Apple is sued after pressuring open-source iTunes project

Apple forced Bluwiki to take down the iPodhash project last December

The operator of a technology discussion forum has sued Apple, claiming that the company used U.S. copyright law to curb legitimate discussion of its iTunes software.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, could test the limits of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It centers around an open-source effort to help iPods and iPhones work with software other than Apple's iTunes.

Last November Apple's lawyers demanded that the Bluwiki.com Web site remove a project called iPodhash, saying that it violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions.

The lawsuit was filed jointly in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and attorneys representing OdioWorks a small Herndon, Virginia, company that runs Bluwiki.

Lawyers argue that the iPodhash discussions were about reverse-engineering software, not breaking copy protection, and ask for a court ruling to clarify the matter.

The EFF has previously argued that reverse engineering in order to build new products is permitted under the DMCA. However, this case is a little different, according to Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the digital civil liberties organization.

"This is the first time I've seen a company suggest that simply talking about reverse engineering violates the DMCA," he said. "All of the previous cases have been cases that involved actual successful reverse-engineered tools."

Bluwiki is a free wiki service that hosts discussion pages for a number of projects. After Apple's November takedown letter, three Web pages that talked about a cryptographic function used by iTunes were removed from the Bluwiki Web site.

Open-source developers have been working on breaking cryptographic mechanisms used by iTunes since 2007.

That's when Apple first introduced a special operation, called a checksum hash, into its products to ensure that Apple's devices were communicating with iTunes and not some other type of software.

Developers reverse-engineered Apple's checksum mechanism, but in late 2008 the company introduced a new version of the crypto-technique with its iPod Touch and iPhone products. That's what was being discussed when Apple filed its takedown notice.

The EFF and OdioWorks say iPodhash was trying to get the iPod and iPhone to work with other software such as Winamp or Songbird, and that the work would also help iPod and iPhone users who ran the Linux operating system, because Apple doesn't ship a version of iTunes for Linux.

However, in a Dec. 17 letter to the EFF, Apple's law firm said that the EFF is "mistaken" to assume that this technology is only used to authenticate the iTunes software. The work also threatens Apple's FairPlay copy-protection system, the letter states.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

In an interview Monday, OdioWorks Founder Sam Odio said that he believes that the iPodhash's lead developer, who went by the pseudonym Israr, would pick up the discussion if OdioWorks and the EFF win the case.

"What this guy was doing was legitimate," Odio said. "He was just trying to reverse engineer Apple's products to try to get them to work with Linux and other third-party software"

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppledmcaEFFdigital musiclegalopensourceiTunes

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?