Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hypocrisy of RealNetworks case against Apple

I find Real Media to be one of the most annoying video formats ever. I could rattle on about how much I hate this format, but I think I’ll save my criticism for another time. Recently, Real ran into some controversy when it came up with an audio format that utilizes Apple technology for their own iPod-compatabile downloads. As an advocate of open source technology, I would normally approve of such innovations. When it comes to RealNetworks, it’s just another form of grandstanding by a major hypocrite. Here’s some information recycled from a post by Donna Wentworth on the Copyfight Blog .

RealNetworks put Fred von Lohmann criticizing Apple's FairPlay on its "Freedom of Music Choice" campaign website homepage. But something tells me it may decide to veto Fred von Lohmann criticizing Real's undistinguished record on promoting choice via interoperability.

Writes Fred at

If Real actually cared about "Freedom of Music Choice," it would be telling its customers to burn the downloaded music they purchase to CD, then rip to any DRM-free format they like (including MP3, WAV, or AAC, all of which play just fine on the iPod). That's a much better option than being dragged into a feud between Apple and Real.

Meanwhile, Real's record for promoting the "healthy, open competition" made possible by reverse engineering for interoperability is less than inspiring. Consider, for example:

In the RealNetworks v. Streambox case, Real was among the first litigants to invoke the DMCA to squash a competitor trying to interoperate with Real's proprietary streaming software.

Real's own end-user licenses expressly forbid reverse engineering, even where that activity would be lawful as a fair use.

Real has been conspicuously silent when it comes to legislative reforms, like H.R. 107 , that have been introduced to reform the DMCA to permit legitimate reverse engineering.
E.P. Thursday, August 19, 2004