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Apple Faces Lawsuit Over DRM

Joe Lewis
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-12-31

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Apple has faced a fair amount of scrutiny in recent weeks concerning the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology tied to its online music store, iTunes. It now appears that the company is in for a legal battle over its DRM practices as well.

It hasn't been a good week for Apple.

First, the company has been all over the news as part of an ongoing investigation concerning the handling of options owned by the company's executives, not the least of which includes Steve Jobs.

Now it looks as though the black cloud of shady DRM practices is looming directly over Apple's head, with no sign of leaving anytime soon.

A lawsuit, filed back in July, is over Apple's use of DRM which prevents iTunes music and video from playing on any other portal media device. Also, any songs purchased from other digital music marketplaces aren't easily playable on iPods, if playable at all.

Much to Apple's chagrin, the court denied Apple's motion to dismiss the complaint on Dec. 20.

The iPod is clearly the undisputed champion of portable devices, which currently gives Apple a clearly advantageous position in which to leverage its current DRM practices within the iTunes music store.

The inability, however, for iTunes customers to copy songs to any other media device, couple with the fact that music purchased from other online music stores can't be loaded onto the iPod could threaten Apple's dominance in this industry.

Earlier in December, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates suggested that it would simpler for music enthusiasts to "just buy a CD and rip it" rather than deal with the stringent hassles that come packaged with any music encoded with DRM.

Gates also referred to the practice as "broken" in its current state.

I can't say I'm inclined to disagree, and it looks like Apple could have a long road of legal hassles ahead by limiting what customers are able to do with products for which they have bought and paid in a legal fashion.

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