Apple's attempt to quash an effort to help the latest iPods and iPhones work with non-Apple software such as the Linux operating system is out of line, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said Tuesday.
Earlier this month, a lawyer from Apple's legal counsel, O'Melveny & Myers, managed to get an open source project called the iPodhash pulled from Bluwiki, a free Web site used to create Wiki pages, saying the project is illegal under the terms of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
[ See how Apple lays down the law with its App Store in "Apple resurrects iPhone tethering app, then kills it again" | Keep up on the latest tech news headlines at InfoWorld News, or subscribe to the Today's Headlines newsletter. ]
"It has come to our attention that a website you operate, www.bluwiki.com, is disseminating information designed to circumvent Apple's FairPlay digital rights management system," wrote O'Melveny & Myers representative Ian Ramage in an e-mail that was later posted to Bluwiki. "FairPlay is considered anti-circumvention technology under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA explicitly prohibits the dissemination of information that can be used to circumvent such technology."
Bluwiki's founder, Sam Odio, complied with the takedown request, but in an interview Tuesday he said that iPodhash's developer is not trying to get around Apple's copy protection. "He's not developing software to unencrypt the songs," he said. "What he's actually doing is unencrypting the database."
Here's how the EFF explained the matter in a posting to its blog Tuesday by senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann:
"In September 2007, Apple introduced new software into iTunes and the iPod that runs a cryptographic operation on iTunes data, creating a special number called a checksum hash. The number is used to ensure that the iPod is talking to Apple's iTunes software, rather than other programs such as Winamp or Songbird.
"The Apple checksum was quickly reverse-engineered, allowing those other music-playing applications to be used with Apple's devices. Recently, however, Apple shipped new versions of the iPhone and iPod touch that use a new crypto technique that has not been cracked. That's what the engineers were discussing on Bluwiki," von Lohmann said.
"Although it doesn't appear that the authors had yet figured out the new iTunesDB hashing mechanism, Apple's lawyers nevertheless sent a nastygram to the wiki administrator," he wrote.
Neither Apple nor O'Melveny & Myers responded to requests for comment for this story.
In an interview, von Lohmann said Apple was using the DMCA to stifle free speech. "Apple is essentially saying here that people can't even talk about the mechanisms that Apple uses to lock in its music to the iTunes software," he said.