DAAP Licensing

DAAP (Digital Audio Access Protocol) is a protocol defined by Apple and used for iTunes streaming. Apple has licensed the DAAP protocol to at least one company: Roku. Their SoundBridge product is a networked music player that streams music from your computer. Thanks to Bonjour and DAAP the SoundBridge can stream music from an iTunes library without any configuration necessary.

The first version of DAAP was reverse engineered. In response, Apple added hashing of secret values to the next version of DAAP to block non-iTunes clients from connecting to the new version of iTunes. The new version of DAAP was also reverse engineered.

When Apple released iTunes 7 last September, they changed the secret hashing. You would think they would have informed their DAAP licensees of this in advance and provided them with updated DAAP documentation (they wouldn’t need to reveal the release date of the new iTunes version).

Not so.

According to this forum post by Roku’s Mike Kobb they were not given advance notice, let alone any updated documentation. It appears that it took Apple several weeks to supply Roku with updated DAAP documentation.

In light of this, it is not surprising that Steve Jobs is claiming that licensing FairPlay is not feasible and using bogus arguments to support his claim. Licensing FairPlay is quite feasible, it’s just that Steve doesn’t want to do so. Of course, from a business perspective I don’t mind 😉

I knew last year that Apple had licensed DAAP to Roku, but I didn’t learn until today that Apple had stabbed Roku in the back. Thanks to snorp (developer of ipod-sharp and other cool code) for pointing this out to me.

Steve on licensing FairPlay

This is the 3rd and last post about Steve’s “Thoughts on Music” 🙂

However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak.

Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies. Perhaps this same conclusion contributed to Microsoft’s recent decision to switch their emphasis from an “open” model of licensing their DRM to others to a “closed” model of offering a proprietary music store, proprietary jukebox software and proprietary players.

Let’s look at the real world outside the Reality Distortion Field:

  • Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM 10 (marketing name PlaysForSure) has not had more security breaches than FairPlay despite the fact that it has been licensed to dozens of companies.
  • Microsoft’s decision to make the Zune DRM a closed system was a business decision and had nothing to do with DRM security. PlaysForSure is still in the market place and will be for the foreseeable future. Content owners are still authorizing content to be sold with PlaysForSure. In fact, WalMart launched a new movie download store (don’t click the link if you’re using Firefox unless you’re into abstract art) using PlaysForSure today.
  • Steve’s misleading statistics

    In his article “Thoughts on Music” Steve Jobs argues that people are not really locked into the iPod.

    Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.

    Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

    Yes, hard to believe, until you realize that Steve is using misleading statistics. There may be 90 million iPods sold, but not all of them are currently in use. Furthermore, it’s the number of iTunes Store customers and average sales per customer that’s relevant, and Apple has never disclosed these figures.

    Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands. At the 2004 Macworld Expo, Steve revealed that one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music.

    If you’ve only bought 10 songs, the lock-in is obviously not very strong. However, if you’ve bought 100 songs ($99), 10 TV-shows ($19.90) and 5 movies ($49.95), you’ll think twice about upgrading to a non-Apple portable player or set-top box. In effect, it’s the customers who would be the most valuable to an Apple competitor that get locked in. The kind of customers who would spend $300 on a set-top box.

    Steve’s Thoughts on Music

    Steve Jobs has written an article titled “Thoughts on Music” in which he blames DRM entirely on the labels. Steve claims Apple wants to sell DRM-free music but the labels won’t let them. This of course flies in the face of reality. From an article in the NYTimes last month:

    Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

    But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .

    Josh Bernoff, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, saying copy protection “just locks people into Apple.” He said he had recently asked Apple when the company would remove copy protection and was told, “We see no need to do so.”

    Apple’s statement is a detailed treatise on the subject, compared with what I received when I asked the company last week whether it would offer tracks without copy protection if the publisher did not insist on it: the Apple spokesman took my query and never got back to me.

    It should not take Apple’s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM. This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users.

    Actions speak louder than words, Steve.

    Skype security FUD

    There’s an article in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet titled “Your boss can spy on your Skype session“.

    From the article:

    Andy Swärd discovered the security hole by accident. He was logged into the same Skype account on two computers and noticed that his chat messages showed up on both computers.

    – Today it’s usual for companies to assign their employees Skype accounts. This means that your boss and your colleagues can monitor what you’re doing at work, he says.

    IT and security “expert” Joakim von Braun is quoted in the article as saying: “Skype really should have better security for chats”.

    This is an amazing discovery! I’ve been using this Skype feature for quite some time and never realized it’s actually a security hole… but then again, I’m not a security “expert”.

    PS: Did you know that if someone has your email password, they can read your email?

    iHandcuffs

    Arstechnica published an article earlier this week titled “Why DRM’s best friend might just be Apple Inc.“. Every time someone points out that Apple is a supporter of DRM, the Mac faithful come out of the woodworks to promote the delusion that Apple does not really support DRM and that they’re simply forced to use DRM by the record labels and studios. This of course flies in the face of reality:

    • Apple is refusing to open up FairPlay to other companies.
    • Apple is applying FairPlay to files from record labels that do not require DRM.

    From a NYTimes story today titled “Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs“:

    Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

    But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .

    Josh Bernoff, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, saying copy protection “just locks people into Apple.” He said he had recently asked Apple when the company would remove copy protection and was told, “We see no need to do so.”

    Apple’s statement is a detailed treatise on the subject, compared with what I received when I asked the company last week whether it would offer tracks without copy protection if the publisher did not insist on it: the Apple spokesman took my query and never got back to me.

    From a 2004 blog post by Fred von Lohmann at the EFF titled “FairPlay: Another Anticompetitive Use of DRM“:

    On a panel a few weeks ago, I asked the head lawyer for Apple’s iTunes Music Store whether Apple would, if it could, drop the FairPlay DRM from tracks purchased at the Music Store. He said “no.” I was puzzled, because I assumed that the DRM obligation was imposed by the major labels on a grudging Apple.

    When will the Mac faithful stop deluding themselves?

    iPhone

    I’ve known that the iPhone was coming since my trip to Cupertino in January last year (didn’t know any details though) and now it’s finally announced.

    Cons:

    • Battery is not removable (AFAIK).
    • No 3G. It’s being released in June 2007 and no 3G… Web browsing over EDGE is not a pleasant experience.
    • Closed – no SDK for 3rd party development.
    • In the US, a 2 year Cingular contract will be required.
    • No access to the iTunes Store from the phone and no syncing over WiFi.
    • Camera is only 2 megapixels.

    Other than that, I can’t wait to try one. Hopefully the lack of tactile feedback is not going to be an issue.

    iTunes FUD

    The Financial Times has an article out about some of the movie studios trying to force Apple to increase the FairPlay restrictions.

    But the studios are concerned about growth of digital piracy, which currently costs the film industry $3.2bn a year. They want Apple to make changes to the way iTunes works before they do a deal.

    Specifically, they object to the fact that you can sync to an unlimited number of iPods.

    Currently, content on iTunes can be uploaded to an unlimited number of iPods. This means people can freely copy music content by “synching” their iPods with their friends’ computers.

    The studios are putting pressure on Apple to limit the number of iPods that can be used by iTunes on a particular computer. Limiting the number of video iPods used by any one computer to four or five will, they believe, deter professional content pirates.

    That’s a huge vehicle for piracy! If it was actually true, that is. The notion that professional pirates (or any pirates for that matter) rely on this iTunes capability is ludicrous.

    An iPod is paired with a single iTunes library. If I sync my iTunes library to your iPod, that content will get wiped out as soon as you sync your own library to your iPod.

    Two facts conveniently ignored by the FT journalist:

    1. iTunes doesn’t let you sync files from an iPod to a computer except for FairPlay files and you need the username and password for the account the FairPlay files were purchased under.
    2. The fact that 3rd party tools exist to let you sync any file from any iPod to any computer does not matter. Why? Because a copy of a FairPlay file is useless without the username and passord for the account the file was purchased under.

    To share a FairPlay file you also have to share the username and password. I doubt this happens to any measurable extent:

    1. Your credit card is linked to your username and password (meaning someone else will be buying Britney Spears songs with your money, and more importantly, in your name).
    2. Someone else will be using up one of your 5 computer authorizations.

    Microsoft-Universal deal

    Some people are upset about the Microsoft-Universal deal that gives Universal $1 for each Zune sold. Some are calling for a boycott. The controversy stems from the reasoning behind the deal. Doug Morris, the CEO of Universal Music Group, has been quoted saying:

    These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it’s time to get paid for it.

    If you don’t like being accused of being a thief, you should obviously buy an iPod instead of a Zune.

    This sticker is present on every iPod sold:

    iPod - Don't steal music

    For comparison, the Zune sticker:

    Zune - Let's get started

    Hey, wait a minute… Let’s get started doing WHAT?

    Zune FUD II

    The amount of Zune FUD is reaching staggering proportions following Microsoft’s Zune launch.

    C.W. Nevius has a blog post over at the S.F. Chronicle titled “Zune Reinforces Microsoft’s Dorky Image“. Nevius links to TechTree that claims:

    For starters, in order to download the Zune software, a user’s system has to meet certain requirements; namely, Win XP SP2, processor running at minimum 1.5GHz, and so on. By comparison, Apple Computer’s iTunes 7 software does not have any such hardware requirements.

    Actually, the CPU requirement for the Zune software is 500 MHz, just like for the iTunes software. The 1.5 GHz Zune requirement is only for video playback.

    TechTree also claims:

    Also, to download the Zune software, users’ need to use only Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7). The software cannot be downloaded by using Mozilla’s Firefox for instance.

    Actually, the software downloads just fine with Firefox.

    The Mac zealots will have you believe that the Zune is no threat to Apple. If they really believe that, why do they resort to FUD?

    Another example is Andy Ihnatko in an article titled “Avoid the loony Zune” for the Chicago Sun-Times:

    You’ll find that the Zune Planet orbits the music industry’s Bizarro World, where users aren’t allowed to do anything that isn’t in the industry’s direct interests.

    The iPod owns 85 percent of the market because it deserves to. Apple consistently makes decisions that benefit the company, the users and the media publishers — and they continue to innovatively expand the device’s capabilities without sacrificing its simplicity.

    Companies such as Toshiba and Sandisk (with its wonderful Nano-like Sansa e200 series) compete effectively with the iPod by asking themselves, “What are the things that users want and Apple refuses to provide?”

    Microsoft’s colossal blunder was to knock the user out of that question and put the music industry in its place.

    Mr. Ihnatko would have you believe that Apple listens to the user’s needs, while Microsoft listens to the music industry’s needs. Yet the Zune lets you sync non-DRM’ed music back to your computer and the iPod doesn’t (the iPod only allows you to sync DRM’ed music back). From ExtremeTech’s Zune review:

    Reverse Sync: Just as it is with Media Player 11, getting songs off your Zune is a snap. When you select your Zune on the left side of the player, you can browse the content that’s on it by artist, genre, etc. Not many people notice this, but the right-hand sync pane will now say “drag items here to create a list to sync from [Zune Name] to your computer.” Just drag whatever tracks, albums, or artists you want to dump from your Zune to your PC media library, hit Sync, and you’re golden. Simple. The hoops you have to jump through to get music off your iPod look silly by comparison.

    Imagine that! Microsoft providing users with a feature that Apple refuses to provide. Not that a Mac zealot will ever admit to any such thing.

    The Zune definitely has its drawbacks: software installation takes way too long (hopefully fixed in the next version, there’s no reason why it should take so long), hard drive access not enabled by default, misleading points system for purchasing songs, lack of MacOS X and Linux support, etc. However, when a reviewer fails to say anything good about the Zune, such as noting the sync files back to computer feature, it’s obvious that the reviewer has been exposed to the Reality Distortion Field for way too long. From Wikipedia:

    RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince people to believe almost anything with a skillful mix of charm, charisma, slight exaggeration, and clever marketing.