Navio to Reverse Engineer iPod/iTunes DRM

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Apr 12, 2001
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Playlistmag.com discusses the efforts of a company called Navio. The company, which specializes in digital-rights managment, has announced plans to reverse engingeer Apple's FairPlay Digital Rights Management format that is used to protect songs sold from the iTunes Music Store.

The plan is to allow other online stores to sell FairPlay encoded songs to allow playback on the popular Apple iPod.

Schaaf described Navio as "DRM-agnostic," adding that the company was only providing the technology that its customers are asking for. "Whether it's Helix, WMA or FairPlay, our customers indicate what kind of DRM encoding they want and then we provide them with a solution," he said.
Navio is not the first company to do this. RealNetworks Harmony technology accomplished the same feat, and despite some sparring with Apple, continues to provide iPod compatibility.
 

topgunn

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Nov 5, 2004
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Remember that the point of iTunes is not to sell music. The point of iTunes is to sell iPods.
 

Stella

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Apr 21, 2003
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I wish apple would just license out Fairplay - even if to a select few ( and just moto doesnt count ).

Personally I like to use other music stores - but can't because they aren't compatible with Macs. This is what Apple are afraid of - losing market share in iTMS and MP3 player.

If this was microsoft people would be screaming murder.

This unwillinness to license out Fairplay will return to haunt them - has done in the past, and will again in the future in similar situations.
 

longofest

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Jul 10, 2003
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The legal situation is tennuous, but not explicitly illegal. Messing with DRM is possibly illegal under DMCA, but they aren't necessarily circumventing it, just reverse-engineering it. I'm sure their lawyers would say that the spirit of the law was to protect copyright of the protected material, not to support an iPod monopoly, and they would have a point.

Reverse engineering itself is perfectly legal, as long as they don't come up with the same exact copyrighted code that Apple uses in its Fairplay implementation. See the case law of Intel vs. AMD to verify the legitimacy of reverse engineering.
 

kwajo.com

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Jul 17, 2002
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these sorts of reverse engineering cases are very tricky, I for one would never bother with it. it seems to me that if you really wanted a good business or to make your mark you owuld spend all your time coming out with something actually new and innovative, not a re-engineered version of something that already exists. come on people, take a chance!
 

bbyrdhouse

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Oct 2, 2002
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Elm Grove, LA
Stella said:
I wish apple would just license out Fairplay - even if to a select few ( and just moto doesnt count ).

Personally I like to use other music stores - but can't because they aren't compatible with Macs. This is what Apple are afraid of - losing market share in iTMS and MP3 player.

If this was microsoft people would be screaming murder.

This unwillinness to license out Fairplay will return to haunt them - has done in the past, and will again in the future in similar situations.
I agree. Apple would be better served in the long run to liscence FairPlay. The Ipod and mp3 player will continue to rise in popularity. There are still millions who do not own an MP3 player at all. And portable video WILL continue to gro as well. Pretty soon somebody else will come up with a player that will be pretty cool looking and will be multiplatform. I realize that there are many other players on the market now and some of them are pretty cool, but for now anyway "iPod" is synonomous with MP3. But it won't always be that way.
In my opinion Apple should be ahead of the curve and at least begin to liscence Fairplay as a trial run with some other stores.

P.S. Why is it that Apple was pressured into having teired pricing (=higher prices)for their music when Wal-Mart's music store sells for $.88
 

iMeowbot

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Aug 30, 2003
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Quartz Extreme said:
Uhm, isn't this illegal?
No, but attempts by Apple to stop it very well could be illegal at this point. That's the down side of big market share.
 

syklee26

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Jul 26, 2005
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no holiday vacation for you, Apple lawyers!

I can hear grumblings from Apple legal departments already....

enjoy eating Turkey in your office.
 

Seasought

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Stella said:
If this was microsoft people would be screaming murder.
No, if this was Microsoft they would be murdered. Gates gestapo's elite big brother death squad.
 

andiwm2003

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ibook30 said:
Probably violates end user license of itunes to actually use it, but perhaps just offering it is ok,, does sound strange that one can offer software openly to undo DRM.

how does it violate the end user licence of itunes when the whole point is to not use itunes?

at least that's how i read it: you buy your songs in a different store and a different program loads them onto the ipod. no apple software involved. and i can't imagine that there is a end user license saying what data you are allowed to load on the ipod and what program you may use to do that.
 

dernhelm

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May 20, 2002
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Stella said:
If this was microsoft people would be screaming murder.
Microsoft is a monopoly, and as such, must exercise restraint in using its monopoly power. Apple does not have a monopoly, and has a much wider range of things it can do and remain within the law.

I hear the "if MS were doing this, we'd be screaming bloody murder" argument all the time, but Microsoft is simply legally bound (because of their monopoly) in ways that other companies are not. You can consider Apple's refusal to license FairPlay as knuckleheaded, or short-sighted. But you cannot characterize it as illegal, or even unethical. (Although I consider any kind of DRM that restricts my own fair use rights as unethical - but that is another story).
 

Lord Blackadder

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May 7, 2004
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Sod off
These guys are small fry. Apple should not be over-concerned. Rather, they should consider licensing FairPlay.

Right now the iPod is huge, but they should plan ahead to the day when they are again mainly reliant on computer sales. The iPod dominance can't last forever.
 

DGFan

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Mar 28, 2003
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Quartz Extreme said:
Uhm, isn't this illegal?
Probalby not. It is doubtful the DMCA would apply to this. The DMCA would likely make it illegal to sell something that can remove the DRM from existing songs. Selling something to add DRM to songs wouldn't fall under the provisions of the DMCA.

However, as someone else mentioned, it may violate Apple's terms of use of iTunes depending on how the reverse-engineering is done (an EULA provision against reverse-engineering was upheld recently - in the Diablo2 case - but the situation there was very, very different).
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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andiwm2003 said:
how does it violate the end user licence of itunes when the whole point is to not use itunes?
I think the issue is less *you* using the product and more *the creator* and whether the fact that the technology is being created by reverse engineering can be interpreted as "circumvention."

The DMCA explicitly calls technology which circumvents DRM illegal, from my understanding. So technology that strips DRM is illegal -- which is why that DVD copying software was pulled from the maket. Reverse-engineering is trickier... normally, it's legal unless it results in patent or copyright violation.

But in this case, I think it depends on the extent to which the technology can be used to circumvent limitations in the existing DRM... for instance, if you had purchased music from Brand X, and you are allowed to use that music on N computers and devices, but you put it on more than N devices because some of them are storing the song via this DRM-breaker, then the technology allows you to "circumvent" the DRM restrictions. Likewise if you have music that you are only allowed to play on your desktop, but the technology allows you to burn CD copies of it, which is not a right you have under the purchase license.

So if, say, this technology were used to let Walmart songs go on an iPod, the claimant would be Walmart and not Apple, because Walmart's rights are impinged, not Apple's. But if the technology were used to let iTunes songs go on a WMA device, then I think Apple would have a circumvention case.

But lawyers can twist all of that! :D
 

Stella

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Apr 21, 2003
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My point is that just because its Apple they shouldn't 'get away' with controlling markets from a public point of view. It should be viewed as a negative.

Attempting to control markets doesn't usually work well.

But yes, microsoft are very much under the microscope - they couldn't possibly get away with it - remember earlier in the month when they were stopped from mandating that only WMA is used for media players ( for WMA licensees ).


dernhelm said:
Microsoft is a monopoly, and as such, must exercise restraint in using its monopoly power. Apple does not have a monopoly, and has a much wider range of things it can do and remain within the law.

I hear the "if MS were doing this, we'd be screaming bloody murder" argument all the time, but Microsoft is simply legally bound (because of their monopoly) in ways that other companies are not. You can consider Apple's refusal to license FairPlay as knuckleheaded, or short-sighted. But you cannot characterize it as illegal, or even unethical. (Although I consider any kind of DRM that restricts my own fair use rights as unethical - but that is another story).
 

iMeowbot

macrumors G3
Aug 30, 2003
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dernhelm said:
Microsoft is a monopoly, and as such, must exercise restraint in using its monopoly power. Apple does not have a monopoly, and has a much wider range of things it can do and remain within the law.
Apple are now big enough in the music market to be subject to antitrust rules. The ability to shut out competition or control prices, and control of at least half of a market, is enough to qualify as a monopoly in the US court system.
 

shamino

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Jan 7, 2004
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longofest said:
The legal situation is tennuous, but not explicitly illegal. Messing with DRM is possibly illegal under DMCA, but they aren't necessarily circumventing it, just reverse-engineering it.
Read the text of the DMCA (Chapter 12 of Title 17 of the US Code). Although you are right regarding its sprit, the letter of this law is overly broad.

Reverse engineering is discussed in section 1201, subsection f. Reverse engineering a DRM scheme is only permitted
.. 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 ...
Note that it talks about interoperability of programs, not of documents. So you can reverse-engineer FairPlay if it's necessary for your app to interoperate with iTunes. But it's not permitted if the purpose is for you to create your own FairPlay-encoded documents.
longofest said:
Reverse engineering itself is perfectly legal, as long as they don't come up with the same exact copyrighted code that Apple uses in its Fairplay implementation. See the case law of Intel vs. AMD to verify the legitimacy of reverse engineering.
This is not true for DRM software. The DMCA creates an additional restriction that doesn't exist for any other kind of software.
 

shadowfax

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Sep 6, 2002
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Stella said:
My point is that just because its Apple they shouldn't 'get away' with controlling markets from a public point of view. It should be viewed as a negative.

Attempting to control markets doesn't usually work well.
I don't interpret this as controlling a market. they are controlling their own hardware and their own interface. Steve Jobs and Apple have a vision for how they want customers to use their iPod, and letting shoddy POS stores try to work with the iPod would ruin the trouble they went to to build the user experience.

This is classically Apple, and it's all that they've ever done under Jobs. It's why they aren't licensing OS X. They're designers, and holistic designers at that. I'm not saying they're not jerks, but they're not trying to control the market.

I don't see any issues here. I think that Apple will play them the same way that they played Real. You can't reverse engineer a format because it can't be EXACTLY the same (or it's a copyright violation) and Apple is not bound to support the format.

So only the dumbest users in the world will buy songs in this format, that may or may not work on their iPod.
 

andiwm2003

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Mar 29, 2004
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mkrishnan said:
I think the issue is less *you* using the product and more *the creator* and whether the fact that the technology is being created by reverse engineering can be interpreted as "circumvention."

.......................................
my comment was directed toward the post saying reengineering would violate the EULA. the EULA is for the end user, meaning me. if i don't use itunes i don't violate the itunes EULA whatever it may be. so the end user is absolutely safe.

the creator of course is only in trouble if he violates apples copyright of the itunes software. even if he stripps the DRM of the music he is in no trouble WITH APPLE (assuming the music is not from itunes), only with the music labels. as long as the labels go along with it there is not much apple can do. probably firmware updates to the ipod to prevent the music from running on an ipod. but that would be bad for customer relations.

for the music industry it is good to have somebody out there breaking apples monopol as to what can be loaded onto an ipod. it gives them a much better position if they can (at least in theory) sell their music to millions of ipod users without itunes. thats why the music industry will not go against navio.