The BBC reports that Real has produced software that allows users of iPod devices to play music made available by other providers. Previously iPod’s FairPlay software only allowed music provided by Apple to be played on iPods. However, Real’s Harmony program will check the music device the tune is to be played on and will change its format if necessary. The company claims that it is not infringing Apple’s IP rights in the FairPlay DRM software because it mimics that software. Apple had not comment to make on the issue.

The IPKat notes that while the law protects DRM systems, there is a lot to be said for allowing players to be compatible with downloads from other sources. He wonders whether engineering players so that they only play music from the manufacturer of the players could be seen as being anticompetitive.

More competition for apple here,  here  and here

UPDATE: Apple has accused Real of "hacker tactics" and says that it will be looking closely at whether Real's developments are compatible with the DMCA. It has also warned consumers that when it updates its iPods, the machines are likely to become incompatible with the Harmony program. See further here.



  1. Hello cat,
    I am extremely annoyed by the anticompetitive practices of Apple. I downloaded ITunes and bought a Grace Jones album just to find out that I cannot play the songs on any mp3 players other than IPOd,and moreover, I cannot play the songs on any pc-players other than Quick Time (that by the way sucks!). No worries for the moment since most of the songs available are either old or rubbish (the indies did not strike a deal with Apple yet), but I truly hope competition prevails at a certain point, no more microsofts please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ciao !

  2. The relevant analogy is printer cartridges or nail guns.

    Nothing requires the manufacturer to make a standards compliant or interoperable gun or printer - each manufacturer is free under the guise of competition to produce proprietary guns/printers or cartridges. Equally, digital music producers and players should be free to do the same thing.

    However, within that freedom lies the risk of anticompetitive behaviour: abusive pricing practices, etc. Also, general principles of "interface exclusion" would allow reverse engineering and production of compatible digital music, just like real has done.

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