Monday, September 10, 2007

More Apple digital locks

One of the reasons I've never been a big Apple fan is their heavy-handed proprietary approach to their technologies. I tell the story in my book about Apple's spat in 2004 with RealNetworks, when the Real folks made it possible for iPod owners to buy music from the Real music store in addition to the sole existing prior source, iTunes. Apple went nuts accusing Real of hacking into the iPod and threatening all kinds of lawsuits. Then they upgraded their software so that iPod owners couldn't buy songs from Real. Real upgraded theirs and so the tit for tat went on.

Fast forward three years and the same story is being played out on iPhone ringtones. Fred von Lohmann has a lovely succinct description of the latest idiocy.

"Apple's new product announcements this week may have laid the foundation for the next round of DMCA lawsuits. It sure looks like Apple is using the DMCA to block competition, rather than stop "piracy."

First suspect: ringtones on the iPhone. Just before the Apple announcement of its new ringtone offerings (that'll be 99 extra cents, please), Ambrosia had announced iToner, a new piece of software that allows iPhone owners to use any MP3 or AAC file as a ringtone. In other words, no more need to pay Apple for the privilege.

Apple's response? Well, apparently the latest "upgrade" to Apple's iTunes software (v. 7.4) auto-magically erases any unapproved ringtones that iToner installs...

Second suspect: locking the iPod video output. iLounge reports that the latest generation of iPods refuses to output video to cables, docks, and accessories that lack an Apple "authentication chip." If this is true, then it may represent an attempt by Apple to use the DMCA to limit competition and interoperability, in a manner reminiscent of Lexmark's printer toner cartridge lock-out chip or the infamous DMCA garage-door opener case...

Notice that neither of these Apple "lock-in" measures has any obvious relationship with preventing "piracy." As we've been saying for years, this appears to be the real legacy of the DMCA -- even as the music industry abandons DRM as an anti-piracy measure, Apple deploys it as an anti-competition measure."

Update: Derek Slater's thoughts on same are worth reading. As are those at the ipodminusitunes blog

No comments: