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Apple, Napster in spat over music security

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, February 17, 2005
News Categories: iTunes

Apple CEO Steve Jobs contacted top record industry executives Tuesday, alerting them to a security flaw in the Napster To Go service, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Thought you should know if you haven’t heard about this,” Jobs reportedly wrote in an e-mail that directed recipients to a website detailing how to convert Napster’s copy-protected downloads into unprotected files.

Napster CEO Chris Gorog countered with his own e-mail to the labels later Tuesday, saying that such copying schemes were neither new nor a Napster exclusive problem. He said such programs are time-consuming because they “essentially work like a tape recorder,” converting files as they play. Gorog said it is “trivial” to download a free utility to circumvent Apple’s digital rights management to unlock “a large collection of iTunes music in seconds.”

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Comments

1

Yes, but it’s a bit different with Napster because of their subscription model. I can sign up, pay my monthly fee, download everything I feel like, un-DRM it, then cancel my subscription.

To do the same with iTunes would involve actually paying for everything…

I know I could use these methods to anti-DRM someone else’s purchases, but this approach to Napster would open up possibilities for literally everyone, even those who have no friends. grin

Posted by Magic Rabbits in Aberdeen, Scotland on February 17, 2005 at 7:01 AM (PDT)

2

From a neutral standpoint this seems like Jobs is a little worried about the Napster To Go, and he is trying to bury them in controversy. I dont buy music, so I could care less about either service, but I think Jobs should just be content with his ultra successful itunes platform, before trying to rat out competitors. This may be an interesting development for these two companies.

Posted by LupinIII in Illinois on February 17, 2005 at 7:05 AM (PDT)

3

JHymm is the reason I use the iTMS. it is trivial to get the files into an unprotected format so they can be used however i want. i think it’s a huge benefit. otherwise i’d only buy CDs.

Posted by mrfett in Washington, D.C. on February 17, 2005 at 7:45 AM (PDT)

4

Even if I can unlock an iTunes track, I’ve still payed for it, so who cares?  That’s the problem with the subscription model.  A real crack will be out soon for Napster (the current one takes a bit of work).  And then I can sign up for one month, download ten thousand tracks, crack them all, then never pay again. 

Then the record labels and the RIAA will go after Napster in a legal battle.  Then Napster will be dead.

Posted by m. sherman in Northern VA on February 17, 2005 at 7:48 AM (PDT)

5

I agree. The subscription model makes it so much more conversion so much more attractive. Even if you don’t dl and convert thousands of songs. Even if in one month you do a few hundreds, say 15-20 every night after work. It’s still a lot of songs for $15. Lots of people would agree that, that’s tempting.

I also agree though that Jobs, should have left the matter alone. His feeding the flame is just bringing more public attention to Napster.

Posted by Nipith in Los Angeles, CA on February 17, 2005 at 7:58 AM (PDT)

6

Napster started the mudslinging with their Super Bowl ad.  Personally, with an subscription based system, I can’t see how Napster’s business model is even viable.  Not many people are going to slowly download the tracks they want over a year, they’ll do a mad dash in the first few months and cancel.  All that will happen is file-sharing networks will be flooded with high quality, ‘official’ mp3s.

Posted by quadraphonic in alberta | canada on February 17, 2005 at 8:37 AM (PDT)

7

Does anybody else thinks this whole scenario sounds suspicious? Why would Steve Jobs send an email pointing out the flaws of a rival when he must be aware that there are ways to unlock iTunes downloads as well?

I can change my mail client information and make an email look like it came from just about anybody. I think some joker “spoofed” an email to make it look like it came from Steve.

Posted by JamesR in San Antonio, TX on February 17, 2005 at 10:49 AM (PDT)

8

Because the same flaws hurt napster’s subscription plan a whole hell of a lot more than itunes pay per download method.

Besides, if someone were truely making a “spoofed” email, I’d think they’d do something a little more creative than this.

Posted by ACLeroK212 on February 17, 2005 at 11:13 AM (PDT)

9

Napster has you pay $15 for the use of the music. If you download 10,000 songs and then use some software to unlock the mp3s, then that would be stealing the music… since Napster IS ONLY renting the music out. This is what record companies DO NOT want. However, if you buy an iTune, then convert it to an mp3, then all you did is make your $0.99 AAC protected file a $0.99 unprotected MP3, which you could have purchased elsewhere anyway. The only reason to convert iTunes is because they have a higher quality store and are a company that deserve to get my money for music. Napster, however, intend to take away your music once you stop paying for their service. That sucks. So, if you all want to use Napster and steal all the music you rent, more power to you. Napster will eventually be forced to stop offering the service. Then the record companies might start thinking… and realize that ANYONE can go down to their local library and borrow CDs, put them on their computer, and then take them right back to the library without paying a single dime!... except those of us with late fees… Darn you late fees!!!!!

Posted by starperformer in Fort Worth, TX on February 17, 2005 at 11:53 AM (PDT)

10

starperformer:  while i agree that napster’s service has the capabilities of supporting much more illegal conversions on a larger scale, it is just as illegal to take your itunes purchased songs and convert them into an unprotected format in order to get around security.

“You agree that you will not attempt to, or encourage or assist any other person to, circumvent or modify any security technology or software that is part of the Service or used to administer the Usage Rules.”

taken straight from the iTMS terms of service.

Posted by ACLeroK212 on February 17, 2005 at 12:17 PM (PDT)

11

Jobs is such a d**K.  That’s just a low class move.

Posted by stark23x on February 17, 2005 at 12:18 PM (PDT)

12

starperformer: Point taken about the library thing…But how many libraries do you know that have the same selection as iTunes and/or Napster?

Posted by Cameron T. on February 17, 2005 at 12:19 PM (PDT)

13

I agree this sounds suspicious. While Steve Jobs and Apple have been known to spout off in the past, like with the Real Harmony case, an e-mail that purports to be from Steve Jobs highlighting a well-known known blog post is questionable unless the e-mail can be produced or Apple issues an official comment.

Posted by Chris VandeVenter in Bismarck, ND on February 17, 2005 at 12:30 PM (PDT)

14

i hope Jobs didnt really do this, if he did ...well thats just a plain B**CH move!

Posted by b6662966 on February 17, 2005 at 1:02 PM (PDT)

15

so was attacking the iPod with an overstated, and frankly uninformative, ad , during the super bowl no less.

Posted by ACLeroK212 on February 17, 2005 at 1:13 PM (PDT)

16

iTunes = $.99 cents a song + ability to burn to CD

Napster = $15 dollars a month for unlimited renting. In the end, you lose when you miss a playment and your entire musical nest egg falls onto the ground and cracks open. If Napster dies because of this output stacker trick, those songs you rented would no longer be playable, even if you did spend 15 dollars a month paying for them.

Posted by Mahzorim iPod in Wildwood on February 17, 2005 at 2:23 PM (PDT)

17

Gorog was right to point out that this is not a “hack” and too time-consuming for most people. However, the subscription model is vulnerable to this method of recording and the per-track model is not. To listen (and record) an iTunes track one must first purchase it and then it would be far easier (and sound better than recording) to simply burn the track as an Audio CD.

As for the eMail, it would not surprise me if Steve Jobs actually did this but let us not forget that this was done in the context of a SuperBowl ad by Napster having a go at iTunes.  You do the math.

Posted by Sol in Brisbane, Australia on February 17, 2005 at 6:58 PM (PDT)

18

I agree with JamesR, it does sound unlike anything Jobs would do.  He’s on top of the world right now…  Napster isn’t a real threat.  Its not like Napster is making a digital music player anyway.  Its just selling music.  Like M$.  But its gonna be a while before the Apple Music model gets toppled. 

Posted by apple juice in USA on February 18, 2005 at 5:54 AM (PDT)

19

I think that Napster shows a lot of nerve in their comment on their website:

“We hope that the information provided above clarifies the matter and puts questions regarding the security of Napster and Napster To Go to rest. Napster’s mission is to provide consumers with a legal environment in which they can experience and discover the world’s largest collection of digital music. We believe that artists should be compensated for their work and intellectual property rights should be respected. While we acknowledge there are always going to be those who do not share our belief, we remain committed to providing the most enjoyable and flexible digital music experience for those who do.”

Hell, they’re the ones that started music downloading in the first place, and this is just playing lip-service to the concept of legal downloading.

I don’t believe Steve sent email about this, either. Is this is usual way of commenting to the public?

Posted by Durandal on February 18, 2005 at 12:35 PM (PDT)

20

The Unlimiting Renting vs owning thing—- anyone subscribing to netflix or blockbuster’s unlimited service? Would you prefer to buy one DVD a month for $20 or belong to one of these services and rent dozens of movies? Music is different than movies, but not that different. Not too many years from now, it’ll all be subscription based services. It’ll be like your cable bill.

Posted by leertracy in Los Angeles on March 21, 2005 at 1:38 PM (PDT)

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