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Apple stops PlayFair, but not for long

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Monday, April 12, 2004
News Categories: iTunes

The PlayFair project, which removes fair-use restrictions from music purchased through Apple’s [iTunes] online store, has become the latest victim of offshoring. Actually, that’s not quite true: only the hosting provider has moved to India. Not surprisingly, Apple has used the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to ask SourceForge to remove the project. SourceForge declined to use the Safe Harbor provisions of the Act. [...] The new location for PlayFair is at Sarovar, a hosting company for software libre projects based in Trivandrum, India.

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Comments

1

It certainly didn’t take long for a GUI version to show up.

And while I’m certain this will prove controversial, I have nothing but praise for this application and the developers behind it. It allows me to better use and enjoy music that I’ve legally purchased, and has made me *much* more interested in the iTMS.

I buy a lot of music. While I don’t have qualms about borrowing albums from friends, I like to support musicians and small record labels as much as possible (how much buying records contributes to this is a matter of some debate).

I *would* buy directly from the iTMS, but the restrictions - though liberal - are irritating. I’ve had several laptops and desktops at various jobs, and the three computer restriction has caused me several headaches.

And so I buy records from my local record store instead, and then rip them into high quality MP3 files. I make a backup file on an extra hard drive, and then often sell the physical CD back to a used record store. As a result, I support local businesses and the musicians behind the records that I enjoy.

While not a perfect solution, PlayFair affords me the same flexibility with tracks purchased from the iTMS. While I still plan to purchase physical albums (they’re often significantly cheaper), I’m now more inclined to purchase from the iTMS.

Should others share my sentiments, and I suspect many do, this has the potential to be a very good thing for online music; despite Apple’s legal saber rattling.

Posted by DCE on April 12, 2004 at 8:32 AM (PDT)

2

DCE—I agree with you that the rights restrictions are irritating. However, your workaround of going to the brick and mortar store, buying CDs and ripping them, is just as time consuming and irritating, isn’t it?

Why not simply burn your iTunes songs to audio CD, then rip to “high quality MP3” (as you say you’re doing). Haven’t you achieved the same result without a trip to the store (which is much the point of online music anyway). By the way, if part of your reasoning is you want to support brick and mortar CD stores, that’s fine, I just don’t see why burning your iTunes songs to CD (which is perfectly legal and gives you the songs without any irritating Digital Rights Management) doesn’t achieve the same thing as what you’ve described.

The other problem with this is: if the music industry becomes convinced that the iTunes Music Store has been successfully hacked to the point where it is encouraging piracy, they may stop supplying music to iTMS. That will create less competition for CDs, and CD prices may float up again. As well, the music industry will release even more CDs with the truly incredibly irritating copy protection which makes it difficult to rip to MP3.

Frankly, on this one, I’d be happy to see Apple beat it somehow.

Posted by PD on April 12, 2004 at 8:59 AM (PDT)

3

PD: I get what you’re saying, but it’s not really a convenience issue for me. I enjoy going to the record store, you know?

A more important concern is the loss of quality. While I don’t claim to have the ears of an audiophile, removing the DRM by converting the AAC to AIFF and then again to an MP3 is a bit extreme. Better to encode just once with a store bought record. Indeed, I suspect that part of the reason record labels and musicians aren’t concerned about the CD burning loophole is because a copy of a copy of a 128 kpbs encoded AAC file is clearly not as good as the real thing.

And I agree with your concerns about the iTMS being “hacked”. But I’m secretly hoping - and perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here - that PlayFair will end up increasing music sales via the iTMS. The application, after all, is only useful on music that *has already been legally purchased*.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this all develops.

Posted by DCE on April 12, 2004 at 9:31 AM (PDT)

4

Burning an iTMS song to CD and then ripping to MP3 will result in a loss of quality. The music from iTMS is encoded at a bitrate of 128 and there is no way to improve that. Buying the physical CD and ripping that to MP3 can result in a MUCH better quality MP3 since you can choose what bitrate you want to rip at.

Posted by Shadow on April 12, 2004 at 9:33 AM (PDT)

5

Adding artwork to ripped from CD tracks is a pain. iTMS tracks have the advantage of already having the artwork. Also, at least in theory, the tagging of iTMS tracks should be of consistent quality - particularly relevant for classical tracks where the pulled from the internet tags vary wildly. It is much more convenient to buy iTMS tracks, then to buy CDs, rip, edit tags, search for and add artwork to tracks.

I also find the Apple DRM to be a pain and it is why I haven’t bought any iTMS tracks for a long time. With a reliable Playfair the iTMS becomes much more attractive to me.

And speaking of reliability, the key thing to remember about Playfair is that it gets the key from your iPod, not from your Mac (although apparently the windows version gets it from the computer - the same info ought to be on the Mac - perhaps the authors haven’t figured out where yet). If the tracks have never been placed on the iPod then the iPod may not have the needed key. Secondly you have to keep in mind that a single iTMS account may have multiple keys. Just because your iPod has the key(s) from some of your tracks does not imply that it has the keys for all of your tracks. So the long and short of using Playfair is that you must be sure that you have placed the tracks onto your iPod at some point. It may work without having done this, but it may not. Lastly, make sure you are using version 0.5 or later. Previous versions did not handle errors well and didn’t report errors, making its use all the more mysterious.

Posted by SteveJ on April 12, 2004 at 10:53 AM (PDT)

6

Okay, very good point about the sound quality. I don’t know how that slipped my mind! Because I’m really with you on this one—I mostly listen to jazz, classical, Brazilian music. Sound quality is something I care about, which is why I’ve only bought 6 or 7 tunes from iTMS, and those were really just out of curiosity. I’ve been hoping someone would see the market niche for selling higher quality downloadable files. I’d happily pay another 20 cents or something for AAC files at 192 kbps, say.

Posted by PD on April 12, 2004 at 10:55 AM (PDT)

7

DCE—I forgot to say I’m with you in enjoying going to record stores too. Take a trip to Amoeba music in Los Angeles on Friday night or Saturday and you’d think no one ever heard of downloading music, legally or illegally. The place is mobbed.

And to Steve J—if you don’t mind dealing with two programs, Musicmatch Jukebox automatically adds the album art even to songs from CDs you yourself are ripping—it grabs the art from the internet along with the song names. I’ve wondered why iTunes doesn’t have an option to do the same. But actually, I don’t really care about the art—it’s just increasing the file size anyway, right? Which means less music on the beloved iPod.

Posted by PD on April 12, 2004 at 10:59 AM (PDT)

8

Regarding automatically adding artwork - I’m on a Mac, but I have tried several programs that automatically add artwork. They aren’t entirely reliable (sometimes getting the wrong artwork) and even when they do work, I want it to look at two sources: first amazon.com, but if the artwork does not have a “click for larger” version from them then the artwork is too small, so then I want the artwork from allmusic.com which is larger than the small version from amazon.com. I guess I’m too picky. smile

Posted by Steve J on April 12, 2004 at 11:33 AM (PDT)

9

“I’ve been hoping someone would see the market niche for selling higher quality downloadable files. I’d happily pay another 20 cents or something for AAC files at 192 kbps, say.”

allofmp3.com

Russian music download site. Very cheap. Lets you choose your format and your bitrate/quality using their “Online Encoding” system:

—————————-

We can encode not only to MP3. Also supports Windows Media Audio (WMA7, WMA8, WMA9), OGG Vorbis formats, MPEG-4 AAC and MPEG+ formats.

Which encoding parameters you use?

Bitrate 128: -q0 -m -j (highest quality, joint-stereo)
Bitrate from 160 and more: -q0 -k (highest quality, stereo, psicho-acoustic filters disabled)

If you using presets, you can choose one of this:
—alt-preset standard
—alt-preset extreme
—alt-preset insane
—alt-preset 128-320 (abr) 

Posted by Higher Quality Downloads on April 12, 2004 at 12:16 PM (PDT)

10

DCE - Your solution - buying CD’s, copying them, and then selling the originals - is illegal. Why not just download illegal copies? Why not just shoplift the CD’s? Better yet - shoplift the CD’s, copy them, and then sell them!!!

Posted by De Badd Ass on April 12, 2004 at 1:43 PM (PDT)

11

If you find yourself inconvenienced by FairPlay, and need to buy CDs, rip them and resell them, do you also:

...find yourself inconvenienced by all the weighing and money exchanges that goes on in produce stands, and instead steal your apples and grapes? Maybe you could support local farmers by usually stealing fruit imported from other countries. That would tip the scales for local farmers, without handing over your hard earned cash to those big food distributors.

...find yourself inconvenienced by all the queues and money exchanges that goes on in theaters, and instead sneak into your movies thru a back door? Maybe you could support movie talent by buying posters of the flick instead, or the novelized version in print or something. Damn theater middle-men and their taxing the public to see flicks!

...find yourself inconvenienced by all the shopping and money exchanges that goes on just to obtain software, and instead unlock Office and Final Cut Pro from warez sites? Apple and Microsoft don’t even list the talent that writes their applications. They just stamp their name on it and sell at mad profits!

Ugh what has the world come to? All the little guys are being oppressed by the big corporations that take all their money to market them and distribute and manage their products. Nobody in the worldwide economy should benefit from their labors unless they are the main act or the most visible and deserving party. Until things change, I’m just stealing everything I can get away with.

My line of logic makes is all fine and good.


Posted by danieleran on April 12, 2004 at 2:14 PM (PDT)

12

I feel that circumventing any of iTunes DRM features is wrong.  They allow you to burn the song as much as you like, put it on as many iPods as you want, and use it on 3 computers . . .

The only reason, IMO, to disable this feature is to share it illegally.

In response to the first post, I often buy CDs, rip them, and then sell them.  This does support all parties involved, and you end up paying less per album (if owning the physical CD isn’t a concern).

Posted by jhart71 on April 12, 2004 at 2:33 PM (PDT)

13

jhart71 - Do you also rent Movies, and copy them? Do you copy HBO movies or NFL broadcasts?

Do you sell computer games after you play them?

Do you smoke pot?

Do you drive over the speed limit?

These are all popular illegal activities. I admit that I have done a few of these. I have even written letters advocating higher speed limits. The popularity does not make them legal, or fall under any definition of “fair use”.

The fact is: taping an HBO movie is the same as copying a Blockbuster tape; is the same as buying a tape at Walmart, copying it, and then selling the original without destroying all copies. In fact - selling the original without destroying the copy is the same as selling the copy and keeping the original.

Ditto CD’s.

I not telling you to not do it. I’m asking you to recognize that every form of stealing is the same as the others, and to not imply otherwise. It bothers me when journalists and other writers recommend one illegal activity as an acceptable alternative to another.

It’s kinda like suggesting home grown pot is an acceptable alternative to street drugs. [Don’t go there!]

Posted by De Badd Ass on April 12, 2004 at 3:14 PM (PDT)

14

De Badd ###:

Get a life, will you?

Posted by txc on April 12, 2004 at 4:50 PM (PDT)

15

Copyright infringement is not stealing.  Besides, copyright is a socialist concept and has no place in a free market.  If you don’t want something copied, then don’t publish it.

Posted by alter-ergo on April 12, 2004 at 5:30 PM (PDT)

16

danieleran - stripping the DRM from iTMS tracks you’ve purchased is “wrong”, but buying CDs, ripping them and then selling the CD while keeping the rips is just peachy? Bizarre. Or maybe you were joking?

Posted by SteveJ on April 12, 2004 at 5:45 PM (PDT)

17

Please people. The purchasing of a CD allows you the right to listen to the songs contained within. You do not own the songs on the CD. You have simply purchased the right to listen to them. There are no limitations on length of time. In other words, if you purchased a song in 1967 and have lost the song since then by whatever means, you are still LEGALLY intitled to be able to listen to the song. Now, legally the music/record companies should allow you to re-purchase the song for the cost of re-burning to media and shipping/taxes etc. However, they do not. I repeat… It is NOT illegal to download a song you have LEGALLY purchased. There is no time limit to this. Therefore, purchasing CDs, ripping them, and re-selling them back to music stores as used is LEGAL.

C’mon the RIAA has worked hard brainwashing people to beleive this is illegal, when it isn’t…check the licensing and laws.

Posted by Technophile on April 12, 2004 at 6:08 PM (PDT)

18

Thanks technophile, you pretty much made the argument I was going to make in response to Badd ###.

Still, I understand your point BA, and expected someone to make it. Legal hair splitting aside, I truly believe that there’s a fundamental difference between making a copy of purchased music for personal use, and stealing food from a grocery store. Perhaps we can just agree to disagree on that point.

But I don’t think you can equate making a copy of an HBO move or an iTMS track to the wholesale and unauthorized distribution of that material. It’s not even in the same ballpark.

But PlayFair doesn’t really allow for this kind of abuse. In order for it to work I have to have 1: Already purchased music and 2: Own an iPod. Item number one more or less obviates any notions of “stealing music”. All the application does, then, is make it easier for me to enjoy the recordings I’ve invested in.

Which, for me, means sometimes sharing that music with friends as they share with me. That’s how I learn about new artists and am inclined to buy more - either from the iTMS or elsewhere.

And here’s something to think about: Had Apple had its way, I don’t think there’d be *any* DRM on tracks from the iTMS. The fewer restrictions on the product, the better the store will perform. This is why they opted for the least restrictive DRM scheme they could find - not because they don’t want people doing whatever they want with their music, but because the major record labels insisted on it.

As such, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that there are some people at Apple who are secretly pleased about PlayFair. It allows the iTMS to function as it was truly intended.

Posted by DCE on April 12, 2004 at 7:20 PM (PDT)

19

“copyright is a socialist concept and has no place in a free market.”

ROTFLMSFAO

Riiiiiiight. So the Founding Fathers, who wrote the concept of copyright into the Constitution, were socialists. Okay.

Posted by ROTFLMAO on April 13, 2004 at 6:14 AM (PDT)

20

As far as buying a record in 1967 and losing it and having the right to download it forever ..... how about this:

If I’ve heard the record - let’s say on the radio - and the appropriate fee has been paid by the broadcasting company - why don’t I have the right to hear it again at the same price I paid? For free? Shouldn’t I now be able to download it for free too?

The records purchased in 1967 didn’t come with a never wear out - replace at low cost guarantee. If your bong tipped over on it a few years later and ruined the record - you were SOL -out of your tunes….

Posted by Deep Thought on April 13, 2004 at 7:40 AM (PDT)

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