Real cracks Apple’s Fairplay; to sell iPod-compatible songs without Apple’s authorization

RealNetworks has apparently been hard at work reverse-engineering Apple’s proprietary Fairplay Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

“Tomorrow, without Apple’s authorization, RealNetworks will start to give away software that will allow people to buy and download songs from its online music store and then play them on Apple’s popular iPod portable devices in addition to those that use the Windows Media Player format and RealNetwork’s Helix format,” Saul Hansell reports for The New York Times. “This will be the first time any company other than Apple has sold songs for the iPod.”

“When users buy songs from RealNetworks, they are downloaded to their hard drive in a format that RealNetworks controls. Using the company’s new software called Harmony that is being introduced in a test version tomorrow, the songs can be copied on up to five portable devices – including those from Apple, Creative, Rio, Samsung and others,” Hansell reports.

“Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research, said this technology might give a temporary advantage to RealNetworks’s music store, which has a very small share of the market so far. But he thinks Microsoft will also find a way to sell songs to be downloaded on iPods,” Hansell reports. “RealNetworks tried to win acceptance for its formats, Mr. Bernoff said, but in music it has failed. ‘The most important battle is between Apple and Microsoft,’ he said.” Full article here.

Allison Linn reports for The Associated Press, “In an interview Friday, RealNetworks chief executive Rob Glaser said he did not know how Apple would react to the new technology… Glaser said the new the system works by essentially translating the various anti-piracy technologies, to make the players’ systems compatible with RealNetworks’ system. RealNetworks said it was not concerned that the system would be illegal. ‘We are making it so that consumers can buy music once and play it anywhere,’ Glaser said.” Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Harmony” must be the name of the anchor that Real is desperately throwing out in a vain attempt to catch the side of the rim as they circle the bowl.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
RealPlayer Music Store announces iPod harmony – July 26, 2004
Apple’s QuickTime vaults into close second in media player market share – June 11, 2004
Spurned by Apple, RealNetworks cozies up to Microsoft for portable music – April 29, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: Steve Jobs’ comments on Real ‘not succeeding’ are ‘ridiculously humorous’ – April 29, 2004
NY Times: Real CEO Glaser was close to having ‘iPod’ before Apple, but let it ‘slip through his fingers’ – April 24, 2004
Apple’s refusal to license Fairplay DRM has nothing to do with past ‘OS Wars’ – April 22, 2004
Real’s CEO Glaser: Apple’s iPod/iTunes combo ‘threatens to turn off consumers’ – April 20, 2004
Jobs to Glaser: go pound sand – April 16, 2004
Real: ‘We don’t understand why Steve Jobs just doesn’t want to open the iPod’ – April 15, 2004
Will Apple’s ‘go it alone’ strategy turn iPod into the next Mac? – April 15, 2004
RealNetworks urges Apple to license Fairplay DRM; wants to form ‘tactical alliance’ in online music biz – April 15, 2004
Real CEO hopes for Apple iPod opening – March 31, 2004
Apple should not let any other online music services work with iPod – March 24, 2004
Real CEO Glaser begs Apple to make iPod play nice with other music services – March 24, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: ‘iTunes is only going to be used for playing songs you bought using the iTunes store’ – January 16, 2004


  1. From Apple’s Software License Agreement: “… you may not copy, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify, or create derivative works of the Apple Software or any part thereof.”

    I wonder if this will be another lawsuit? Maybe Apple can just buy Real, and end their misery.

  2. The labels aren’t going to go for this. Corporations working to crack DRMs? This is one time where I hope the labels come swooping in a open a can of whoop-ass on Real and the rest of the Wintel hegemony. The best thing they can do is revoke Real’s licenses to sell music on their store. That’ll teach ’em. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  3. Is this such a bad thing really? I thought Apple makes very little money off of each song it sells, and quite a bit off of each iPod it sells.

    I suppose it is rather insulting to Apple, and if people don’t use iTunes, the supposed iTunes halo effect won’t work, and it does give a advantage to others.

    Time will tell.

  4. Unless they did the reverse engineering behind a chinese wall (and even then), they are probably in violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright law…that would cause them all kinds of grief.

  5. Big deal … all this does is give free publicity to Apple and the iPod.

    “You can now use Real music on your iPod” … so a lot of Real users will go out buy iPods … and install iTunes which comes with it. Once they compare the two jukeboxes which do you think they will use?

    Thanks Real

  6. Interesting how this article elicits one of two different reactions (essentially) from the posters. 1) who cares if it’s illegal, Apple will benefit and 2), this is wrong and I hope Apple stops it.

    The fact that it is likely illegal doesn’t seem to bother some people. I wonder why there is a lack of moral fiber in the country when people react like that?

    Wrong is supposed to be wrong, not OK if the right party benefits.

  7. Despite all the advantages for Apple and the iPod on this issue, if they did reverse engineering (at Real Networks), Apple will sue them as a principle.

    Apple cannot let anyone to reverse engineering their own software that, by the way, costs tons of dollars. And all we know, Apple is one of the companies that spends most on R&D software, hardware, etc.

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