On Monday, RealNetworks announced a public beta of their Harmony software, a technology that allows consumers to listen to legally downloaded, digitally protected music on 100’s of portable devices, including Apple’s popular iPod. The significance of this announcement is that before Harmony, there was no way of playing, for instance, music downloaded from Real’s Music Store on an iPod.
Apple responded to that news by stating that the company was “stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod,” and hinted at possible violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Real has just issued a response to Apple’s statement, saying that Harmony is all about creating consumer choice. The statement reads:
Real is delighted by initial consumer and music industry support for Harmony. Compatibility, choice and quality are critically important to consumers and Harmony provides all of these to users of the iPod and over 70 other music devices including those from Creative, Rio, iRiver, and others. RealPlayer Music Store provides the highest sound quality of any download music service. That’s why so many consumers have welcomed news of Harmony. Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod.
Harmony follows in a well established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq.
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.
We remain fully committed to Harmony and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple iPod, choice and compatibility.
With Apple Computer treating this as a breach of ethical code and RealNetworks making it an issue of what’s good for the consumer, the war of words is certainly not over. Stick with Designtechnica as we continue to follow this story.
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