Apple Accuses RealNetworks of Hacking

Apple has issued a statement accusing RealNetworks of hacker-like tactics for its Harmony technology, which will allow content from Real's music store to be played on Apple's IPod.

RealNetworks announced earlier this week that its updated software will let songs downloaded from its own music store be played on a variety of devices. The company quickly shot back to Apple's rebuke, saying it has done nothing wrong, and reaffirming its commitment to developing Harmony.

"We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the IPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws, says Apple's statement. "We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our IPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future IPods.

For its part, Real Networks says customers have welcomed the introduction of Harmony.

"Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their IPod," Real Networks says in a statement to MacCentral.

A Legal Matter?

Apple's statement says the company will investigate the implications of RealNetwork's actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But representatives of RealNetworks say they are following well-established tradition of fully legal independent developed paths to achieve compatibility.

"There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq," RealNetworks says in its statement. "Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real's music store in a way that is compatible with the IPod, Windows Media DRM devices, and Helix DRM devices. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any digital rights management system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software."

Jupiter Research Senior Analyst Joe Wilcox is cautious about commenting on legal issues, but notes that Apple has other ways to deal with RealNetworks.

"I assume Real wouldn't have taken the risk without confidence there would be no legal consequences," Wilcox says. "However, there are always technological consequences.

Real reiterates its commitment to Harmony "and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple IPod, choice and compatibility."

This story, "Apple Accuses RealNetworks of Hacking" was originally published by MacCentral.

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