Apple sends baseless takedown notice to hackers discussing iTunesDB code

It’s no secret that Apple wants everyone to use iTunes, especially to sync with their iPod. I personally can’t stand iTunes and prefer Winamp, and many others share my view but have enjoyed Apple hardware. Some more code-savvy people than myself have in years past determined how to read and write to the proprietary iTunesDB file, allowing non-Apple software to sync with iPods.

Apple countered by encrypting the file, which encryption was cracked before two days were out. They’ve now re-encrypted it, and some folks at BluWiki have been discussing how to once again get at the information to allow third-party programs to be able to sync. At least, until Apple sent them a takedown notice citing DMCA laws.

Leaving aside the layman’s issue of “why didn’t they do this years ago if it’s so illegal,” anyone who knows the DMCA can immediately see that this notice is total bull. Fred Lohmann at the EFF appears to know somewhat more than myself, so I’ll let him explain in detail, but the gist is that:

  • The posts discussing the iTunes hash do not fall under any of the categories of restriction by the DMCA in the first place
  • Even if they did, the iTunesDB is not copyrighted material, it is created by iTunes much in the way a word processor might created a text document and as such is not subject to copyright concerns.
  • Even if it were, the DMCA allows for reverse engineering in order to create interoperability among devices
  • And even if it didn’t, the DMCA doesn’t outlaw dissemination of information that could lead to circumvention of DRM.
    • Perhaps it’s just an overzealous lawyer throwing Apple’s weight around, but really, how could they blow it so badly? What the people at BluWiki are doing is not only perfectly legal, but helpful for consumers who prefer a different setup for their media player. It looks to me like a rather spiteful move by Apple legal, and although I’m sure it didn’t come down from the Steve to letter-bomb some innocent wiki, I’m guessing this news will make it up to him — and his Steveness will certainly be displeased.