July 29, 2004
What a riot. First, Real implements a proprietary DRM scheme, and then tells Apple that they should license FairPlay. Now, having sued the makers of software that interoperates with Real’s software, Real tells Apple that the DMCA allows creation of interoperable software and Apple has no grounds to sue over Harmony.
Here’s Real’s press release: (emphasis added)
“RealNetworks, Inc. is delighted by initial consumer and music industry support for Harmony. Compatibility, choice and quality are critically important to consumers and Harmony provides all of these to users of the iPod and over 70 other music devices including those from Creative, Rio, iRiver, and others. RealPlayer Music Store provides the highest sound quality of any download music service. That’s why so many consumers have welcomed news of Harmony. Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod.
Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq. 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.
We remain fully committed to Harmony and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple iPod, choice and compatibility.”
See also this article in Forbes. I see the distinction Real’s trying to make; Streambox actually removed the DRM such that you could record the stream. But the distinction is irrelevant in the eyes of the DMCA. You’re either circumventing or you’re not. It doesn’t matter that you circumvent and then put the file in another DRM format. update: See above and the comments section for this post for what I mean by this.