I’ve been following the debate regarding Real Networks releasing their new Harmony software. This software allows users to purchase songs from Real and copy them to an Apple iPod as well as any device capable of playing protected WMA files. I think it is great that Real is givin Apple iPod owners an alternative to iTunes Music Store because choice is always a good thing. What I can’t believe is how upset iPod users and Apple loyalists are about this. Real hasn’t done anything wrong; I’ve studied the DMCA and read several articles and Real has is in the clear. Real isn’t causing the iPod to loose functionality and is not precluding future purchases from iTunes. Yet, many people are outraged because they perceived that Real has committed such a horrible act, most likely due in part to Apple talking about the “hacker tactics” of Real.
In every other situation I can think of, users are elated to have an “aftermarket” option. People love to be able to modify their cars with audio equipment and performance parts and there is even the Magnussen Moss Warranty Act to help reinforce this right. Many people upgrade their computers and some people modify Xboxs and TiVos with third part hardware. However, a third party (Real) releases a optional feature for the iPod, and users revolt. I can’t believe that Apple users are so fond of their environment that the possibility of an external option is seen as a threat. It shows how much brand loyalty Apple has. I wish I could find a link now, but I recently read that a majority of iPod owners surveyed had no idea that they couldn’t play music purchased from online music stores other than iTunes. This is a testament as to how easy Apple products are to use, so much so that users don’t even look to other options are are perhaps afraid of them.
Here’s a quote from an interesting article:
If I want to use Real’s service to download music to my own device, where’s the breaking and entering? What Real had done was make the iPod ‘interoperable’? with another format. If Boyle’s word processing program can convert Microsoft Word files into Boyle’s format, allowing Word users to switch programs, am I ‘breaking into Word’??
It’s not like Real figured out the FairPlay DRM on their own. Jon Johansen (a.k.a. DVD Jon) published code to remove the FairPlay DRM many months ago. Jon at least had the ethics to leave personal information identifying the purchaser of the music attached to the file to discourage illegal trading. I’ve heard of other programs that remove all information, which seems not to be in the best interests of fair use. I have about 6000 songs on my PC and everyone was purchased legitimately; not being able to play protected files that own on devices that I own is very frustrating and I can see why people would want to remove DRM for legitimate purposes.
By the way, I purchase songs online from MusicMatch. I’m surprised how low key they’ve been over the past 6 months, especially after seeing a stat in PC Magazine that they had higher traffic than Real and Napster. All I’ve heard is iTunes, Napster, and Real but MusicMatch is a great alternative with high-quality 168 kpbs downloads in WMA format. However, I must say the ability to play DRM-protected songs from Real on either an iPod or any WMA portable player makes it a very attractive alternative.