Feeds

Real to 'free' iPod from iTunes Music Store

Harmony tunes player into Rhapsody

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

Real Networks has effectively reverse engineered Apple's iTunes Music Store DRM system, FairPlay, having failed to persuade the Mac maker to license the technology.

Real will this week issue a beta release of Harmony, a Rosetta Stone for DRM, that promises to allow users to convert one copy-protection mechanism to another.

In particular, it will allow music fans to download songs from Real's own online music subscription service and play them on an iPod. The iPod's 'preferred' music format, AAC, is DRM friendly, in as much as the file structure - unlike that of MP3, say - was developed to allow the inclusion of DRM data. So Real just converts songs to AAC, then writes in DRM information based on its own policy. This can then be read by iTunes, the software used to copy music to the iPod.

Since the system does not bypass target DRM technologies, it's unlikely to fall foul of the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbid such intervention.

However, it could present Real with legal challenges if Apple believes its intellectual property was suborned during the development of Harmony. As yet, Apple has not commented on Harmony, and is probably waiting to see exactly what the software can do before responding.

Ditto Microsoft, since Harmony is expected to convert Real tracks into DRMed WMA-format songs.

Certainly there's no altruism behind Real's technology. In an interview with AP last week, CEO Rob Glaser said: "We are making it so that consumers can buy music once and play it anywhere."

The crucial bit is 'buy music once', and that means from Real's own Rhapsody service, fed by Listen.com, which Real acquired last year. Real's music business has been cast into the shade by ITMS, Napster and Sony Connect. iPod is the clear leader in hard drive-based portable music players, and is the key player for mind share. So Real needs iPod support much more than Apple needsReal. Few, if any, player makers have licensed Real's own formats and DRM system.

No doubt there are some iPod owners who are also ITMS customers but would prefer the all-you-can-eat monthly subscription model touted by Real. But we suspect the technology will appeal more to Real users who want to buy an iPod rather than iPod owners who want to buy from Real.

That leaves Harmony as little more than a bargaining tool with Apple and Microsoft, to be used to encourage them to license their respective DRM technologies. It's not a strong bargaining position, but it it's all you have, you've got to go for it.

In April, Glaser attempted to persuade Apple to license FairPlay, but his overtures were unsurprisingly rejected.

Harmony has a broader importance. Assuming it faces no legal challenge, Harmony paves the pay for the development of DRM conversion software from companies that have no stake in online music sales and thus can be trusted not to try and push listeners toward one particular service. If coupled with format transcoding software, that would allow consumers to buy from any service and play the results on any hardware, which is what buyers want. ®

Related stories

Real Networks 'seeks alliance' with Apple
Real and IBM form media software link
Real sues Microsoft, seeks $1bn damages
RealNetworks drops MusicNet for Listen.com Introducing the iPod London toilet guide
Kyocera offers iPod Mini-matching digicams
Consumers go crazy for MP3 players
Duke develops iPod-equipped download army

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.