Apple's Ban On iPod Sync Software Stymied By Wikileaks - InformationWeek

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12/2/2008
03:39 PM
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Apple's Ban On iPod Sync Software Stymied By Wikileaks

The iPodHash project is an effort to open the iPod and iPhone to third-party media software other than Apple's iTunes.

Apple's legal effort to remove the source code and related Web pages that could create iTunes-like software from the Internet appears to have failed.

The company succeeded last month in removing information about the project from the public BluWiki.com site by claiming that the posted code violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

But last week, the offending Web pages were published on WikiLeaks, a site accustomed to resisting takedown demands.

The project, named iPodHash, is an effort to open the iPod and iPhone to third-party media software other than Apple's iTunes.

"Apple added a hashing mechanism to its iTunesDB file from 6th generation iPods," one of the WikiLeaks documents explains. "This hashing mechanism was soon reverse engineered, and hence third-party applications were able to write to iPod classic and iPod nano 3G. With iPhone firmware upgrade 2.0, (or iPod touch 2.0 or iPhone 3G), Apple changed the hashing scheme. And here we are to reverse it yet again."

To do so, the project participants are seeking "someone with knowledge of x86 ASM, to convert small piece of ASM code to C [programming language]." They aim to use this information to allow third-party media software to synchronize media files on iPods and iPhones with copies of those files stored on a PC.

Apple last month sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sam Odio, who operates BluWiki, demanding that he remove the pages related to iPodHash. An attorney representing the company claimed that BluWiki "is disseminating information designed to circumvent Apple's FairPlay digital rights management system."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation disagrees with Apple's position. Last week, the cyberliberties advocacy group said that Apple's DMCA claim doesn't have a leg to stand on.

EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann claimed that the iPodHash project has not yet succeeded, which means Apple is trying to ban technical speech rather than functional code that enables the circumvention of a digital lock.

He also claimed that the iTunesDB file is authored by the iPod owner rather than by Apple, just as Microsoft doesn't own the copyright to documents authored in Word. That gives the iPod owner the right to access the file, he argued.

And von Lohmann pointed out that Apple's lawyers have overlooked the DMCA exemption for efforts that circumvent technological protections "for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs."

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