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Real Worried About Apple Lawsuits 264

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the and-i'm-worried-about-ninjas dept.
sebFlyte writes "silicon.com is reporting that Real is very worried that Apple will sue it over its Harmony technology that 'breaks' iTunes' FairPlay DRM to allow its music to play on the iPod. They acknowledged in an SEC filing that a lawsuit from Apple would potentially be very damaging to the company's bottom line, as it accepts that a court might not agree that the reverse-engineering is legal."
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Real Worried About Apple Lawsuits

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  • wow.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by enrico_suave (179651) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:46PM (#13306022) Homepage
    is this the first time I'll be rooting FOR Real?

    (not to spite apple, but to support reverse engineering of course!)

    • Re:wow.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75.yahoo@com> on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:05PM (#13306251)
      is this the first time I'll be rooting FOR Real?

      Neither side is acting in particularly good faith on this issue.

      BUT, before all of Slashdot flies off the handle on this "story", I think it's worth pointing out that this is an SEC filing, and it is every company's responsibility, in fact under the law, to state all possibilities that may negatively affect a business, however remote those possibilities may be. I don't think it's any secret to anybody that Apple could sue Real, and that there is at least a chance that Apple would win (because you just never know what can happen in the courts). Given that, Real must disclose this information to investors.

      The news here seems to be that Real is "admitting" to something that seems to be common sense. But Real has to admit that they're at risk of a lawsuit, and that there's a chance that they would lose - to do otherwise would be fraud. It would be withholding information in order that people would continue buying their stock.

      If you are not used to reading these SEC filings, even the healthiest of companies can seem to be in pretty dire straits once you get to the "risks" section. These are worst-case scenarios, presented basically to cover the company's ass from class action lawsuits and SEC investigations should the unthinkable happen. That doesn't mean anything listed as a risk will happen, or even has a good chance of happening. It's kind of the same as putting a warning label on a 9 volt battery that says "warning! eating this battery may cause injury!" I mean, duh. But they have to put that label on there or you just know that one idiot who eats that battery and gets sick is going to sue.
      • If you are not used to reading these SEC filings, even the healthiest of companies can seem to be in pretty dire straits once you get to the "risks" section.

        To be fair, if you are used to reading SEC filings you'd know that all risks are described using deliberately vague may or may not language referring to adverse effects, not unlike (to put thing in a /. context) the boilerplate Microsoft uses when politely describing gaping holes in their OS as vulnerabilities that could allow elevation of privilege.
      • Exactly. Seeing as CmdrTaco was around when Slashdot's parent company went public, I'd assumed that he's seen a number of SEC filings before. I'm actually surprised to learn that he's a big enough idiot to think that the Risks section of a company's SEC filing is big news.
      • by ziani (255157) on Friday August 12, 2005 @04:20PM (#13306960) Homepage
        " . . . it is every company's responsibility, in fact under the law, to state all possibilities that may negatively affect a business, however remote those possibilities may be."


        Not quite. It is every company's responsibility to state all facts that a reasonable investor might consider important in deciding whether to invest.


        The required level of disclosure is certainly something less than "all possibilities . . . however remote [they] may be." Under this type of standard, a company would have to disclose the possibility of an asteroid hitting the corporate headquarters, or the possibility of the CEO's having a heart attack and an infinite number of other "possibilities".


        To be fair (and at the risk of stating the obvious), Real's disclosure is right on the money. Given the current state of the law and the spectre of even a threatened DMCA action, any new technology that requires reverse engineering (especially one that goes straight for Apple's market) makes its author vulnerable, and disclosure in this case is warranted.

    • for real?
  • Reverse-engineering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Valiss (463641) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:46PM (#13306027) Homepage
    Is reverse-engineering software necessarily illegal? Has a precedent been set in the software world that would apply to this? Is there a lawyer in the house (or a law student with too much time)?

    • by pauljlucas (529435) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:59PM (#13306183) Homepage Journal
      Is reverse-engineering software necessarily illegal?
      No, it isn't. The story submitter is confused. The last line of the summary should have read something like:
      ... as it accepts that a court might find that Real violated the DMCA.
      I.e., Real cracked the DRM. How they did it is irrelevant be it reverse-engineering or reading tea leaves.
      • Yes. This is a DMCA issue, not a reverse-engineering issue.

        For Real's actions to be legal under the DMCA, don't they need Library of Congress permission or something like that?
      • Have real really broken DRM i.e. all files are clean, or have they just implemented the same DRM in a different way? If your still leaving exactly the same restrictions that were there in the firstplace then your not providing software to crack anything. I should imagine this would make a huge difference to a possible DMCA violation.
      • I.e., Real cracked the DRM. How they did it is irrelevant be it reverse-engineering or reading tea leaves.

        It's about the reverse engineering exception under the DMCA. This concerns why it was done (interoperability) not how it was done.

        DMCA 1201 (f) [harvard.edu] (1) provides:

        (f) 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 effecti

      • How they did it is irrelevant be it reverse-engineering or reading tea leaves.

        not true, read...

        `(f) 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 indep
        • I hope you're correct, but I'm reading more than you are, and I'm bothered by it:

          ...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.

          What other programs are we

        • As I already pointed out, the cited section in the DMCA allows a special exeption for individual fair-use, i.e., you bought it, you can do whatever the hell you want with it including reverse-engineer it to make it work with other stuff you also own.

          But Real has not lawfully obtained the program Apple used for their DRM in the first place and Real certainly can't turn around and profit from their labor.

    • Is reverse-engineering software necessarily illegal?

      I doubt it, since SAMBA, linux's NTFS support, countless device drivers and many other hacking efforts have involved reverse engineering software. Those projects still thrive, so either corporate lawyers are being nice (hah!), or it's completely legal.
    • by slashjames (789070) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:07PM (#13306267)
      The courts recently ruled that reverse-engineering hardware (Lexmark printer catridges, garage door openers) is legal and the DMCA doesn't apply for purposes of interopability. If you approach the potential case of Real getting sued by Apple about Rhapsody, it's the same concept: reverse engineering software (vs hardware) for purposes of interopability. Should be cut-and-dried, but who knows which way the courts will go.
      • If you approach the potential case of Real getting sued by Apple about Rhapsody, it's the same concept: reverse engineering software (vs hardware) for purposes of interopability.

        Not if Apple has an intelligent lawyer it's not. It's about Real selling music to people and including software attached to that music that (without informing them) violates a licensing agreement they have with Apple and makes use of Apple's servers (without authorization) to technologically enforce the terms of Real's license

    • There's a legal process called Abstraction, [google.co.uk]
      Filtration, Comparison that happens when someone claims that reverse engineering violates copyright.

      The process is basically as follows:

      For a copyright violation someone must have copied to code, so the source code is the only thing that relates to reverse-engineering and copyright.

      First of all all trivial bits of the code are ignored
      The two code bases are then checked for common areas of code.
      Then the code in the common areas that is their due to necessisity is re
      • WHen you link, you create a copy in RAM, and thus copyright applies. Thats why various EULAs etc can apply to the act of running a program- running creates a copy.

        Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Don't blame me, blame the courts.
    • by k98sven (324383) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:20PM (#13306378) Journal
      Is reverse-engineering software necessarily illegal?

      No. Reverse-engineering is legal. But not as legal as it once was, since the DMCA bans the circumvention of copyright protection devices, except for interoperability purposes.

      Has a precedent been set in the software world that would apply to this?

      Yes and no. There is a good amount of legal precedent from before, e.g. Vault Corp. v. Quaid Software Ltd, which held that reverse-engineering was legal, even though there was an EULA prohibiting it. This was even for a copyright-protection circumvention device. (a program which would copy copy-protected floppies)

      But that ruling is from before the DMCA, and probably isn't as relevant anymore.

      The thing is, the DMCA is rather new, so there isn't a lot of precedent defining exactly what qualifies as 'interoperability purposes'. Nor is the idea of a 'copyright protection device' very well defined yet. Which is why there are lots of eager lawsuits trying to strech this to cover everything.

      I think Real could probably make a good argument that it's for interoperability purposes. But since it's not well-defined, they're right to be cautious.

      In Europe, things are somewhat clearer. Council directive 91/250/EEC, article 6 also allows reverse-engineering for interoperability purposes, and defines those purposes somewhat better than US law.

      It's worth mentioning that stopping reverse-engineering through copyright law is only possible if the subject material is copyrightable to begin with. And people tend to overestimate how much of a program is copyrightable. For instance, an API is either not in itself copyrightable (Computer Associates v. Altai) or, duplicating it is allowed through fair-use (Sega v. Accolade).

      IANAL.
  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:47PM (#13306032) Homepage Journal
    Harmony brings discord, Fair Play accused of playing unfair. We're adrift in a sea of marketing.

    -Peter
  • by El Cubano (631386) <roberto@conneYEATSxer.com minus poet> on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:47PM (#13306040) Homepage

    as it accepts that a court might not agree that the reverse-engineering is legal.

    Real makes a competing product. They want to be able to interoperate with the songs sold on iTunes. This should be an open and shut case. I cringe to think what sort of legal wrangling will go on.

    I know that Real is no great champion, but we should support them if there is a possibility it will help to preserve what little bit of fair use we still have left.

    • Real *can* interoperate with iPods and iTunes.

      Apple isn't preventing interoperation - you're still welcome to publish music as MP3s, and iPods will work fine with them.

      Don't want to do that? Tough shit - it's your choice to publish using DRM, and Apple has no obligation to support you.

      Don't they see the hypocricy of complaining that somebody else's DRM is preventing you from applying your own DRM?

      • Exactly. IIRC what Harmony does is wrap songs downloaded from Real's online music service in Fairplay DRM. They do that so you can play songs purchased from Real on an iPod and they can still enforce their DRM scheme.

        As you said, its not like an iPod can't play non-DRM'd audio (other than wma and ogg vorbis).
    • Real makes a competing product. They want to be able to interoperate with the songs sold on iTunes. This should be an open and shut case.

      First, Real announced this to the press in order to get free press because they are in danger of disappearing from the public consciousness. It is marketing. Next there is basically no doubt that the reverse engineering itself is legal, their statements to the contrary are FUD. Where they are on very shaky legal ground is by including technology hidden in music files

    • Real makes a competing product.

      Ah, that's the crux of the matter. They don't make a competing product.

      Apple has an end-to-end DRM-encumbered digital music system. iTMS to iPod, via iTunes, a PC and an Internet. They spent $x to do this and it's going onto year 4 in a couple months.

      Real has half a digital music system. They wish they had a whole one because they think they can make some money if they did, so they're attempting to use half of Apple's system to make it seem like they have a whole system, w
  • ...about a lawsuit from Apple, and if such a lawsuit would so dramatically affect their bottom line, why did they go ahead and break the DRM in the first place?

    Can't they find another way to make money?

    • Because (believe it or not) Real wants to provide something for its customers. They want to sell songs, and they want to make them work with the iPod, since there are tons of iPods out there. By supporting a popular product, they expect to sell more songs. QED. (And they should be able to, IMO, and even according to the law. This type of reverse engineering is specifically protected by the DMCA.)

      "Can't they find another way to make money?"

      Same could be said for Apple. Can't they make money from the iPo

      • Premise:

        Because (believe it or not) Real wants to provide something for its customers.

        Argument to support premise:

        They want to sell songs, and they want to make them work with the iPod, since there are tons of iPods out there. By supporting a popular product, they expect to sell more songs.

        The argument you gave has to do with Real selling songs and making money. It says nothing about their customers. Unless Real (or you) can show that they've been petitioned by lots of people pleading with them to

        • It's implicit in the argument. If people purchase a Real product over an iPod, they've delivered something for a customer.

          Of course Real is being opportunistic and trying to tap in on the money from a large market. That's how one runs a buissness.

          • Of course Real is being opportunistic and trying to tap in on the money from a large market. That's how one runs a buissness.
            Or one could innovate and create or revolutionize a market which is pretty much what Apple did. There are innovators and there are wanna-bes. Real is a wanna-be.
            • *sigh*

              You're essentially saying that anyone who makes a consumable product for a non-consumable device that they themselves do not make is a wannabe. Real wants its products to be available on a certain device (iPod). The same way that a record store wants to sell CDs that work on a regular CD player. Is the record store being a wannabe by not selling their own CD players?

              Are you incapable of admitting that Apple is wrong and Real is right?

    • " ...about a lawsuit from Apple, and if such a lawsuit would so dramatically affect their bottom line, why did they go ahead and break the DRM in the first place?

      Can't they find another way to make money?"

      That's like telling someone wanting to make an Office suite compatible with MS Office to find another way to make money instead of reverse engineering the .doc, .xls, .ppt formats.
      • That's like telling someone wanting to make an Office suite compatible with MS Office to find another way to make money instead of reverse engineering the .doc, .xls, .ppt formats
        No it isn't because reverse-engineering MS Office formats doesn't break the law since MS Office formats aren't (yet) encrypted. No encryption to break, no DMCA violation.
    • Can't they find another way to make money?

      Well that was the point of DRM.
    • When you say "break the DRM" what you actually mean is reverse engineer the format so that RealPlayer users are be able to play songs that they bought legally on iTunes in the first place.


      See also Playfair, Hymn etc.

      • When you say "break the DRM" what you actually mean is reverse engineer the format...

        No, it's not what I actually mean. Again, the method used for breaking the DRM is irrelevant.

        ... so that RealPlayer users are be able to play songs that they bought legally on iTunes in the first place.

        You've got it bass ackwards: what Real did was make it so that songs purchased from Real can be played on the iPod. This has nothing to do with the RealPlayer.

        But even if you got it right, it's still illegal be

  • The SEC filings are very much a CYA activity. If anything bad happens to a company, and you didn't list it and you knew about it, that's considered a fraudulent cover-up. You can still get sued if you warned people about a problem, but you can get used worse if you didn't.

    So don't make much of this disclosure. Any non-zero risk will be listed.
    -russ
  • Real (Score:5, Funny)

    by oudzeeman (684485) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:48PM (#13306051)
    Well, I think that Appl...BUFFERING [12%]...
  • This is pretty standard language for a 10Q, basically you outline all your risks, and you try to be comprehensive, so that, if you do end up losing a court case around Harmony, shareholders don't coming running, screaming that they weren't informed about the risks.
    • Yeah, we get a story like this every few weeks -- an SEC filing contains some boilerplate about far-fetched risk, and it's spun into "news".

      It was explained in Cryptonomicon, so you'd think the nerds would get it, but apparently not.

  • "Oh yeah, we're real worried about an Apple lawsuit."
  • We're worried (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) *
    Dear SEC: "We're worried that the shot we fired across their bow will be interpreted the wrong way."

    What? This is a page out of the SCO play-book? Rambus play-book?

    "Hello, Bernie Ebbers? You busy? We'd like some ideas on how to run our business."

  • Couldn't someone make a utility that just converts DRMed files to mp3 on the fly as they're being transferred to an iPod (using a custom music store to iPod applet)? Sure users could use it to get around DRM, but that's not hard with ANY format for people who are willing to go around the steps in the manual.

    Frankly I'm surprised gtkpod can't do this with ogg yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:52PM (#13306107)

    Breaking 20 year old contracts [out-law.com] binding you not to get involved in music won't be good for the bottom line either

    but hey lawsuits is what America likes doing !, the legal industry is the biggest cash contributers in the world to American politics [opensecrets.org] so nothing is going to change until everyone is either dead or in court

    see you in court or hell !

  • I play non-DRM'ed mp3s on my iPod mini all the time. What am I missing?

  • It seems like a lot of people are "real worried about Apple lawsuits."
  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:55PM (#13306139) Journal
    On one hand, a lawsuit would be helpful in testing the DMCA's reverse engineering rules for their legality in a manner that would not involve a flame war of company against pirate, since the case would be between two well established businesses.

    On the other hand, Apple may be afraid to test these waters because if they lose, every hacker and cracker on the planet will get free reign to develop their own reverse engineering project...
  • in sec filings you have to list all the potential harms to your business, even if you believe that there is virtually zero chance of it actually happening.

    don't be too alarmed about this.

    sum.zero
  • Isn't the purpose of the DMCA to protected copyrighted materials? How does Real allowing the iPod to play MORE DRM material violate the DMCA?

    I realize that Apple's business model is to get people to buy iPods and use iTunes. But is the purpose of government really to protect business models?
    • That's what I was thinking too.

      If Real circumvented measures taken to protect copyrighted content, then they are probably violating the DMCA. If what they were circumventing wasn't really there for protecting copyright in the first place but to prevent interoperability, then Real might not be guilty.
    • Isn't the purpose of the DMCA to protected copyrighted materials? How does Real allowing the iPod to play MORE DRM material violate the DMCA?

      Because, in order to get the iPod to play Real's DRM'd stuff, they had to circumvent Apple's DRM, figure out how it works, and then make their stuff work on Apple.

      So you break a lock (metaphorically) so you can install your own lock I think is the gist of the possible argument.
      • But they are not circumventing Apple's DRM to get to copyrighted content. Thus, there is no DMCA violation.
        • But they are not circumventing Apple's DRM to get to copyrighted content. Thus, there is no DMCA violation.

          Truthfully, I don't think the DMCA cares why you circumvented it --- it merely outlaws the act of doing it.

          I suspect there will need to be more court precedents before we really know.

          Cheers.
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:59PM (#13306180)
    ...even though you should.

    • Every single computer user in the world hates our software. This could negatively impact our profits.
    • ...buffering...buffering...buffering...
    • At night our engineers have recurring nightmares of carniverous iPod's hunting them down and tearing out their livers. This has harmed employee morale.
    • ...buffering...buffering...buffering...
    • Every full moon, our Board of Director's is required to pledge fealty to Bill Gates and sacrafice a yak to him. Should we be unable to find a yak one month, Microsoft would be able to crush us beneath their little toes.
    • ...buffering...buffering...buffering...
    • This form 10Q contains spyware. For a 10Q that doesn't contain spyware, click HERE.
    • Did I say "click HERE"? Hahaha, actually I meant click HERE.
    • No, HERE
    • ...buffering...buffering...buffering...

    - Crow T. Trollbot

  • Plan: (Score:2, Funny)

    by iamjoltman (883526)
    1. Announce could get sued by Apple
    2. ???
    3. Profit!(?)
  • ...Real is very worried that ... a court might not agree that the reverse-engineering [Apple's DRM-encryption] is legal."

    Would this imply that, even if I lose my housekey, I'm not allowed to pick the lock? And, would it further suggest that, when I bought the lock, part of what I paid for was the vendor's assurance that they'd sue any crook who picked it? Seems like that'd be a lock in name only. Guess I could post a sign saying, "Warning: Premises protected by First Circuit Court of Appeals"...

  • Oh boohoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikeophile (647318) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:04PM (#13306239)
    Anyone remember Streambox? [uh.edu]

    I don't think Real was whining about the DMCA then.

  • The question for Real's investors is if doing this is worth the risk.

    It doesn't sound very bright. They're trying to sneak in their product as a competitor's clone, they feel there might be trouble and carry on anyways?

    What happened to relying on their own technology and competing at that level? Maybe LICENSING apple's technology? I really wonder if this unnecessary risk taking is part of Real's corporate culture.

    :-/
    • Maybe LICENSING apple's technology?

      This is *Apple* we're talking about. Do you really think that if they handed out licenses we wouldn't have seen official iPod-compatible shops (well apart from iTMS) by now?

  • ... So why are they doing it?

    They acknowledged in an SEC filing that a lawsuit from Apple would potentially be very damaging to the companies bottom line, as it accepts that a court might not agree that the reverse-engineering is legal.

    That statement alone's damaging IMHO, as now when they continue pushing this technology, Apple can come back in a year (when it might actually be turning some form of profit for them) and sue saying "You clearly understood that this was wrong over a year ago, and yet yo
  • The moment Apple files a lawsuit, countersuit for monopoly - settle in court, and everyone happy.

    Ta-da!
  • Apple vs Real (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:09PM (#13306285)
    I consider what both companies are doing as wrong, so I don't know who to root for.

    On one hand, Real is making it easy and accessible to its customers to break Apple's proprietary codec. Apple spent time and money to make the files only play on their players, and Real is trying to use the files without permission. Oh, and I'm still pissed about that who bloated Real Player thing :)

    On the other hand, what Apple is doing is very akin to something that M$FT would do. They have a virtual monopoly on music players and online music downloads (to avoid starting an obvious argument, I will stress that I know what Apple has is not an actual monopoly, but imo it basically is. There are alternatives, but many people do not know this.) What Apple is doing is unfairly using this monopoly to sustain the monopoly, something MSFT is notorious for. If I buy a song from iTunes, I should be able to use it on any player. This is a basic sentiment of slashdot - freely using what is yours. Your dollar spent on that song should give you a license to use it however you want to, not a license to go out and buy a 300 dollar iPod just to listen to it.

    I think Apple will win this fight and Real was foolish to get into it. Reminds me of MP3.com's downfall.
    • What Apple is doing is unfairly using this monopoly to sustain the monopoly, something MSFT is notorious for. If I buy a song from iTunes, I should be able to use it on any player. This is a basic sentiment of slashdot - freely using what is yours. Your dollar spent on that song should give you a license to use it however you want to, not a license to go out and buy a 300 dollar iPod just to listen to it.

      First I don't buy your argument that Apple has a monopoly (virtual or otherwise) on digital music pla

    • Re:Apple vs Real (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mr2001 (90979)
      On one hand, Real is making it easy and accessible to its customers to break Apple's proprietary codec. Apple spent time and money to make the files only play on their players, and Real is trying to use the files without permission.

      You've got it backwards. Real wants to make files from their own store play on Apple's player, by converting them to Apple style DRM files (instead of unrestricted MP3s, which is what they'd do if they really cared about their customers.. but I digress).

      Also, don't forget that ju
    • that Apple got there by making a clearly superior product and applying DRM to satisfy the copyright holders.

      Making that equivalent with your typical MSFT strategy for sewing up a market is way out in left field.

      You can use your iTunes anywhere you want. Burn, re-rip. Thinking that Apple is going to do this for you is unreasonable.

      Apple needs to enforce the DRM so that it maintains its consistent potection of the holder's requirements.

      Real's claim to want interop really really really badly is hardly a reas
  • Breaking news: Apple will sue it over its Harmony technology that 'breaks' iTunes' FairPlay DRM to allow its music to play on the iPod. Apple points out that, as reported on a popular site called Slashdot, Real acknowledged in an SEC filing that a lawsuit from Apple would potentially be very damaging to the companies [sic] bottom line, as it accepts that a court might not agree that the reverse-engineering is legal.
  • So I know might risk the savage wrath of the Slashgods here, but I really can't find myself feeling sorry for Real. Reverse engineering is wrong if you're just trying to copy off the other guy - innovate and make something better than the other guy for a change.

    Apple built a product (iTunes + iPod) that a lot of consumers love (marketshare speaks much louder than OGG support, open-ness, etc.), and Real wants a piece of that because very few are using their service. Why is it that we think just because it
    • by geekee (591277) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:19PM (#13306369)
      "Apple built a product (iTunes + iPod) that a lot of consumers love (marketshare speaks much louder than OGG support, open-ness, etc.), and Real wants a piece of that because very few are using their service. Why is it that we think just because it involves a computer or teh intarweb that it should all be fair game (or fair play, to pull a pun)?"

      So then you must agree that it's good for Microsoft to use closed file formats for Office and that Lexmark should be able to sue competitors for refilling their ink cartridges. Also, cracking the DVD encrpytion scheme to make a Linux DVD player must be wrong too.

      "If I create a product that is easier to use, looks good, and appeals to more consumers than everyone else's product, why should I have to share? I mean, if in the mean time I was running around telling the music companies that they could only use my service or could get some sort of incentive to not allow other services (i.e., the allegations behind much of the Wintel monopoly) that'd be one thing, but it appears that nothing of that sort happened."

      Apple shouldn't be required to share, but if someone reverse engineers their product to make something that is compatible, do you really believe Apple should have legal grounds to sue?
      • "So then you must agree that it's good for Microsoft to use closed file formats for Office and that Lexmark should be able to sue competitors for refilling their ink cartridges. Also, cracking the DVD encrpytion scheme to make a Linux DVD player must be wrong too."

        Well, I don't think it's "good" for MS to close Office formats, because I personally like choice, but if that's what they want to do, let them. As a very minor MS shareholder (less than 100 shares), I must say it is good for business, since their
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:18PM (#13306361) Homepage Journal
    Harmony makes it possible for Real to sell tracks online that are compatible with the iPod. It competes with the iTunes Store, but the end result is more music available for the iPod, which increases the iPod's value. Meanwhile, Apple has admitted that they don't make much money off of the iTunes store, but it does help push iPod sales (by making it more useful).

    So at least in the short term, this should positively impact Apple's business by improving iPod sales.

    Long term, though, it reduces vendor lock-in. If you ultimately have lots of Real tracks on your old iPod, and they're compatible with both iPods and some other player (or at the very least, you can re-download the tracks in the appropriate format without buying them all over again), you're just as likely to buy that other player as a new iPod.
  • Will people go to jail? I'm thinking back to the Russian guy who cracked the Adobe files.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:22PM (#13306398) Homepage Journal
    In other news, I got a cease & desist letter from Apple today for leaving a straightened paperclip in the "eject" pinhole of my Mac floppy drive. Clear violation of the DMCA, reverse engineering, and aftermarketing. I'm a hacker terrorist! Stop me before I eject again!
  • by Landaras (159892) <neil@nOSpam.wehneman.com> on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:23PM (#13306405) Homepage
    Back in July of 2004 I wrote up an analysis of Apple's DMCA claim against Real. The full article is available here [fallinggrace.com]. Here's the last part of it (after I give definitions and background).

    *****

    As mentioned above, Real has claimed that, with their Harmony software, downloads from the Real music store will now be usable by the iPod. Real accomplished this by reverse-engineering FairPlay, so that Real can now create a level of DRM that is indistinguishable from FairPlay by the iPod. Until a few days ago, only music purchased from iTMS could have any form of DRM on it and be playable on the iPod. With the creation of Harmony, the iPod will no longer be able to lock out Real's DRM'd music, creating (something resembling) a true competitor to iTMS in the form of Real's store.

    Realizing this, Apple has quickly and angrily accused Real of using the "tactics and ethics of a hacker" in creating Harmony.

    Apple's statement should be summarily ignored. They are using ad hominem attacks with terms that carry misleading connotations. It could be argued that Real "cracked" the FairPlay DRM, but even that is misleading. The right to reverse-engineer is protected by law, and as such what Real did is legal.

    Or rather, would have been definitively legal several years ago, before the passage of the DMCA. In fact, "Apple said it is investigating the implications of Real's software strategy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act" (news.com article [com.com]).

    Now that statement by Apple is worth investigating. What does the DMCA say as to Real's reverse-engineering of FairPlay?

    The sections that pertain to this case are Sec. 1201 (a)(1)(A), Sec. 1201 (a)(2)(A), and Sec. 1201 (f)(1). These sections are somewhat long and legal, but I will quote only what is necessary and break the verbage down into "normal english." Their relevant parts are, respectively
    • No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

    • and
    • No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

    • and
    • 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.

    The first excerpt says that if there is some "technological measure that effectively controls access to a work", it is now illegal to circumvent that measure. To borrow from the Fair Use example above, if someone purchased a music compact disc that had some technological measure on it that kept them from copying it to their hard drive as mp3s, it would now be illegal for them to circumvent that technological measure.

    The second excerpt says that you cannot create or distribute tools or software that allows circumvention of technological anti-copying measures. To continue the Fair Use example, it is illegal for someone else to create a method to turn a protected purchased disc into mp3s, or to give that method to others.

    The third excerpt

  • Companies try to make as exhaustive a list of risks as they can when compiling their SEC filings, as that ensures that investors won't sue the execs for not disclosing the risks.

    To put it into perspective, their "worry" about being sued by Apple is one paragraph in 15 pages of disclosures, including entries like "Our mobile products will not be successful if consumers do not use mobile devices to access digital media." and "Any development delays or cost overruns may affect our operating results."

  • The tactics and ethics of a hacker is a good thing. The tactics of an Apple lawyer is another.

    They may be using the term "hacker" in the sense that the mainstream press has been using it -- not the actual definition of a hacker. Maybe they just don't know better.

  • a lawsuit from Apple would potentially be very damaging to the companies bottom line

    That's certainly one way to make the lawsuit happen...
  • I think that Apple has every right to restrict its use to what it was designed to do. Its designed to play iTunes and MP3s (and a few other formats, but not OGG :-)

    And given the prepondrance of Walkman work alikes, which cost Sony their monopoly after a certain number of years, they have evey right to do so.

    Now Sony did not 'control' the content, they did not want to, back then they weren't yet a media company, but if they had been, they would have sued the pants off (and beyond) of anyone who'd infringed.

    I
  • by tqbf (59350) on Friday August 12, 2005 @04:24PM (#13307004) Homepage
    If they were, they wouldn't have done it.

    The fact is that Real's move garnered them lots of press attention, and in light of that, they are now obliged to disclaim the possibility of a lawsuit in their filings.

    It's probably not that they think Apple is going to sue them out of existence. It's that, if they DIDN'T disclose that, even a minor legal tussle with Apple could be the basis for a shareholders lawsuit.

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