in crimes that are associated with the internet is awesome.


          Yeah, it's quite awesome how easily they can now hide and cower everytime someone says "copyright violation". Just the hint of something "bad" and they remove it from view. We wouldn't want to have anyone say bad things about corporations, now would we? We wouldn't want freedom of expression to be free from the interference of anyone with enough cash to pay a lawyer to send a onepage letter to an ISP and easily remove anything they don't like from the internet, now would we?

          That "protection" is bullshit, because it gives the power of censure to the ISPs, which means to anyone who complains and has some cash.
        • by hoggoth (414195) on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:31AM (#9800687) Journal
          > Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have signed copyright laws into effect. Even the DMCA was signed under Clinton's presidency. So you'll have to vote Green or some other left-left-wing party if you want to revoke some of these laws

          Yes, that is because the current trend towards "1984" is not coming from the Democrats or the Republicans. It is coming from the powerful corporations that have no term limits, no democratic votes, no national boundaries, and little oversight from the public.

          We started down this slippery slope long ago when lawyers decided a corporation was an "entity" much like a human being, only without a natural lifespan, a brain, or a moral sense.
          • We started down this slippery slope long ago when lawyers decided a corporation was an "entity" much like a human being, only without a natural lifespan, a brain, or a moral sense.

            Not a lawyer but I believe the whole corporation as an entity thing is there to protect consumers. If it wasn't an entity I don't think it could be sued.
          • 1984 (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mosb1000 (710161)
            I don't know if you've actually read 1984, but it makes an interesting point. In the book, it was not The Government of The Corporations censuring information, it was the people censuring themselves. This is much like what is happening today.

            As far corporations having little public oversight, you should know that in free market economics, the public has ultimate oversight over everything. For example, if the public at large decided they didn't agree with Wal-Marts practices, they would stop buying produ
        • So you'll have to vote Green or some other left-left-wing party

          I reckon the libertarian party is a lot more likely to eliminate unnecessary expansions of government than the greens or any "left wing" group.

        • by Pendersempai (625351) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:01AM (#9800977)
          In this case, Real would be in violation of the software license on the iPod, and would not be infringing on the DMCA.

          How the fuck are these mutually exclusive? Are you a real lawyer, or do you just play one on T.V.?

          The fact that the DMCA burdens fair use is not just "a bit of a bummer," it's the total failure of our legislature. As a previous poster stated, the DMCA does not protect copyright: all it takes is a SINGLE CIRCUMVENTION ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, and then the song is an unencumbered mp3 ready to be shared with everyone. There IS NO IMPETUS to traffic in a true circumvention device when you can traffic in the copyrighted material instead. Therefore the only circumvention devices taht are truly restricted are ones that have lawful (non-infringing) purposes! All the DMCA does is protect frightened corporations from free market competition.

          In other words, it screws the electorate to prop up the corporations. Isn't this a bit backwards? Shouldn't the corporations exist to serve the people, a la Adam Smith? Else why have them?

          Finally, how do you expect elections to fix the sorry, broken excuse for a law if you "hate the sheer disgust associated with [it]"? That sheer disgust is what gets the politicians to listen, or what votes them out if they don't.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday July 26, 2004 @11:30AM (#9801886)
      What possible reason could there be why Real shouldn't be allowed to do this?

      It really only depends how Real was able to do it. There are three avenues Apple can sue them if they choose. 1) Breach of License, 2) IP violations, 3) DMCA.

      1) In order for Real to get rm files to work on an iPod, there had to have been some serious internal hacking of an iPod. Mostly like the Real teams bought a few iPods for this purpose. Apple like many other manufacturers may have no reverse-enginnering clauses built into their license agreements. In doing so, however, Real may have broken any license agreement they had when they bought the iPod.

      2) If I remember correctly, in order to reverse engineering to be legal, there has to be separation between the two teams that work on the engineering. The two teams cannot have direct communication with each other except for specifications:

      The first team may break down the device but can only describe the functionality of the device like an API to the second team. (When the left button is pressed, the device should . . .) The second team designs the device based on specifications from the first team.

      If Apple can show that there was no Chinese wall between the two teams or that the reverse-engineering could not have happened without breaching the separation, they may have a case. 3) And of course, if there is any encryption was cracked, then the DMCA is relevant. I'm not condoning this use, only stating the obvious.

  • nothing to see here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geighaus (670864) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:03AM (#9800022)
    This probably involves re-encoding songs to AAC, as well as some jumbo-mumbo with DRM. I really doubt they managed to hack iPod per se, just marketing smoke and mirrors for obvious practices.
    • Yes, they are using AAC, but they are somehow binding their copy-protection to the songs. Does anyone have any clue as to their method? The way that they are going about this will likely make or break the legality of the entire issue. The license on the iPod is rather tough.
    • by mcspock (252093) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:58AM (#9801554)
      3000:1, they are transformatting the content to apple's .m4a and setting the extention to .rm, so people *think* they have realaudio content on their ipod. This would mean they have figured out the DRM scheme apple uses.
  • by pvt_medic (715692) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:04AM (#9800028)
    I hope that apple will stop this one in its tracks. The big dogs need to play by the rules just like how the RIAA forces all the little people to. I personally think that Real just madea big mistake and that this will have big fallout for them.
    • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:22AM (#9800151)
      ...the rules get changed.

      I don't want Real to get hurt -- that serves no purpose. I just want the DMCA weakened or repealed. If damage done to Real helps to bring that about, well and good! -- but otherwise, it's quite unkind to wish for another to be harmed.

      As far as I'm concerned, far from a big mistake, Real did the right thing; think of it as civil disobediance on a corporate scale. Let's just hope some good comes of it.
      • "I don't want Real to get hurt -- that serves no purpose."
        • Apparently you've never had their software installed on your desktop. It serves plenty of purpose in my opinion.

  • by chillmost (648301) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:04AM (#9800029) Homepage
    I'd like to introduce you to Apple's legal team. Please assume the position.
    • by artemis67 (93453)
      is that Apple controls the hardware (iPod) AND the software (iPod firmware and iTunes). Real is always just one update away from getting their compatibility knocked out. So Real may start playing a cat and mouse game where Apple keeps locking them out and Real keeps trying to break back in.

      This could do more damage to the Real brand, by promoting a particular aspect of their software that is behaves inconsistently.
  • See BBC (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    See the BBC article on this [bbc.co.uk]

    The program mimics Apple's copy protection software, so Real says it has not infringed Apple's intellectual property rights by developing it.

    Sounds like copyright circumvention to me. Maybe Real will get their comeuppance for their old spyware years after all.
  • What if Real didn't reverse engineer the iPod but, rather, simply came up with a file format that is identical to Apple's own? This would be perfectly legal as long as Real licensed things properly (unlikely that Apple would allow this, however).

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:06AM (#9800046) Journal
    I have no idea why people who haven't even read the legislation keep making comments that are plain incorrect.

    The only time reverse engineering is illegal under the DMCA is when it is used for making infringing copies.
    • by RMH101 (636144) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:09AM (#9800069)
      or infringing copyright. presumably apple's argument is that they've put a lot of money and effort into their delivery system, and they protect that investment through the DRM. once someone comes along, and reverse engineers it, they can take advantage of apple's hard work and make a profit, thereby reducing apple's earnings.
      i don't particularly agree with this, but i reckon this is what apple's take on it would be.
    • by rice_web (604109) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:12AM (#9800086)
      But then only if the user is reverse-engineering a copy-protection method. You are still allowed to make copies of a copyrighted work as long as the material is new to you (I know, I know, with exceptions, but as long as you can prove that you have done a reasonable level of work to bind yourself to the material, a near replica can still bear its own copyrights). Take the case of a photo. It's fairly easy to recreate a photo that bears a striking resemblance to an older photo. If I go to Mount Rushmore and take a few snaps with my camera, and it turns out that a photographer in Rapid City has the same shots, he can not sue me, as long as I have taken my steps to create an original work.
    • by GigsVT (208848) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:13AM (#9800090) Journal
      That's not quite correct. It only needs to bypass a copy control measure, and not fall under the interoperability clause.

      Also from chilling effects:

      The resulting program must only interoperate with the reverse engineered software, however, and cannot interoperate with the technologically protected content (movie, book, video game, etc.) itself.

      Seems that Real must have run afoul of this at some point in their quest to work with Apple's DRM.
      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:40AM (#9800275) Homepage Journal
        It only needs to bypass a copy control measure,
        An access control measure. Not a copy control measure. The DMCA is quite explicit about that.

        The most famous example is CSS, the system used on DVDs. This doesn't prevent copying (someone with equipment dumb enough can make a straight copy of a DVD without breaking CSS, indeed when the patents on DVD expire it's quite possible electronics manufacturers will start producing equipment to do exactly that. What CSS prevents is unauthorized access to the content, so that only licensed players can (legally) play DVDs, which in turn means that the studios can ensure that all legally available players implement certain restrictions, such as region encoding.)

    • by Alsee (515537) on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:26AM (#9800639) Homepage
      The only time reverse engineering is illegal under the DMCA is when it is used for making infringing copies.

      Who modded this guy +5 informative??? He's wrong.

      TITLE 17 CHAPTER 12 Sec. 1201. (f) [cornell.edu] says:
      Reverse Engineering. -
      (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a)(1)(A), a person who has lawfully obtained the right to use a copy of a computer program may circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a particular portion of that program for the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program that are necessary to achieve interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and that have not previously been readily available to the person engaging in the circumvention, to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title.


      To break that apart:
      circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a particular portion of that program

      It ONLY applies to decrypting a program! And only to specific protions of the program at that. Any circumvention relating to music or any other sort of file is still criminal!

      sole purpose of [] interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs

      For the sole puprose of getting programs to talk to each other.

      to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title

      That is NOT a positive statement saying non-infringment is legal. It is a negative statement narrowing what is legal - to additionally exclude anything involving infringment.

      So what it really says is that if Microsoft were to encrypt they webserver software, you could decrypt the rerquired portions of that software for the purpose of getting Netscape and Opera browsers to work to be able to communicate with it (so long as you don't infringe their software copyright while you're at it).

      -
  • by JasonUCF (601670) <jason-slashdawt.jnlpro@com> on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:07AM (#9800050) Homepage
    I'm all well and good with them hacking a way into the OS to play stuff thru the iPod audio chip [wolfsonmicro.com]. But what I want to know is have they hacked the display! Will I get to see my all time favorite hits like

    Rebuffering...
    and
    Cannot find stream
    and
    Would you like to upgrade to Real 9?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:08AM (#9800060)
    is that when you buy something on the iTunes music store, IIRC, you agree to their licensing scheme, ie not breaking the DRM. However, you can get an iPod without ever agreeing to a licensing scheme at all. You don't have to install Apple's software if you choose not to, you can still(with a little bit of poking around) get music onto the device.
    The DMCA allows reverse engineering for compatibility, so maybe Real does have a case here.
  • by rice_web (604109) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:08AM (#9800062)
    I'm glad I'm reading this stuff finally, and I recommend that you all buy a quick primer (if they exist) on intellectual property. If you had, you'd know that the DMCA only prevents reverse-engineering of copy-protection methods. It does not prevent reverse-engineering of patents, and it does not remove the originality clauses of older IP laws. Therein, the DMCA will still allow Real to do whatever they want with the iPod.

    The only problem that I might see is a license violation for every user that installs these songs onto their iPod. After all, the iPod has a software license, I'm sure, that limits use, and it will be interesting to see if Real is breaking that contract. I don't know how they are binding the Helix copy protection to the iPod without installing software on top of the iPod, but if they have found a legitimate work-around, I congratulate them.
    • by dfghjk (711126) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:16AM (#9800112)
      No such thing as reverse engineering of patents. They are public disclosures to begin with.
      • You'll have to excuse that typo. I'm but a wee lad in the wide intellectual property world, and I must admit that aside from typos, there are probably a few factual errors in my post as well.
    • Therein, the DMCA will still allow Real to do whatever they want with the iPod

      But say if the barrier was in the DRM, wouldn't that make reverse engineering to make the music play on iPod illegal because they reverse engineered the copy protection? And they would also now know how to break the DRM, and if they make public how they do it (they wouldn't anyway), then DMCA would come into effect, because they are giving information which can be used to "Deprive Artists of their IP Rights". Yet another rea
    • It does not prevent reverse-engineering of patents,

      As far as I know, patents don't need to be reverse engineered, since their implementation is public (it's in the patent application). But knowing how it works doesn't give you the right to use it yourself (that's what patents do, after all), so there's no big profit in reverse engineering them anyway.

      Perhaps you are confused yourself, with trade secrets in this case?

    • by MarkedMan (523274) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:55AM (#9800393)
      Didn't I see something about the use of the DMCA to prevent mod chips in game systems? If so, how does your Real efforts square with that?
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:08AM (#9800063) Homepage
    Does the RealPlayer music store also have spyware, like when they bundled New.net [wikipedia.org] in with RealOne? Call me crazy, but I percieve that's not the sort of thing which *Apple* would ever do.
  • by Vandil X (636030) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:09AM (#9800065)
    Real Media on an iPod can mean only one thi--- BUFFERING... 0%... 13%... 27%... 34%... 58%... 72%... 88%... 97%... 100%... --ng to consumers: More choice!
  • by Wacky_Wookie (683151) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:09AM (#9800066) Homepage Journal
    Apple should not think of Real as any Real threat :)

    Let 'em use the 'pod and win a major PR victory for not invoking the DMCA.

    OT: If I could change the battery I would have bought an iPod, instead, as a backpacker I was forced to go to Sony's MiniDisk palyer/recorder, which I then fell in love with, despite the ATRAC3 Format, wich has evil DRM.
  • store content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Heywood Yabuzof (255017) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:11AM (#9800083)

    Does the Real store have any songs that the iTunes store doesn't? Have there been a lot of Real customers clamoring for this?

    This sounds like total PR BS from Real - they are just mad that Apple (rightly) gave them the brush-off earlier, and they are under the mistaken impression that Apple or iPod users give a hoot about RealMedia format. I mean, if you have an ipod and use iTunes already, what possible reason could you have for wanting to put .rm files on your ipod (or your computer, for that matter)? It's not like having your own mp3s or even ogg files (that would be interesting, but unlikely to happen anytime soon) that you created yourself that you want to use on your portable media player of choice. Who is out there creating RealMedia files for themself? Nobody. And if you are buying songs from the RealMedia store, then it's highly likely that you don't have an iPod anyway. I'm sure Real would like to see that change - fat chance.
    • Re:store content (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dfghjk (711126)
      Not everyone who might own an Pod already owns one. Future sales are what is being considered and Real would like its content to be playable on as many players as possible (unlike Apple). Clearly Real feels there is a market for their product and that some of their future customers might want to use it with an iPod. Perhaps current iTMS customers may also consider their service if proves superior. I suspect there is too much blind brand loyalty for that.
  • Competition (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrJAKing (94556) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:11AM (#9800084)
    Watch the misery on the faces of the RIAA as the true market value of A Song emerges through the mechanism of market forces! Sure, there will be a bit of legal manoevering but sooner or later there will be competition. I'm guessing it'll level off at about 10c/tune but that might be a bit high.
  • If i remember correctly, there was an article a while back about the ipod being able to play all audio codecs, however Apple purposely disabled all other formats due to licenseing costs. I would like to hear apples reaction to this.
  • It seems that they don't actually find a way to make the iPod play RealAudio, they just wrote a Real --> AAC converter, FairPlayed the AACs (it's not that hard, folks) and stored them in the appropriate place on the iPod disk, updating the database appropriately. So you're getting doubly-compressed audio. The only advantage here is user choice over music store, which frankly, as a huge Apple/iTunes/iPod fan, I'm all for. Buy your music from wherever you want.

    So all they reverse engineered is how Fai

  • by DrJAKing (94556) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:18AM (#9800131)
    Great. Now I need a firewall on my Ipod to stop fifteen RealNetworks processes calling home every time I use it.
  • by GarfBond (565331) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:28AM (#9800202)
    Real uses 192kbps AAC wrapped with their own Helix DRM (realplayer 10 says it's "RA10," but I don't think such a codec exists). Apple uses 128kbps AAC wrapped with their PlayFair DRM. Both places sell for 99c for each track.

    Considering both use AAC, maybe it was simply a matter of fooling the ipod into thinking Helix DRM was PlayFair DRM. And even though Real's choice of AAC seemed strange way back when RP10 was released, I think now it's starting to become clear why they chose that... :)

    Strategically, this doesn't seem out of place with what Real's been doing recently. They seem to want to become the endall beall solution for Internet media: releasing Helix Player under GPL, making RealPlayer able to play QT, ITMS, and WM in the same player, and now this.
    • by GarfBond (565331) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:47AM (#9800329)
      After reading the article (yeah yeah I know) it sounds like they did a bit of work on their DRM. The system's called Harmony now, they're claiming compatibility with over 70 devices (press release here [realnetworks.com]).

      According to the CNET article, the system will "change the song into Windows Media format if necessary," so in that case it sounds like it's doing a transparent reencode of the track, which isn't much different from burning it to CD and reripping it yourself, except they slap on some Microsoft DRM for you.

      If you've got a palm OS 5 machine, it sounds like it'll stay as a Helix DRMed file, since those PDAs already had a native realplayer.

      For the ipod: "Harmony also will automatically change songs into an iPod-compatible format. But because Apple has not licensed its FairPlay copy-protection software to anyone, RealNetworks executives said its engineers had to re-create their own version in their labs in order to make the device play them back."

      Considering that Real and Apple players already used AAC to begin with, as long as they don't do any reencoding those players will probably have the best quality. That all depends though; seeing as how Real already knows how to manipulate itunes into letting realplayer play ITMS files, this might succeed by manipulating QT/itunes into reripping the original AAC file, though I doubt it; that would take too much time and I don't even know if it's possible.

  • It would be nice if AAC* & FLAC were used by everyone. They are open and don't suffer the same quality loss as WMV or ATRAK. The only issue of course is DRM compatibility.

    The real question is what would it take to get companies to use compatible technologies, especially when the online stores have an invested interest in a particular player? No one will use someone else's DRM especially if it means paying money to someone else.

    *AAC - Advanced Audio Codec, it is to MPEG 4 what MP3 is to MPEG-1 and MPEG
  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:34AM (#9800234) Journal
    Here's RealNetworks press release [realnetworks.com] about this system (called Harmony). They also announced that a public beta version of RealPlayer 10.5, which contains this technology, will be available here [real.com] tomorrow (Tuesday).
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:36AM (#9800256)
    However since Apple has not licensed the technology to make file formats playable on the iPod

    Apple doesn't license their protected formats, true; but if Real wants to sell us a nice, standard MP3 or uncompressed WAV file, the iPod would happily play it.

    What.

  • by nusratt (751548) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:49AM (#9800340) Journal
    "The only problem that I might see is a license violation for every user that installs these songs onto their iPod. After all, the iPod has a software license, I'm sure, that limits use"

    so, does this mean that Real is guilty of INDUCEing [slashdot.org] users to commit a violation?
    Delicious!
  • by carlfish (7229) <cmiller@pastiche.org> on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:06AM (#9800462) Homepage Journal

    It was last November [theregister.co.uk] when Steve Jobs admitted that Apple made no money from the iTunes Music Store, and that pretty much all the money goes to the labels. Sure, in the six months since some more economies of scale may have kicked in, but we've heard nothing to contradict this yet:

    So now we have it on record: the music store is a loss leader. Jobs said Apple would pay its dues to the RIAA, then seek to make money where it could, from its line of hardware accessories. When the conversation turned to rivals such as eTunes and Napster, Jobs said: "They don't make iPods, so they don't have a related business where they do [make money]". (The Register)

    Apple will always have the advantage in the music store -> iPod battle because the iPod needs iTunes, and iTunes has the music store built in. So Apple remains the first stop for people looking for something to play on an iPod, by definition.

    Meanwhile, we're supposed to believe that Apple are somehow worried because Real have taken a bite into this profit-shy business in order to give people another way they can put music on an iPod, thus allowing Apple to maybe ship more units? I can't quite imagine Steve Jobs crying into his breakfast cereal over that one.

    Of course, Apple have an opportunity here: the opportunity being the chance to extract license fees for putting Real's software on the iPod. They can wave around the threat of the DMCA and an expensive lawsuit for a while. Then they can pull out the carrot of integration: giving Real the chance to put their player on the iPod without having it break every time the iPod software was updated. Meanwhile Apple get some nice pocket-change in licensing fees, and the chance to deflect some WMA heat by waving the banner of a more open music-playing platform.

    Charles Miller

    • Meanwhile, we're supposed to believe that Apple are somehow worried because Real have taken a bite into this profit-shy business in order to give people another way they can put music on an iPod, thus allowing Apple to maybe ship more units? I can't quite imagine Steve Jobs crying into his breakfast cereal over that one.

      I'm sure you're right. Apple has little motive to partner up with other music stores, but it also has little to worry about from other companies supporting the iPod. A greater worry for A

    • Selling music online will eventually become profitable, there is no "may be" about it. And while selling iPods may remain profitable in the future, a lot of bad things may happen to this particular Apple product. Among them are the fact that it's much easier to design a superior MP3 player than a superiour desktop computer, and the fact that MP3 players may end up made obsolete by mobile phones (when solid state storage is sufficiently cheap that you can put a few gigabytes in a phone, there will be no reas
  • Should be under YRO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cyranoVR (518628) * <cyranoVRNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:27AM (#9800651) Homepage Journal
    Funny to see this under Apple...it should be filed under YRO. (Those who aren't interested in reading a mini-rant should check out this +5 Informative article:
    Real Proof [jogin.com] - Apple users should be scared as f*** of letting real anywhere near their computers).

    The reason I say this is because I just had a "fun" experience ove the weekend where Real One player deleted songs off my computer. I have a large inventory of mp3's that I legally ripped from CDs that I own. I recently bought a Palm T3 handheld, which comes with Real Player pre-installed.

    I figured "why not" and installed Real One player. Made sure to un-check all the "Please contact me with special messages" and "please update me automatically" options...

    Everything went great...for about 10 minutes. I was playing an mp3 and the sound was kind of fuzzy. So I stopped the playback to check some settings. When I went back to continue playing the songs, I received the dialog box "the song file you're requesting cannot be found!"

    Ummm...wtf? I was just listening to it 30 seconds ago. I browsed to my network share where I keep my mp3's...it was gone. So, I jumped up to check actual server itself...it was for real...the file had disappeared from the harddrive! (incidentally, it's a RH 9 box running a samba share - maybe its some sort of bug in samba? Probably not (read on)).

    Now, keep in mind that I had been playing these mp3s WinAmp and even Windos Media for over a year with no problem.

    I lost 3 songs of which I had legally ripped from my own CDs, plus about 10 j-pop songs that I had downloaded only because they're not available in the US yet...something fishy is going on here.

    The sad thing is that I actually prefer using their plugin for watching video clips, but now I'm thinking of switching to Windows Media... :(
  • by javab0y (708376) on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:51AM (#9800879)

    This is NOT a violation of the DMCA. They are not offering a tool to decrypt AAC...they are encrypting the music, just like Apple does. There is nothing in the DMCA that says they cannot encrypt files.

    In addition, check out the verbage of the DMCA, which allows this:

    1201(f)(2) - Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a)(2) and (b), a person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure, in order to enable the identification and analysis under paragraph (1), or for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such interoperability, to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title.

    Looks to me there is not much Apple can do about this one

  • by fname (199759) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:10AM (#9801040) Journal
    Really, this is neat, interesting and fun. But being able to play Real's DRM'ed files on the iPod is a pretty minor problem for Apple. I 'm waiting for the other shoe to drop-- that is, how long before someone adds a capability to their MP3 player to play iTMS files on that device? That will hurt Apple (negating their lock-in advantage), and help consumers (no more lock-in). Which will help Apple, as more buy iTMS stuff and aren't worried about lock-in.

    'course, if everyone just sold plain MP3s, we wouldn't have to deal with any of this crap.
  • by Otto (17870) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:26AM (#9801183) Homepage Journal
    Real sells AAC files using a slightly different DRM scheme. But the important thing here is how the iPod works for encrypted files.

    Basically, it reads the AAC file to get a user identifier. This user ID is equated with a key stored in a file on the iPod itself. This user key allows it to decrypt the encrypted AAC file, which it then plays.

    So if you have an encrypted AAC file (these use AES encryption, I believe), then all you have to do to get the iPod to play it is to a) put the key in the right place and b) suitably munge the AAC file so as to enable the iPod to work out which key it needs to use. Part A is simply a matter of putting the key into the right file, part B is messing with several key headers in the "M4P" file itself.

    In other words, it's not particularly difficult to take an AES encrypted AAC file, to which you know the key, and munge the file to get it to play on the iPod without actually decrypting the thing and without transcoding.

    That's if they wanted to preserve the file's encryption. If they didn't much care, they could just as easily decrypt the thing and write out an M4A file, unencrypted. The iPod could play that just fine too, without messing with the iPod keyring file.
  • To all you morons... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ath (643782) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:37AM (#9801295)
    It has been held to be perfectly legal to reverse engineer software for the sake of compability in various jurisdictions in the USA. I suspect that Real knew it had to keep some pretty tight records about their clean room practices to ensure they had an air tight defense if Apple comes after them.

    Both Nintendo and Sony have sued companies that reverse engineered their cartridge technologies (Nintendo) and various software functions (Sony on the PS). In all situations where it went to court, they lost.

    Now these were pre-DMCA so who knows, but I do not see how Real is circumventing copy protection and that the DMCA applies at all in this situation. If you read the article, you will see that Real is actually adding the copy protection to achieve compatibility.

    This is a copyright issue, pure and simple. And it is between FairPlay (the DRM that Apple licenses) and Real, not Apple and Real. If Real did a clean room implementation, the conversation is over and Real can continue.

  • by superultra (670002) on Monday July 26, 2004 @10:50AM (#9801457) Homepage
    Install this "hack" and this is what you'll really get:

    The real networks logo will display instead of an apple during bootup. You'll also notice that somehow the engraved logo on the back of your iPod also changed from an apple to Real.com.

    You'll get "news" notifications during the songs (real format or otherwise) which actually consist only of upgrade information to the real software. Even if you just upgraded.

    You'll notice that, despite being an iPod, Real somehow became the default player for all media formats on your iPod. The interface will be clunky and will no longer use the clickwheel but only two buttons and the lock switch, and you won't be able to figure out how to restore the default settings on your iPod. And it won't play AAC files.

    Songs will stop midway through until you pay for a RealPass.

    You'll constantly get buffering messages, even though the iPod is reading from the hard drive.

    Menu options will crowd the top of the display that read, "FREE AOL SOFTWARE" and "FREE OFFERS FROM REAL"

    You'll discover that you didn't really download the free version, but that somehow you paid $29.95 even though you don't remember using a credit card.

  • Easy fix for Apple (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrbrown1602 (536940) <mrbrown@@@mrbrown...net> on Monday July 26, 2004 @11:32AM (#9801902) Homepage Journal
    All Apple has to do is release a firmware update for the iPod that will easily idenitfy songs purchased from Real's store, and disable or delete them from the device. There has to be SOME difference between a legitimate FairPlay DRM'd file and a Real mimicked DRM'd file that the 'pod can be programmed to identify.

  • Roof tiles (Score:3, Funny)

    by skinfitz (564041) on Monday July 26, 2004 @12:09PM (#9802236) Journal
    I think Apple may need the roof tiles changing in "steve-o's" office about now.
  • by bedouin (248624) on Monday July 26, 2004 @05:01PM (#9805735)
    If this turned into a legal battle one potential outcome would be Real discontinuing its player for OS X, which would leave Mac users unable to view a significant amount of web content. And unlike on Windows, the player for OS X isn't that bad, certainly much better than Windows Media Player for Mac, and completely free of spy and nagware.

    On the other hand, as long as there's money to be made by supporting Macs, they probably will -- especially with so many of Apple's users in the media industry. So maybe this is a non-issue.

    This is a complex moral battle for me :) I love Apple, like the iPod, and think iTunes is a product that deserves to succeed. Conversely, I hate Real -- but also hate the draconian laws that might lead to their defeat. In the end, I think I might have to side with Real on this one.
  • by popo (107611) on Monday July 26, 2004 @08:47PM (#9807413) Homepage

    I can't seem to find a single mention anywhere of one of the major limitations of iTunes for Windows: It requires Windows XP. Older versions of Windows are not supported.

    Given the enormous numbers of Windows '98 and Windows ME users still out there - this could be a huge score for Real.

    Does anyone know if Harmony requires XP? Or if it requires a previous working install of iTunes? (which would effectively mean the same thing)

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