RealNetworks Bypasses Apple With Songs For The iPod - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Hardware & Infrastructure

RealNetworks Bypasses Apple With Songs For The iPod

It's going to start selling songs playable on Apple's music player through its Internet music store, thanks to its newly developed digital rights-translation software.

RealNetworks Inc. said Monday it would start selling through its music store songs that can be played on Apple Computer's popular iPod, defying Apple's attempt to make its player compatible only with music downloaded from its iTunes store.

The disclosure is part of a broader initiative by RealNetworks to increase the number of devices that can play music from the multimedia software maker's Internet store.

To increase its reach, the company said it has developed digital rights-translation software, called Harmony Technology, which makes it possible to keep the copyright protection contained in downloaded music. Proprietary security technology often ties songs to particular music players. Apple, which has refused to license its FairPlay copy-protection technology, did not return requests for comment.

Besides the iPod, RealNetworks said music purchased from its site would also play on hardware from Apple rivals that support Microsoft's music software. Harmony is set for release Tuesday.

A RealNetworks spokeswoman said the company's software doesn't violate Apple's intellectual property, saying the technology was developed through "good old-fashioned engineering and having smart minds working on a project."

RealNetworks claims it did not break Apple's protection through reverse engineering, which is the process of taking software apart, analyzing its workings in detail, and then reconstructing a new application that does the same thing, without actually copying anything from the original. This is important because the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal to reverse engineer software to bypass protections embedded by the original author.

"Under the act, you have to be very careful about reverse engineering to try to overcome mechanisms placed in the software to prevent disclosure," said Lawrence Rosen, a lawyer for the technology law offices of Rosenlaw & Einschlag in Ukiah, Calif.

However, court rulings have been mixed, and issues of reverse engineering related to operating software on multiple devices are unsettled.

RealNetworks' new technology is certainly good for consumers, who would benefit from being able to play downloaded music on any device, much like today's CDs and DVDs. "Anything that leads to more choice and more flexibility in how you manage your music is a big win for consumers," Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said.

But in attempting to usurp Apple's control of its technology, RealNetworks could find itself facing the computer maker in court. "Apple will have a choice," Reynolds said. "They may decide to let it ride, but, ultimately, they have a business to protect."

And it's a business that appears to be operating in a growing market.

Digital music sales are expected to more than double this year from 2003 to more than $270 million, according to JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia. By 2009, the market is expected to reach $1.7 billion, or 12% of the total consumers are projected to spend on music.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

How CIO Roles Will Change: The Future of Work
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  7/1/2021
A Strategy to Aid Underserved Communities and Fill Tech Jobs
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/9/2021
10 Ways AI and ML Are Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/28/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll