Patent infringement lawsuit clears Apple, but fails invalidity bid
Apple has prevailed in a patent lawsuit concerning the sale and distribution of DRM-protected content, but did not win on all points. The lawsuit brought against Apple by ContentGuard has been dismissed after a jury found Apple did not infringe on five antipiracy patents, but at the same time the jury decided Apple did not do enough to prove the patents were invalid in court, meaning that other companies could still be sued over the very same patents in the future.
High-resolution audio codec and Apple Music incompatible
While many of us were looking forward to the launch of Apple Music, it has been far from a smooth launch. Making the biggest headlines, of course, has been the woes of experienced by Jim Dalrymple. We've also highlighted issues with shared iTunes libraries, and other library corruption issues. I recently wrote about the way Apple Music works with DRM and handles ALAC files, and in that piece we promised to get back to you when we heard from Apple about how Apple Music handles your own ALAC music files -- and now we have an answer.
Fragile utility for tinkerers and music fans
Here's how fragile and delicate this app is: we couldn't get it to work. At all. Not even with the help of its developers. Consequently, this could be a very short review -- but it's an interesting area, and we have a word count so if we can't do a Hands On, at least we can try to put our finger on what's wrong with M4P-to-MP3 Converter 1.30.8. Plus, it is one of those names that tells you what the application does, but if you understand what it does, you likely know how to do it yourself, so there is an issue of whether it's even worth your fiddling with.
Even lapsed former subscribers saw issues with cover art, metadata
[Update -- not all problems are fixed] A problem in the new iTunes 12.2 update -- which including a substantial behind-the-scenes change to the database part of the program to accommodate the new Apple Music features, and which caused confusion in metadata and album art in song files -- has allegedly been fixed in a new update, bringing the program to version 12.2.1. The update, now available through the Mac App Store, is also said to correct a problem where uploaded DRM-free music in users' iCloud Music Libraries had been replaced with DRM-enabled Apple Music versions.
Firefox OS-based streaming device gaining faster processor, new Wi-Fi antenna
Matchstick, a streaming dongle similar to the Google Chromecast, is going to be delayed shipping out to customers, the project has announced. The Kickstarter-funded Firefox OS device is being held back until August rather than its initial shipping target of February, as the company is going to redesign it to account for a faster chipset, as well as adding in digital rights management (DRM) systems.
Plaintiffs discovered to have bought iPods after DRM software removed
A 10-year-long lawsuit between Apple and Real in which the latter accuses the iPhone maker of deliberately altering its software solely to block Real's hack of Apple's FairPlay DRM software might be terminated over a previously-undiscovered legal issue found by Apple attorneys. Apple has informed the court that neither of the two women who represent the class of affected plaintiffs were, in fact, affected by the accused software change -- as they bought their iPods either before or after the software in question was in force.
Explains why DRM was formerly required by record companies, more
Day three of the Real vs. Apple trial over allegations that Apple deliberately blocked rival stores' DRM music files on the iPod (a potential antitrust violation) continued today with testimony from Eddy Cue, Apple's SVP of Internet software and services and the executive in charge of the iTunes Store. Cue was on the stand for hours, going through an explanation of why the original iTunes Store had to have digital rights management in the first place, how Apple developed its FairPlay wrapper, and why it chose not to license FairPlay to others.
User content, such as MP3s ripped from CDs, never at risk
Day two of the Real versus Apple trial over Apple's FairPlay DRM and alleged anti-trust actions potentially taken by the Cupertino manufactured concluded yesterday, after hyperbole from both legal teams. Real's attorney Patrick Coughlin claimed that Apple gave users the "worst possible experience" and would "blow up" music purchased from unauthorized stores. Apple defended itself, saying that the obtuse warning that iTunes gave when detecting hacked files didn't need to be more specific, and it was only protecting users from an array of attacks plaguing the device.
Real seeking $350 million in damages, declaration by Apple about decade-old issue
The Apple versus Real anti-trust trial centering around Apple's use of FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent piracy (or block other music stores, as Real claims) has begun, as expected. Lawyers for the complainants continue to claim that changes in iTunes blocking other companies' music stores from functioning on the iPod allowed Apple to raise prices. Real's attorneys seek $350 million in damages in the long-postponed suit that dates back nearly a decade. The trial, expected to last three weeks, is being held in the Oakland, California federal courts.
Company pairs with Adobe for EME implementation in desktop browser versions
Mozilla has made a difficult decision today, having to pick between sticking to its guns on the open internet or implementing a feature into their browsers that users will want. The developer has decided will work with Adobe to implement HTML5 digital rights management (DRM) into Firefox in order to make sure customers will still be able to view media content within their browser.
Judge rules plaintiff unable to show any anti-competitive harm done
A woman who initially sued Apple in 2005 over the iPod, the iTunes Store and the FairPlay DRM that Apple once used (at the insistence of the record companies) to prevent purchased songs from being pirated has lost an appeal in an attempt to reinstate the case. For a second time, a judge has ruled that Stacey Somers and her attorneys have been unable to show that Apple created or abused its iTunes "monopoly," that prices had escalated overall due to Apple's lock-in, or that consumers were harmed in any way by Apple's behavior.
Move could shut out resale of used games
A recently-published patent application from Sony has revealed a new prototype digital rights management scheme that embeds small radio frequency identification (RFID) chips into game disks that will serve to prevent games previously played on another system to be played on other systems, effectively halting the sale of used games. The patent was filed in September and awaits approval by the US Patent Office.
Future Tor Books to be DRM-free
Tor Books, the fantasy and sci-fi publisher, plans to remove DRM from its entire library of e-books by July. This move makes Tor one of the largest book publishers to have shied away from DRM protection.
Media on multiple devices, supports UltraViolet
Some of the same studios that developed the the UltraViolet digital standard are launching a new initiative to make content available across multiple devices. SanDisk, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group and Western Digital
have formed a new working group dubbed the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA) to develop a new digital rights management (DRM) protocol that would make digital media available across multiple devices and through the cloud. The group will develop the system under the working title "Project Phenix."
Studios had hoped for an iTunes alternative
Customers who are having problems or are dissatisfied with Ultraviolet, the digital streaming movie alternative to iTunes, are ironically being given iTunes redemption codes when their complaints cannot be resolved, reports AppleInsider. The Ultraviolet format, which is support mainly by Sony and Warner Brothers, has received harsh reviews and complaints from critics and consumers alike, doesn't work with Apple TV and some other iOS devices.
Retailer attempts to dispel rumors
Following Amazon's announcement of its Android Appstore and DRM protection, the retailer has attempted to clarify several of the terms that have been met with criticism or uncertainty. Developers will be able to opt out of the DRM option if they so choose. The system also works with a 'small token' that downloads to a user's device for authentication, enabling the service to work when an Internet connection is unavailable.
Tobias posts code to assist developers secure apps
Tobias, the white hat hacker who recently revealed a proof-of-concept crack for the copy protection on Windows Phone 7 apps has taken steps to develop a solution for his own hack. His FreeMarketplace code (only 65.5kb in size) took only about 6 hours to develop, but in the process demonstrated how easily the Microsoft’s app DRM copy-protection for WP7 could be stripped. The crack was not intended to harm the WP7 Marketplace, but was intended as a critique of Microsoft’s seemingly lax security. To help protect developers in the interim, while Microsoft develops its own solution, Tobias has posted code that developers can deploy in their apps to help protect them from piracy.
Company likely to battle circumvention in court
Intel has confirmed that the alleged HDCP 'Master Key,' leaked earlier this week, is the specific code used to secure the copyright-protection standard. The code presumably could be used to create usable source and sync keys, effectively circumventing the DRM protections used in many Blu-ray players, DVD players, displays and set-top boxes.
IEEE proposes Digital Personal Property standard
The IEEE P1817 working group has come into effect last month and proposes a file protection system that aims to allow users to share their digital files but keep them protected from outright copying at the same time. Known as Digital Personal Property (DPP), it includes two pieces of a digital file and would be a less restrictive alternative to DRM file protection. There would be a title folder and a playkey. The title folder would contain the encrypted file, while a playkey would grant access.
Blu-ray Managed Copy
An updated version of the Blu-ray standard will allow for limited copying, the head of the group behind the format's copy protection has acknowledged. Michael Ayers, chairman of the AACS Licensing Authority, confirms that almost all discs released after the first quarter of 2010 should allow one full-resolution copy, known as a Managed Copy. Videos will be writable to Blu-ray or DVD discs, or a Windows Media DRM-compatible file; alternately, a file may be included on-disc.
Apple refutes DRM claims
Apple has refuted recent claims that the new iPod shuffle integrates DRM technology to prevent third-party companies from making compatible products without paying fees. iLounge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted the presence of a chip behind the buttons on the in-line controls, leading to the presumption that the component provided authentication for the signal.
EFF attacks iPod shuffle
Apple is headed in the wrong direction with the redesigned iPod shuffle, claims the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The public advocacy group notes that while Apple has mostly disposed of DRM in terms of music files, it has effectively added more by limiting which audio hardware can connect to the player's headphone jack. If not used with official Apple earbuds, the player will require an adapter or officially-sanctioned third-party headphones.
Shuffle has DRM issues
Apple's new iPod Shuffle has added a new layer of hardware DRM, possibly preventing third-party companies from reverse-engineering the Shuffle technology in order to build headphones. Electronic Frontier and iLounge have discovered an Apple authentication chip DRM (Digital Right Management) requirement that will mean third-party headphone makers will have to pay fees for the authentication chip and design headphones with the chip included. The authentication chip provides a legal means to prevent headphone makers from reverse-engineering the Shuffle output to create a set of headphones that work with the new iPod. Apple could sue any companies that attempted such an effort for DCMA violations.
Vodafone drops MP3 DRM
Vodafone has announced plans to switch the majority of its music catalog to a DRM-free MP3 format. The phone carrier says it has signed deals with Sony, EMI and Universal, which will allow tracks bought from the record labels to be copied freely between phones, computers and dedicated media players. Vodafone claims that it will also be the first provider in the world to do dual delivery, by which a track can be downloaded to both a phone and a computer at no extra charge, and with no device sync.
Nokia music going DRM-free
Music sold through Nokia's Comes With Music service will eventually go DRM-free, according to one of the company's executives. Adam Mirabella, the director of Nokia's Global Digital Music Retail division, says that the company is currently in negotiations with various groups, and has fixed removing DRM as a long-term goal. No specific record labels have been named, nor has a firm date been set for when the transition will occur.
Norway drops iTunes issues
Norway's consumer watchdog has put an end to the lengthy conflict with Apple regarding iTunes DRM restrictions, according to the AFP. The Market Council opposed the anti-piracy protection because of the incompatibility with MP3 players other than Apple's own iPod line. The company recently ignored a November 3rd deadline imposed by the Ombudsman, Bjoern Erik Thon, who threatened to take the case before the Market Council if all iTunes tracks were not made compatible with other media players.
iTunes at MW09
In concluding its Macworld 2009 keynote, Apple has confirmed a switch to a variable pricing model for iTunes music, where previously the company charged a flat 99 cents per track. Beginning in April the company will offer three tiers of pricing: 69 cents, 99 cents and finally $1.29, with a greater proportion of tracks falling under the bottom tier than the top; all tracks aged less than six years should remain at 99 cents. The scheme is said to be attributable to flexibility demands from record companies.
iTunes flexible pricing
Apple has allegedly backed away from its strict pricing policies for iTunes songs, although the same negotiations could also mean that music from the big three labels could soon be DRM-free, according to CNET News. A source suggests that the tracks will fall into three pricing categories, including a higher-priced level for hit songs, which many media companies have pushed for. The shift could lead to higher profits for sales of popular singles.
Labels split on iTunes DRM
Hold-out major labels are split on what they want before allowing DRM-free tracks on the iTunes Store, anonymous sources claim. Although Apple CEO Steve Jobs has claimed to want DRM-free tracks on iTunes, only EMI and a host of independent labels have so far offered any material which can be copied without arbitrary restrictions. Apple benefits financially from DRM by forcing iTunes customers to use iPods for many tracks; this is not why DRM-free tracks have been slow in proliferating however, according to the sources.
DisplayPort DRM conflict
Apple is under fire once again for its use of copyright protection, with the implementation of High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) into the Mini DisplayPort video connection found on the latest MacBook, MacBook Pro, and Air notebooks, according to Macworld.com. The enforcement of HDCP protection had caused problems for a number of iTunes customers, preventing them from playing videos on external displays that were not compatible with the protection standard.
Norway vs. iTunes Store
Apple should soon face scrutiny from the Norwegian government over practices at the iTunes Store, writes the Associated Press. Bjoern Erik Thon, the consumer ombudsman for Norway, says he is planning to bring Apple in front of the government's Market Council, over allegations that the iTunes Store is closed off to non-Apple media players. The company has until November 3rd to respond; Thon has been pushing for a voluntary change for two years however, on the basis that Apple's practices break Norwegian law.
Wal-Mart done with DRM
Wal-Mart is following the actions of Microsoft, Yahoo and Virgin, shutting down its DRM (Digital Rights Management) servers on October 9. The move will render any Wal-Mart-purchased, copy protected WMA music files inert if not burned to CD prior to the server shutdown. Boing Boing is reporting that Wal-Mart has emailed customers warning them of the impending server shutdown and its effect on their collections.
20 new Digital Copy DVDs
20th Century Fox has announced a slate of new movies in its Digital Copy program. Digital Copy is a partnership with Apple, and bundles a digital version of a movie with its DVD counterpart; the file is pre-formatted for iTunes, making it convenient to sync with devices like iPhones and Apple TVs, although the file is not DRM-free, as with a normal DVD rip. Digital Copies can also be loaded onto Windows Media-compatible devices.
Studios back Sony DRM
A Tuesday report has the majority of the big movie studios and distributors supporting a plan put forth by Sony Pictures that would decrease the restrictions Digital Rights Management (DRM) imposes on users' ability to enjoy their purchased videos and movies. Last year, Sony Pictures proposed a set of policies and software and service framework it called Open Market that would allow larger flexibility of DRM content and let customers enjoy content on various devices they must first register.
Yahoo Music DRM deadline
All ability to copy or transfer tracks bought through Yahoo Music will end with the month of September, an announcement indicates. Beginning on October 1st the company is shutting off the delivery of DRM keys for tracks, a move which should leave the music playable locally, but difficult if not impossible to copy to a portable player, second hard drive, or compact disc. The deadline follows months after the closure of Yahoo Music sales, which have since been replaced by a partnership with Real's DRM-free Rhapsody service.
iPhone Monkey Ball hack
A group of hackers say they have cracked Apple's close Fairplay DRM on Sega's Super Monkey Balll for iPhone. A posting on Haklabs points to a download link for the pirated game. A number of users who commented on the site say they were succesfully able to run Super Monkey Ball on a jailbroken version 2.0 iPhone using SSH. Other users, however, said they couldn't get the game to work and questioned whether the hack was legitimate.
X360 DRM transfer tool
After several years of Xbox 360 owners having to remain signed into Live to access purchased content on exchanged or repaired consoles, Microsoft on Thursday finally unveiled a DRM Transfer Tool allowing users to play content without a Live connection. Gamerscore writes that the tool provides users with the ability to re-register their games and downloaded content once per year to a new console. The process will not work on movie files, since Microsoft does not consider the content to be "owned' by the user.
Can. Copyright Act tabled
The Canadian government's Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, has today officially tabled Bill C-61, a set of proposed amendments to the country's Copyright Act. Early versions of the changes have been criticized by thousands of citizens -- and a number of businesses and other organizations -- as overly harsh, and too close in nature to the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Prentice has defended amendments as necessary for bringing compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty Canada signed in 1996.
NBC on Vista TV recording
Recent interference with Vista Media Center recording was accidental, NBC says. TV viewers last week reported being unable to record episodes of American Gladiators and Medium, and instead receiving messages saying that DRM restrictions had been enabled. This triggered a number of of online complaints, including concerns that NBC was attempting to deter the use of DVRs, which allow people to skip unwanted advertising and other distractions.
Vista MC halts recordings
Users of Microsoft Vista's Media Center were unable to record prime-time NBC TV shows on Monday night. Reports maintain the problem was caused by a broadcast flag which activated Media Center's DRM copy protection measures, stopping recordings of over-the-air and cable broadcasts. Neither NBC nor Microsoft have an explanation for the issue, but are looking into it. No other reports of such problems came from users of either DirecTV or TiVo DVR services.
BD+ protection cracked
The latest effort at blocking unofficial copying of Blu-ray movies has been undone, the developers of a cracking utility claim. AnyDVD 126.96.36.199 adds the ability to bypass BD+ encoding, used on a number of discs to prevent either direct copying, or ripping to a hard drive. This change is said to particularly affect releases from 20th Century Fox, who have led the adoption of BD+, while other companies continue with variants of AACS. AnyDVD is now also better compatible with regular DVDs using Arccos protection.
Hymn Project shuts down
The creators of the Hymn Project have once again been forced to shut down, a site moderator has announced. Apple has served the current website with a cease-and-desist order, insisting that all downloads of the associated software be removed. The moderators are further blocking anyone from linking the software on the site, or even pointing people to functionally similar applications.
Yahoo DRM-Free Leak
Yahoo is in talks to revamp its music store to remove copy protection, says a report from the Chinese news agency SINA. Two record label executives have allegedly confirmed that Yahoo is in preliminary negotiations to change its service from its current, Windows Media protected format to an unspecified, unguarded format that would be interchangeable between devices and players. Yahoo spokeswoman Carrie Davis has confirmed that the company has discussed shedding digital rights management (DRM) on its music with labels but has also denied any new escalation in talks.
EMI threatens IFPI, RIAA
Major label EMI may be leaving the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), reports say. Its executives are further said to be engaged in talks with Warner, Universal and Sony BMG, in an attempt to alter the priorities and structure are several trade groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). EMI sent a letter to IFPI officials for that very reason, claiming that it would abandon its membership unless the organization conformed to EMI's interests. Funding to the IFPI could be cut off by March 31st.
Napster to switch to MP3s
Online music service Napster, which has for some time only sold tracks in a protected Windows Media Audio format, will soon begin selling music in the form of unprotected MP3s, according to Reuters. Starting in the second quarter of 2008, at least a portion of the files sold or offered via subscription will be unprotected, in what may perhaps be the most significant such announcement since Amazon's digital store launch. Napster claims to have some 750,000 subscribers, who make use of both plans and permanent downloads.
Lawsuit: Apple is monopoly
Apple has become a monopoly, a recent lawsuit against the company alleges. The case was filed by one Stacie Somers, who says that the company's dominance in media players, and online music and video, violates the Sherman Antitrust Act; specifically, the Somers complaint revolves around Windows Media Audio, which is notably unsupported by both the iPod and iTunes, despite the fact that it is one of the most common music formats for sale, and it is said that Apple could easily afford a license from Microsoft. Somers estiamtes the maximum cost of a license at $800,000. Some vendors of WMA tracks include Best Buy, Yahoo, Napster and Virgin Digital.
Apple files DRM patent
After many years of having its software not subject to copy protection or digital rights management, Apple may be looking to correct this with a new patent application entitled "Run-Time Code Injection To Perform Checks". PC World reports that the patent, dated December 13th, would be some sort of digital rights management system that would "restrict execution of that application to specific hardware platforms." Apple notes that some users that are proficient at circumventing protection methods could easily bypass dongles or encrypting software if it is worth enough to them, so Apple's approach relies on hardware-embedded cryptographic key mechanism that would inject bits of code into the application's execution stream, generating data that compares the digitally signed code with the DRM module.
MS No-Skip Video Ad Patent
Microsoft is attempting to secure a patent for technology that would prevent users from skipping ads in downloaded videos, according to a new filing with the US Patent Office. The technique would insert a digital rights management (DRM) token inside the file that would prevent users from playing the intended video until relevant ads are viewed. It would also allow a content producer to insert ads into a downloaded video at its own discretion.
Deutsche Grammophon store
The Universal-owned Deutsche Grammophon, a famous international classical label, has at last launched its own digital online store. While much of the music found on the site can also be bought elsewhere, the DG Web Shop is already playing host to some 600 albums which are no longer on CD, with more out-of-print titles expected in the future. Total album count is currently near 2,400. Perhaps most important is the music's format: while Universal has already been selling some music DRM-free, the DG site goes a step further by using an ultra-high 320kbps bitrate. Even Apple's iTunes Plus service limits files to 256kbps.