Apple have described RealNetworks’ new Harmony program, designed to play Real content on an iPod, as a crude hack, and even described RealNetworks themselves as hackers.
“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions,” said Apple in a statement.
As predicted, Apple are turning to the DMCA to see if they have a case against RealNetworks. Many in the industry view this as a negative action by Apple, and could be regarded as anti-consumer. Headlines such as “Apple: The Microsoft of Music?” have started appearing, and accusations of maintaining a monopoly are now being levelled at Apple.
Harmony allows users to play Real content by wrapping the media in a FairPlay DRM layer – it doesn’t interfere with iPod’s FairPlay systems, or the iPod.
As RealNetworks said in a statement: “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.”
Apple are looking to change the iPod’s software so that Harmony does not work in the future: “We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real’s Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.”