Apple Using DMCA To Limit What iPod Users Can Do

Nov 27th, 2008 | By | Category: iPods & Portable Media Players

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that Apple appears to be using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to limit what iPod owners can do with their portable media players:

At the heart of this is the iTunesDB file, the index that the iPod operating system uses to keep track of what playable media is on the device. Unless an application can write new data to this file, it won’t be able to “sync” music or other content to an iPod. The iTunesDB file has never been encrypted and is relatively well understood.

In iPods released after September 2007, however, Apple introduced a checksum hash to make it difficult for applications other than iTunes to write new data to the iTunesDB file, thereby hindering an iPod owner’s ability to use alternative software (like gtkpod, Winamp, or Songbird) to manage the files on her iPod.

The original checksum hash was reverse engineered in less than 36 hours. Apple, however, has recently updated the hashing mechanism in the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch. Those interested in using software other than iTunes to sync files to these new iPods will need to reverse engineer the hash again.

Discussions about that process were posted to the public bluwiki site. Although it doesn’t appear that the authors had yet figured out the new iTunesDB hashing mechanism, Apple’s lawyers nevertheless sent a nastygram to the wiki administrator, who took down the pages in question.

In a nutshell – Apple appears to be using the DMCA to limit you from using other software to manage your iTunes library. Even worse, Apple is trying to use the DMCA to limit your free speech and keep people from discussing how they can hack iTunes.

Apple may have some legitimate reasons – besides eliminating competition – to limit what apps can write to the iTunesDB file. It’s hard to imagine, though, a justification for Apple using the DMCA to censor what people discuss on the Internet.

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No Responses to “Apple Using DMCA To Limit What iPod Users Can Do”

  1. treocast says:

    This change is what eventually killed Podcast Ready’s iPod application. It didn’t replace iTunes, or even really compete with it (all it did was allow users to plug their iPod into *any* computer and download their updated podcasts) but Apple is very heavy-handed when it comes to what other companies can do with/to an iPod.

  2. john potter says:

    I have a Iphone, and have noticed that I can’t download content other than what Apple approves of.
    I am in the process of ditching my Iphone for a Storm, Blackberry, or other smart phone !
    It doesn’t seem right that I can’t download whatever I might want on my Iphone !

  3. Ken says:

    Sorry, folks, but that’s the sort of company that they actually are. Fanboys love their design (which IS great), but are the first to take their eyes off the ball when Jobs is simultaneously doing something that sets a bad precedent. Using the DMCA in a self-serving manner? Why not?

    This is the guy that set $.99 as the “standard” price for a single piece of music years ago. That’s roughly the same price as songs on a physical CD, which comes with better-quality sound, physical cover art and a booklet, etc. Record labels have been selling CDs in stores for well over two decades now, and seemed to get by fine. But y’know, the lack of manufacturing and distribution cost in the iTunes Store’s supply chain makes it obvious that the price should have actually been lower. So who do we have to thank for music being priced higher than it needs to be? Mr. “Genius”?

    This isn’t the first example, either. Suing a kid who’s had an Apple fan website since he was young, over his posting Apple information before Jobs wanted it posted? (Which turned out to be correct, BTW…)

    He’s not your friend, folks. Sometimes you’ve gotta take your eyes off the bright shiny object he’s holding, and look at what his other hand is doing…

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