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Apple Legal Tries Again To Keep PlayFair At Bay

Apple Legal Tries Again To Keep PlayFair At Bay

by , 1:00 PM EDT, May 6th, 2004

Remember the Open Source application, PlayFair? It's an application that allows you to make songs purchased from Apple's iTunes Music Store playable on any music player, not just iPods, stripping the DRM out of the song.

The application was originally hosted on SourceForge, a US-based Web site dedicated to open source development. The project was pulled from the Web site shortly after being launched after Apple sent a Cease and Desist letter to SourceForge itself. The company cited the DMCA in its C&D, saying that PlayFair was in violation of that law.

PlayFair then found a home in the Indian Open Source community and has been, until yesterday, available at Sarovar.org. Yet again, the software has been pulled at Apple's behest, but this time, the Indian Open Source community is fighting back. The Financial Express, an Indian e-business Web site, reports that the Indian Open Source community believes it has a right to post the application, and that Indian Digital Rights Management (DRM) laws fall short of providing Apple with legal footing to demand the software's removal. From the Financial Express article:

While Apple Computers is crying foul over violation of its copyright, Sarovar.org, which has now withdrawn the tool from its website, claims that they had not done anything wrong. Despite repeated calls and e-mails to Apple officials, the company chose not to comment on the issue.

"Neither we nor Apple knows the point they are trying to make. Everyone knows that their claim does not stand anywhere. Even now they aren't telling us what's wrong. They are quoting Indian IT Act (which, ironically, says ISPs or network providers cannot be sued in such matters) and the Copyright Act (again, PlayFair is a free software written from scratch). We took down PlayFair just to avoid troubling our sponsors. Apple sent a notice to them as well," a Sarovar.org spokesperson replied to an email.

You can read the full report at the Financial Express website.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Whether you believe Apple is justified in leashing PlayFair, or that this is just another example of Apple's overzealousness in attacking anything that hints at threatening Apple's IP, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Apple would strenuously protect the iTMS/iPod connection. Whether or not Apple will be able to do anything about this overseas, however, is another issue.

That's one of the obviously futile aspects of the DMCA; those interested in doing something prohibited by the DMCA can oh-so easily take it to another country where US laws isn't applicable. Of course, should that happen often enough, the labels' and other copyright holders will likely be able to get a law passed making it illegal for people in the US to access these other sites.

This is a tough issue for us. On the one hand, we loathe DRM of all sorts, and think it fundamentally wrong to be treated like thieves when we aren't thieves; that's exactly what DRM, even Apple's DRM, does. On the other hand, of course, is the fact that Apple has to deal with the major labels, at least for the time being, in order to offer the labels' catalogs online. That means keeping the short-sighted suits in charge of the labels mollified, and that means DRM, and protecting that DRM, on our music downloads.

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