New lawsuits challenge Apple’s FairPlay DRM

“When it comes to legal action over downloaded music, the defendants are often individuals: The lone user downloads one too many copyrighted files and Big Media goes on the offensive. But now, the little guy is turning the tables,” Catherine Holahan reports for BusinessWeek. “A fresh crop of lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals argue that it’s the big companies that are ripping off the consumer.”

Holahan reports, “Melanie Tucker, a San Diego resident, says Apple Computer unfairly restricts how its iTunes Store customers can use legally purchased music. Apple uses its so-called Digital Rights Management, or DRM, software to prevent iTunes songs from easily running on media players that compete with its iPods. (The files can be converted but the process is time-consuming and can be confusing.) Apple’s brand of DRM software, called FairPlay, also prevents music purchased through services other than iTunes from playing on the iPod.”

MacDailyNews Note: FairPlay does not “prevent music purchased through services other than iTunes from playing on the iPod.” In fact, it is the other services’ DRM (almost all of the also-rans use Microsoft’s DRM) that is not supported in Apple’s iPod. Microsoft’s DRM also does not support Mac users, while Apple’s FairPlay supports both Mac and Windows. Apple’s iTunes Store is actually the most inclusive of all the services that are forced to use DRM by the music cartels.

Holahan continues, “Tucker maintains that the company, which controls between 70% to more than 85% of the legal music download market and perhaps a 90% share of the digital music player market, is behaving like an overly aggressive monopoly, stifling competition in violation of antitrust legislation.”

“Tucker’s suit comes on the heels of a March, 2006 class action filed by Scott Ruth against music industry players including Sony BMG Music Entertainment (owned by Sony and Bertelsmann Media), Universal Music Group, Time Warner Music Group, and EMI. Ruth, an Arizona resident, argues that the labels are violating antitrust agreements by using DRM to prevent music from being sold by a variety of retailers, thereby stifling competition that could keep prices down. Both Ruth and Tucker’s suits seek compensation for music download customers as well as a change in the restrictions,” Holahan reports.

MacDailyNews Take: That’s better.

Holahan continues, “Both Apple and Microsoft, maker of the Zune music player, have said they have not made their products interoperable because people want a seamless experience between download store and device.”

MacDailyNews Take: You know, it’s shocking that the Zune is even mentioned. There are much more successful iPod also-rans than Microsoft’s Zune. SanDisk, for example. Creative, even. Enough with the Zune already, mainstream media types. You’re reporting on a player/service that nobody owns or uses and that just sounds stupid.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We wish DRM didn’t exist. Apple doesn’t need it: both the iPod and iTunes are plenty strong enough to appeal to large swaths of consumers on their own merits. Plus, it’s so easily removed, that’s it’s pointless. The mass pirates the music labels are worried about aren’t going to let a little DRM get in their way, so the only people DRM is affecting are regular, law-abiding consumers who just want to listen to their music. Thankfully, Apple’s iTunes Store allows music to be burned without DRM to music CD to the played in CD players and/or transferred to any device they desire.

18 Comments

  1. Apple…for God’s sake…license Fairplay, already! Make it the standard DRM! Then 95% of these issues go away. If I could play my iTunes music on a Zune, SanDisk, Creative, or Dell device, why…I’d STILL buy an iPod!!!!

  2. I suspect there is language about licensing FairPlay, or the lack thereof, in Apple’s contracts with the record labels. Obviously there have been instances where it’s happened, such as Motorola, but I suspect that convincing the labels to do this en masse would go over as well as convincing them to drop individual song prices to 25¢.

  3. hairbo:

    I agree totally. I think Apple do not give themselves the credit they deserve for the iPod. It sells itself and tying the downloads to the iPod to keep people upgrading and buying iPods is more like a Microsoft thing.

    Apple should license the fair play DRM and they will still sell the most music players. They would just reinforce the iPods position as being the best media devices by their own merit.

  4. British Mac Head “…Apple should license the fair play DRM”

    Maybe that was part of the deal with Creative following the settlement of the law suit. I don’t think the full contents of the settlement were ever made public.

    All Apple has to do is to licence it to one other player – not MS – and much of this would go away.

    That said, it’s not that difficult to get round it and you wonder how much of this is instigated by MS.

  5. Apple is a company that is owned by it’s shareholders.

    Apple does put it’s customers first but it still has a duty to it’s shareholders.

    Apple will do what makes the best economic sense to Apple and to it’s shareholders.

    Helping Apple’s competitors, which is really what these lawsuits are all about, is not in Apple’s best interest, not in Apple’s shareholders best interest and, when you think about the chaos that multi stores and multi hardware sources has done to the PlaysForSure crowd, not in Apple’s customers best interest.

    Anyone who says otherwise must have a dog in this hunt.

  6. Apple uses its so-called Digital Rights Management, or DRM, software to prevent iTunes songs from easily running on media players that compete with its iPods. (The files can be converted but the process is time-consuming and can be confusing.)

    Only if you’re a retard. What, it’s not enough that the DRM can be removed, it has to be idiot-easy too?

  7. Apple has sold far too many songs through iTunes to take advice on their business model. If the ITS was struggling, then maybe calls to open up FairPlay would be meaningful, but why now? Because of lawsuits?

    In America, lawsuits are a sign of success. If your product becomes ubiquitous (and therefore a juicy target), law firms will audition for sypathetic-looking plaintiffs and roll the dice in court – actual merit has nothing to do with it.

    I have never once felt the restrictions of FairPlay DRM.

  8. DRM is what enables Apple to keep people from illegally copying and sharing files purchased on the iTunes store. Yes, it is still possible to get around the DRM encryption, but the time investment to do so is not typically worth it to the average consumer. Since music is only 99¢, people are not trying to steal as much.

    If Apple opened up its DRM to other companies, its music would have to be playable on other software. It would make it far easier to plagerize the music, and drive the price way up from 99¢, and cause the companies that have invested their music in iTunes to maybe pull out. Apple has no control over how other companies may design software.

    Apple is under no obligation to open up their DRM. Is Sony under an obligation to make all of their games playable, not only on Playstation, but on XBOX and/or anything else? Certainly not!

    Of course a few people are copying and sharing music off of iTunes right now. Most people are not, however! I don’t see why people are so upset. iTunes is a free download, and you can burn any purchase to CD. So you can’t put the music directly onto your Zune. You can still listen to it and make a CD of it with no additional purchase.

  9. Consumers choosing a superior end-to-end experience is not an overly aggressive monopoly. We have plenty of choice, namely, buying CDs and ripping them DRM-free into whatever music program you use and onto whatever digital music player you use. Nobody’s tied to iTunes. People simply choose it because it’s a seamless, problem-free experience.

  10. I agree with you HELLO. Microsoft makes an operating system and software which is incompatible with any other operating system. People invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars in their software, making them tied into their operating system. This is the biggest reason most people would never even consider switching to Mac. Even with Boot Camp, most people are afraid to leave a pure Windows platform because they believe they will have some difficulty running their software.

    My grandmother struggles greatly switching between OS X and Windows on her Mac Mini. It’s still an added difficulty, even for older people.

    People are not locked into iTunes once they purchase all the music. Why not have two different software applications on your computer with music? There’s no rule saying all your music must come from the same place.

  11. Hey Lady!!! You know you can burn a CD with your itunes music and reload it into your Piece Of Crap Zune? It’s the simplest way around and no one else does this that I know of. It pisses me off to no end how stupid people are and how they will sue for anything. The worse is that they than win thanks to even dumber judges!!! It seems like since Apple is having a very successful year, everyone who doesn’t like them wants to take a bite.
    Also, if your Grandma is having trouble switching between Mac and Windows on a mini, then perhaps you should give her back the knitting needles. Sorry but that is NOT a difficult task to do!

  12. “Tucker maintains that the company, which controls between 70% to more than 85% of the legal music download market and perhaps a 90% share of the digital music player market, is behaving like an overly aggressive monopoly, stifling competition in violation of antitrust legislation.”

    Apple/iTS has had the same model for music DRM since it was introduced. How can anyone honestly suggest that maintaining the same behavior that the company has engaged in from the beginning (when the company obviously could not have been a monopoly) is “behaving like an overly aggressive monopoly, stifling competition in violation of antitrust legislation”?

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