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Summary:

Days after releasing an update to iTunes that blocked the Palm Pre from syncing, Apple has ended another dispute concerning iTunes, this time by settling. Last November, Apple began issuing cease-and-desist letters to Odioworks, which runs Bluwiki, a public wiki. In this case, people were publishing […]

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Days after releasing an update to iTunes that blocked the Palm Pre from syncing, Apple has ended another dispute concerning iTunes, this time by settling.

Last November, Apple began issuing cease-and-desist letters to Odioworks, which runs Bluwiki, a public wiki. In this case, people were publishing decompiled code from iTunesDB, the library file that stores music and playlist information for an iTunes user. The goal was simple: Make Apple devices interoperable with other media applications, like Songbird.

Apple asserted this was a violation of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, raising the possibility of legal action. In response, Bluwiki took down the pages and sought legal assistance. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took the case and Odioworks v. Apple was born.

Today, it died, though what ultimately killed the lawsuit is up for debate. If you believe Apple’s letter (PDF), it was because the technology was rendered moot. Apple had “stopped utilizing the code in question,” thus publishing the code was “no longer of any harm or benefit to anyone.” A less charitable interpretation might be that Apple’s legal maneuverings had successfully prevented open discussion, at least at Bluwiki, until changes were made to iTunes.

The problem is that what Apple did was wrong. The DMCA explicitly allows reverse engineering for “analyzing those elements of the programs that are necessary to achieve interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs.” It’s anti-competitive behavior like this that makes appropriate action like stopping the Pre hack seem less so.

  1. Why is everyone so upset over Apple trying to protect it’s products/technology?? Like with the Pre… why should Apple provide something for it’s competitors? If the palm wants their customers to be able to sync up their phones… then palm should make something of their own. and I hope they do it fast for their sake. I know several sprint customers that were fooled into buying an pre and now they are so envious of my 3G S.

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  2. The problem is that Apple protecting itself by acting inappropriately with Bluwiki reflects badly on appropriate actions against Palm. It’s the kind of overbearing attitude that gets the likes of the US DOJ or, worse, the EU to force hardware interoperability between players, and you can bet Apple doesn’t want that.

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  3. actually it is not yet decided if what Apple did is wrong. because no one has said that Apple can not tie itunes to its products. so long as permission is implied and not contested then Apple very likely is in the right on the songbird/pre fronts. because these folks did circumvent the software locks that Apple currently has the right to have in place. much like the whole Psystar issue.

    what is needed is for someone to drop copyright for the moment and hit Apple with an antitrust suit claiming that due to the ipod strength in the portable digital music player market, such tying is abusive. then when Apple loses they will have no choice but to allow folks like Palm, Songbird etc to do the syncing via itunes. at least of non DRM items.

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