Apple Computer recently has been waging a back-and-forth battle with the hackers who created PyMusique, a solution that strips Apple's FairPlay digital-rights-management technology from any track boug
Antony Bruno is senior writer/digital for Billboard.
Apple Computer recently has been waging a back-and-forth battle with the hackers who created PyMusique, a solution that strips Apple's FairPlay digital-rights-management technology from any track bought from iTunes. But just this past February, Steve Jobs contacted major record labels directing them to a blog containing a hack method for the new Napster to Go service.
That Jobs would make a point of highlighting a competitor's security weakness is puzzling, given the shaky DRM ground on which Apple stands. The PyMusique solution is hardly the first shot at cracking Apple's DRM code. Several existing free solutions similarly strip the FairPlay DRM protection from iTunes-purchased files, such as that found at hymn-project.org. Additionally, there are several ways for iPod owners to swap entire music libraries from iPod to iPod in a fraction of the time it would take to download them.
The digital music industry remains in its formative stages, generating excitement and innovation from the music and technology industries alike and engaging a growing number of consumers. For every DRM solution created, there is someone working to defeat it.
And as interest in digital music grows, Apple can expect additional hackers to target the closed iTunes/iPod system. Initiatives like PyMusique and hymn-project.org exist not because of a desire to steal music, but rather because consumers demand the ability to play legally purchased music on any device or system they want, just like they can with CDs.
So long as the flexibility of authorized digital music is inhibited, some consumers will not have any qualms using other technologies to break that protection to exercise what they consider their usage rights.
What is it they say about people who live in glass houses? This is not the time to point fingers at your competitors' security holes when they could be better used plugging your own.
Sure, Napster has taken a shot at Apple with its "Do the Math" advertising campaign touting the benefits of a subscription service over the pay-per-download model. But that is a legitimate debate on an emerging issue that is being discussed throughout the industry.
By all means, highlight and compete on the differences in your user interface, your music discovery capabilities, your value proposition, even the devices you support.
But trying to compete on who has the best protection only serves to cast the entire digital music industry in a negative light.