Join 3,434 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


FairPlay is turned about.
October 2, 2006 1:41 PM   Subscribe

FairPlay is turned about. "DVD" Jon Lech Johansen, of DeCSS fame, has reverse engineered Apple's FairPlay DRM technology, which has thus far prevented 3rd-party digital music players from playing music purchased from the iTunes Store. RealNetworks did something similar in 2004, but Johansen is licensing it to whomever wants it.
posted by mkultra (41 comments total)

 
Awesome.
posted by Alex404 at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2006


Cool in theory, but can you imagine any company out there actually implementing it? Apple will change/break it at the first opportunity, and may well sue whoever implemented it.

Jon's probably judgement proof, but what real company is going to risk that?
posted by willnot at 1:51 PM on October 2, 2006


pwned
posted by dminor at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2006


I read this differently. It's not that this allows 3rd party digital devices to play things from iTunes, it's that it allows other companies to sell content through their own store and make it playable on the iPod.
posted by jefbla at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2006


Hooray for Norway!

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt, over vannet,
med de tusen hjem.
Elsker, elsker det og tenker
på vår far og mor
og den saganatt som senker
drømmer på vår jord.

Norske mann i hus og hytte,
takk din store Gud!
Landet ville han beskytte
skjønt det mørkt så ut.
Alt hva fedrene har kjempet,
mødrene har grett,
har den Herre stille lempet,
så vi vant vår rett.

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt over vannet,
med de tusen hjem!
Og som fedres kamp har hevet
det fra nød til seier
også vi når det blir krevet,
for dets fred slår leir.

Hooray!
posted by parmanparman at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2006


That's how I read it too jefbla, but I have to think Apple's legal department won't let something like that happen.
posted by birdherder at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2006


have to think Apple's legal department won't let something like that happen.

I think they will. See, Apple doesn't make much money of the iTunes Store. The store exists to drive the sale of iPods. if more online stores can sell stuff that plays on iPods, more iPods will sell, and Apple will be happy.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:24 PM on October 2, 2006


Not to be captain obvious, but if that were the case don't you think Apple would have licensed it themselves in the first place?
posted by fusinski at 2:28 PM on October 2, 2006


The store exists to drive the sale of iPods. if more online stores can sell stuff that plays on iPods, more iPods will sell, and Apple will be happy.

That was the original justification for the iTunes Store, but since then it's started to make money and has taken a commanding lead in the marketplace. Apple has been very aggressive in protecting its DRM, as the case of Rhapsody linked in the original post shows.

Apple will use any and all means at its disposal to get this shut down. Plus they have the luxury of being able to update their devices to thwart Jon's efforts, an option not available to the DVD consortium. Plus, now that Jon's set himself up as a company with actual assets and a business plan, he's a bigger target. I wish him all the best, and desperately want him to succeed despite the fact that he's technically enabling DRM, but I don't think this will end well at all.
posted by chrominance at 2:41 PM on October 2, 2006


Who would pay for a license for something that could be broken tomorrow due to a software update put out by Apple?
posted by pwb503 at 2:48 PM on October 2, 2006


Apple the "wonderful" company is actually a raging monopolist, more interested in control then immediate profit. They're a lot like Microsoft in a way. The iPod is a totally closed system.

It amazes me that people think they're some enlightened company, when all they have are nice products and snazzy marketing.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Despite the "to" I think "whoever" would be correct in the last sentence. The object is not just the pronoun, but "who(m)ever wants it" as a unit, and within that unit the pronoun is the subject.
posted by jam_pony at 2:50 PM on October 2, 2006


Oh yeah, kudos to DVD Jon! :)
posted by jam_pony at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2006


"Nice" in some ways. Nice to look at, usually nice to use. Not so nice if you want to fix it yourself. Pretty different attitude towards their hardware than what they started out with.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2006


How can he license it to others when he doesn't actually own it?

On the other side of the coin, I don't believe that Apple can change their DRM and force all their users to apply a software patch and then download all their music again. I can't imagine a greater gift Apple could give to Microsoft's upcoming challenger product, and I don't think Jobs is that stupid.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2006


can i use this to add drm to my regular, non-protected mp3s? you know, for security.
posted by snofoam at 3:05 PM on October 2, 2006


Look for this technology to be used by some hacker to play iTunes music on his Zune. And the struggle continues...
posted by blue_beetle at 3:08 PM on October 2, 2006


There's no question that Apple is going to sue him into the ground, but that's based on the Golden Rule (he who has the gold makes the rules), not on whether Apple actually has any legitimate case against him.

What he's done is to reverse engineer Apple's enciphering algorithm. It does not strip off Apple's DRM so as to make it possible to pirate music downloaded from iTunes, or to import it into non-Apple players. Rather, it makes it so that others can create websites which will compete with the Apple iTunes store in the business of selling music to iPod users.

I think a detailed reading of the DMCA would be necessary to be sure (zzzz) but I don't think this violates it.

If Apple has any patents on their DRM, this would definitely violate those, but considering that they're relying on obscurity for security to some extent, I doubt that there are any such.

If he developed his code clean, and he almost certainly did, then it doesn't violate any Apple copyrights.

The question would be whether there are any other relevant intellectual-property laws that apply, and I don't know.

But none of that really matters. What matters is that Apple has $1000 for lawyers for every $1 that Johansen has, and he's going to lose.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2006


Apple the "wonderful" company is actually a raging monopolist, more interested in control then immediate profit. They're a lot like Microsoft in a way. The iPod is a totally closed system.

Sorry, but this is incorrect. Apple is peddling a proprietary system linking software and hardware, much like the Mac. And saying Apple has a Mac monopoly is both redundant and rather silly. Apple doesn't have a monopoly in the music market. The iPod is a closed system because it's Apple's. They developed (and/or bought) it and they reap the profits from it. They've chosen not to open it up or license it. That's their prerogative because it's theirs. Any other company is free to come along and offer their own service and/or hardware if they like, they just have to manage it on their own terms. The fact that other companies haven't been able to succeed at this isn't Apple's fault. And the fact that other companies would like to ride Apple's coat tails and Apple is not amenable to this doesn't mean Apple is abusing some monopoly status.
posted by effwerd at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2006


I think they will. See, Apple doesn't make much money of the iTunes Store. The store exists to drive the sale of iPods. if more online stores can sell stuff that plays on iPods, more iPods will sell, and Apple will be happy.

The thing is, Apple wants to protect the seamless experience of iTunes + iPod. They want to associate the iPod with ease with use, and they think the ability to purchase songs that can be played on iPods from sites and applications that aren't as well integrated as the iTunes + iPod experience will lessen the shine on iPods. That's why Apple won't be happy with this.
posted by gyc at 3:19 PM on October 2, 2006


I will never buy DRMed music.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2006


gyc, I'm not disagreeing with you here, but they also don't want to lose out on the revenue stream. The iPod is currently clearly the major profit-maker, but the iTunes store is gearing up to make major money, especially with the upcoming additions of high-quality movies and TV shows.

Still, I think it's brilliant, and I encourage the competition. Apple will have to maintain backwards compatability with MP3s encoded with this version of their codec, or else risk alienating their userbase (Oh, I'm sorry, your songs are out of date and you need to re-download them or they won't work.)

Can you imagine the backlash from Apple forcing everyone to download not only a software update for iTune, but also a firmware update for their iPods, AND their entire music library again? Not happening.
posted by Imperfect at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2006


"if more online stores can sell stuff that plays on iPods, more iPods will sell, and Apple will be happy."

I have no trouble getting plain old mp3 files I buy from emusic or allofmp3.com to play on my iPod.

The real problem is the ridiculous Windows Media Player DRM.
posted by drstein at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2006


The iPod isn't a closed system, asshats – you can play all manner of unencrypted video and audio content encoded in standard formats on it — It's DRM implementation is a closed system, as they all are by design.

There's no reason companies can't sell un-DRMed content for people to play on their iPods, they just don't because the content owners are extremely misguided about how the world works.

And why anyone would buy a license for a crack that allows them to wrap their stuff in someone else's DRM, from a guy that distributes tools to crack that very DRM, is unknown to me.
posted by blasdelf at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


I bought some DRMed music once and I spent so much time on trying to get it to play on my mp3 player that the music, in effect, cost me some $300 for three Beach Boys tunes. F**k that. If the music business wants to waste the time of a good, paying customer in order to prevent others who probably won't pay for it anyway from getting it, then they have a seriously screwed up business model which iTunes and RealNetworks are enabling. I plan to never buy DRM music again as a form of social and commercial protest. The irony is that I would otherwise love to pay for downloaded music. I bet there are a lot of others like me, whose money the music business is leaving lying on the table. No wonder these idiots can't make money on any but the most vapid music sold to the gormless masses.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2006


Nice post title, too, mkultra.
posted by rob511 at 4:09 PM on October 2, 2006


And why anyone would buy a license for a crack that allows them to wrap their stuff in someone else's DRM, from a guy that distributes tools to crack that very DRM, is unknown to me.

Good point.
posted by danb at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2006


SCDB, I agree completely, and would only add that (as others have pointed out above) Apple will revise their DRM to break compatibility if they think necessary, and Jon then might reverse the new version, etc..

I compliment him despite all this because his work is valuable even just as a gesture against DRM.
posted by jam_pony at 4:30 PM on October 2, 2006


Jon is absolutely brilliant.

I hope he can provide cleanroom proof of his methods. Great things happened once the lock on BIOS was broken.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:38 PM on October 2, 2006


I just realized how this is bad for Apple in a big way: it's a way for the big music corps to sell DRMed songs that play on iPods and charge the inflated, outrageous prices that Apple has refused to charge. That's bad for the iTunes business model, and so Apple will likely sue.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:10 PM on October 2, 2006


Apple the "wonderful" company is actually a raging monopolist, more interested in control then immediate profit. They're a lot like Microsoft in a way. The iPod is a totally closed system.

Do you know what a monopolist is? Apple isn't one. The company has a popular product right now and accordingly has a big market share. But they're competing against a ton of other companies, including Microsoft, and they'll have to work hard to keep that share going forward. Monopolists don't have to do that. Having a "closed system" doesn't make you a monopolist, and iTunes/iPod isn't really a closed system anyway.

It amazes me that people think they're some enlightened company, when all they have are nice products and snazzy marketing.

Nice products and snazzy marketing? How terrible. Shut the company down!
posted by brain_drain at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2006


Why Apple keeps Fairplay proprietary is so that people build up libraries of iPod-only music. That way, when your iPod battery dies, you're going to buy another iPod not a Zune. It's the music library that locks in the customer base to Apple hardware. To an extent, more iPod-only content on the market only helps Apple. (Although if the major labels set up their own stores and stopped selling content through Apple, it would be a big problem).

If somebody licenses this product from DVD Jon, will it be to make DRM tracks that play on both the iPod and the Zune (and Playsforsure)? If so, they'll probably have both Apple and Microsoft stamping all over their asses.
posted by nowonmai at 5:32 PM on October 2, 2006


I think a detailed reading of the DMCA would be necessary to be sure (zzzz) but I don't think this violates it.

It definitely violates it:

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

They developed (and/or bought) it and they reap the profits from it. They've chosen not to open it up or license it. That's their prerogative because it's theirs.

Legally, you're right. But a lot of people disagree that that should be the case. What you are saying is (and the law agrees), it should be illegal for people to use their brains to figure out ways of using a physical device that they've purchased for purposes other than the manufacturer desires -- regardless of whether or not that purpose infringes copyright. (e.g. it is still illegal to watch a dvd you purchased legally on a linux machine).
posted by jlub at 5:47 PM on October 2, 2006


That way, when your iPod battery dies, you're going to buy another iPod not a Zune.

Yes, that's the reason I'm not going to buy a Zune...
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:05 PM on October 2, 2006



Can you imagine the backlash from Apple forcing everyone to download not only a software update for iTune, but also a firmware update for their iPods, AND their entire music library again? Not happening.


I disagree. I can totally see something like this happening if Apple is only breaking access to files that you got from one of their competitors. It would be very easy for them to turn around and say, "see, this is why you shouldn't buy from their crappy service."
posted by dhammond at 7:17 PM on October 2, 2006


The irony is that I would otherwise love to pay for downloaded music.

So do it. There are companies that don't use DRM. I've bought more than 4000 albums from emusic. None of it is DRM.

Why Apple keeps Fairplay proprietary is so that people build up libraries of iPod-only music. That way, when your iPod battery dies, you're going to buy another iPod not a Zune.

I don't agree. Fairplay is kept because no major label would license the music to Apple to sell if it didn't have DRM. If your theory were true, Apple would not allow non-DRM (or non-iTunes bought music) to play on the iPod. That's not the case. It'll play any non-drm'd mp3 as well. I've had 5 iPods and have never bought a single DRM'd song.
posted by dobbs at 8:12 PM on October 2, 2006


This is yet more evidence that DRM is a broken concept. It is fundamentally flawed and will not remain advantageous to the big muscle in the music business. Artists will become freed.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 PM on October 2, 2006


dhammond: apple couldnt "turn it around" they would have to punish everyone. Make everyone redownload every DRM piece of music they have ever gotten from Itunes. Not just people who buy from some potential other source.
posted by Iax at 9:08 PM on October 2, 2006


Iax, the change from iTunes 4 to iTunes 5 altered the DRM in some way. JHymn has been unable to strip the DRM off .mp4 files since iTunes 5 was released.
posted by salmacis at 12:55 AM on October 3, 2006


Apple will have to maintain backwards compatability with MP3s encoded with this version of their codec, or else risk alienating their userbase (Oh, I'm sorry, your songs are out of date and you need to re-download them or they won't work.)

I think you might be confused. Apple doesn't need to maintain any kind of backwards compatability, because they control the entire life of music purchased from iTunes. If they want to roll out new encryption today, and re-encrypt all their old stuff, they just add a new version of iTunes to Software Update, make sure the Music Store forces you to install the new version before you can do anything, and include automatic re-encryption functions in the new iTunes version. It'll walk through all your old iTunes purchases and re-encrypt them in the background.

Force an iPod Software Update through the same methods, and you're done.
posted by odinsdream at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2006


Second jam_pony's grammatical analysis.
posted by eritain at 12:19 AM on October 4, 2006


« Older The NSA Bibliographies...  |  Modest Muse: Author J.G. Balla... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments