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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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March 17, 2005

Johansen Creates DRM-Free Interface to iTunes

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Posted by

I rarely agree with the intentionally sloppy Andrew Orlowski, but he's right about what's happening to Apple's iTunes. Any "upgrade" to the service likely means paying more (and more) for less (and less).

Jon Johansen (yes, that Jon Johansen) is doing something about it. He's been working on what he calls PyMusique, the "fair" interface to the iTunes Music Store. Explains Jon (via email):


PyMusique is an interface to the iTunes Music Store that lets you preview songs, sign up for an account and buy songs. It is somewhat interesting from a DMCA/EUCD perspective. The iTunes Music Store actually sells songs without DRM. While iTunes adds DRM to your purchases, PyMusique does not. Another difference is that signing up for an account using PyMusique does not require you to sign/click away any of your rights.

But here's the question: How "interesting" is it? Does it stay in the free and clear, or does it brush up against the DMCA or EUCD? This is a tough one.

To learn more, a tech-savvy friend of mine is examining how PyMusique works -- you might want to do the same before this tool becomes yet another Endangered Gizmo.

Comments (95) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Tech


COMMENTS

1. Tim on March 17, 2005 1:01 PM writes...

What's wrong with just burning a CD to get rid of the DRM?!

If people like this aren't careful, we are all going to end up paying with very serious DRM!

Permalink to Comment

2. No DUH on March 17, 2005 1:26 PM writes...

I've never understood the thought that I HATE DRM, so I'M GOING TO BUY DRM MUSIC AND REMOVE THE DRM!! It really doesn't matter what you do after you buy it, just by using the iTunes Music Store, you're sending a message to Apple and the record companies that you are willing to BUY DRM'd music!

If you REALLY want to make a dent, do it by NOT participating in the iTMS fraud. Convince your friends and neighbors NOT to sign up for music that you can't control and show them that the ONLY good profitable online music is DRM free.

Permalink to Comment

3. Chris on March 17, 2005 2:56 PM writes...

I agree with Tim…there is no way the recording industry will allow DRM-free distribution, the reasons are obvious, and further attempts to spoil the protection mechanisms will only serve to tighten the knot.

Given this I also believe Apple has done a reasonable job of balancing the rights of users against the concerns of the recording industry. As a service iTMS has a lot of great features with only two negatives, DRM and low bit rates, both of which I bet were imposed by the recording industry as a means of protecting their existing business model.

Would I like non-DRM’d music, you bet. But it’s not gonna happen and blaming Apple and the other music services for the situation is unfounded, fault lies with the recording industry.

And as Tim noted, exercise your rights and burn a CD with the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t have to pay for 12 songs to get the single you liked. That’s satisfaction enough for me.

Permalink to Comment

4. Chris on March 17, 2005 2:58 PM writes...

I agree with Tim…there is no way the recording industry will allow DRM-free distribution, the reasons are obvious, and further attempts to spoil the protection mechanisms will only serve to tighten the knot.

Given this I also believe Apple has done a reasonable job of balancing the rights of users against the concerns of the recording industry. As a service iTMS has a lot of great features with only two negatives, DRM and low bit rates, both of which I bet were imposed by the recording industry as a means of protecting their existing business model.

Would I like non-DRM’d music, you bet. But it’s not gonna happen and blaming Apple and the other music services for the situation is unfounded, fault lies with the recording industry.

And as Tim noted, exercise your rights and burn a CD with the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t have to pay for 12 songs to get the single you liked. That’s satisfaction enough for me.

Permalink to Comment

5. rajesh on March 17, 2005 3:04 PM writes...

Thats right. Battle the Apple DRM "machine" and force Apple to lose the music war.

Then lie down like supplicant lambs when you are forced to download with MS's wonderfully restrictive Janus's DRM. That'll teach the RIAA and their ilk the right lesson.

Like Tim says, I find Apple's DRM completely fair. Burn CDs without extra $, listen to them on all my machines, listen to them on my iPod? Whats the problem again?

Permalink to Comment

6. tf on March 17, 2005 3:36 PM writes...

Doesn't even sound like this would be an issue for the DMCA. Seems like quite simple theft. PyMusique has ZERO rights to be distributing content that only Apple has rights to.

Permalink to Comment

7. Anthony Hunt on March 17, 2005 3:48 PM writes...

All this talk that "recording industry will allow DRM-free distribution" is rubbish. There are plenty in the recording industry who advocate DRM-free distribution and indeed do it. To talk as if DRM-free were impossible is to misrepresent the facts and flies in the face of the many people in the industry who are preparing for a radically reconfigured industry devoid of the big labels.

Permalink to Comment

8. Anthony Hunt on March 17, 2005 3:53 PM writes...

Ah, tf, as you point out it is Apple that distributes the music. Not iTunes nor PyMusique.

Permalink to Comment

9. tf on March 17, 2005 4:49 PM writes...

Anthony, I don't see how that distinction hols any merit. Apple distributes DRMed music. They don't distribute non-DRMed. Suppose someone developed an internet bank interface that allowed me to access any account... so through that web site I empty hundreds of accounts. The bank's web site or the "fake" web site don't hold my money, the bank does. That doesn't mean that the "fake" web site is absolved from allowing me to steal from the bank.

Permalink to Comment

10. Brad on March 17, 2005 5:30 PM writes...

Do you have reading comprehension issues?

From the writeup:
"The iTunes Music Store actually sells songs without DRM. While iTunes adds DRM to your purchases, PyMusique does not."

If the bank specifically designed their system to allow you to empty other people's accounts, then you didn't steal anything.

Permalink to Comment

11. tf on March 17, 2005 5:36 PM writes...

Brad, do you have any tact? You are taking Jon's words at face value. Why should I? The iTMS or iTunes or Apple certainly DO sell DRMed music. What Jon is saying is: if you can bypass the interface the tracks aren't DRM'ed. This is obvious as the DRM applied is specific to each user's account and hardware. He is essentially creating an app to steal Apple's property off of its servers.

Why would anyone think they have a right to do that?

"If the bank specifically designed their system to allow you to empty other people's accounts, then you didn't steal anything."

I don't see how your statement contradicts my statement. iTunes is specifically designed to apply the DRM at purchase. iTunes is not designed to download non-DRMed songs. This song does. Hence, it is stealing.

Permalink to Comment

12. tf on March 17, 2005 5:48 PM writes...

"This song does. Hence, it is stealing."

Of course, I meant:

This app does. Hence, it is stealing.

Permalink to Comment

13. tf on March 17, 2005 5:55 PM writes...

Brad, I also assume you know this... but maybe you don't: there is no distinction between the iTMS and iTunes. The only sensible interpretation of this is: the songs are not DRMed prior to downloading. Once they are downloaded, the songs become DRMed (obviously, as I said above, this is based on the user account and personal hardware downloaded to). So... what about that statement says that it's perfectly legal to build another app that bypasses Apple's designed interface to pull files from their servers?

Permalink to Comment

14. Brad on March 17, 2005 5:55 PM writes...

"You are taking Jon's words at face value."

Actually, no. I've looked at the source code.

Have you?

"What Jon is saying is: if you can bypass the interface the tracks aren't DRM'ed."

There is no bypassing. PyMusique uses the same interface to the iTunes Music Store that iTunes uses.

I'm not going to waste any more of my time discussing with someone as intellectually dishonest as you.

Permalink to Comment

15. Chris Brand on March 17, 2005 5:57 PM writes...

It might be "making an unauthorised copy", it might be illegal, it might be morally reprehensible, but it's not stealing because it isn't taking anything from them - Apple still has the same stuff at the end of the transaction as they had at the beginning (in fact as far as I can tell, it's giving Apple money in exchange for the copy it makes).