by Mike Masnick

SK Telecom Fined For Incompatible MP3 Playing Phone

from the compatibility-as-consumer-protection dept

Over in South Korea, it appears that regulators have fined dominant mobile telco SK Telecom for crippling their music download service to only allow songs downloaded from the company's own music store to work on their phones. It's not entirely clear from the article if the songs were really in MP3 format, or if the reporter is simply using "MP3 music files" as shorthand for any kind of digital music file. If it really was MP3 files, then it's hard to understand exactly what's happening, as MP3s don't have DRM technology. The article implies that the phone itself was set up with special DRM that would only play the MP3s from the service, and not other MP3s. However, if these aren't MP3s and simply a different format, it's hard to see how SKT can be fined for their lack of compatibility. They simply chose a different format -- one that limited the usefulness of their phones for those who want to listen to music in other formats.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    rkrueger, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 10:44am

    What's Next - Fines for Bad Mobile TV?

    Can't really blame SK Telecom for trying to build a walled garden around its music offerings. They should try to tackle the problems associated with cell phone GUI to make its music offering (and that of others) more accessible to its users. That's the way to increased operator profitability.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:03am

    so, in SK all downloadable content must be avaliable on any device? you mean my zune will work with itunes and my ipot will work with windows music store? and the slew ofothers, napster, rhapsody.....???

    interesting that a government will do this. i guess they don't have the copanies giving them money like apple and microsoft...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Bumbling old fool, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:09am

    It could still be an MP3...

    MP3 supports tags, and one tag entry could be a hash of the file that was xor'd with an encryption key.

    It would be quite easy to support only one service's mp3s.. and still have a perfectly valid mp3.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Jamie, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:16am

    Not hard to do

    If they wanted to do this with unprotected MP3s, all they have to do is make it so that the there is no way to get MP3s on the phone except through their own service.
    Verizon did that with the Chocolate and it's MP3 ringtones. They crippled the phone so that you can't set MP3 ringtones onto it except through Verizon's own service. They didn't actually keep the phone from playing the ringtones, but they did keep you from setting them as ringtones. So I can see how this could be accomplished.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    4-80-sicks, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:42am


    MP3s can't be DRMd? I thought that was the whole basis of iTunes...I'm confused now

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:49am

    Just tell customers

    If phone providers actually told customers the ins and outs of what their service will and will not do then we would be better off. And you can't even blame people for not thinking to ask questions cuz its now to the point where those customer service reps will almost lie just make a sale.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    The infamous Joe, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:54am

    Re: what?

    mp3 cannot be DRM'd, itunes uses acc format.. which if I recall, has a better compression-- but can be DRM'd (which can be removed if you have the license and tunebite (or similar program).

    mp3 has stopped being a specific format and is now used to represent all digital music, it seems... which is the root cause of the confusion above.

    I poked around online and I think for the article above, the only way to interface with the phones is wirelessly through the melon service, or usb through the melon player. So, it's not as if you can hook it up to a PC and transfer files-- the phone would only be recognized by the melon player-- and the melon player only recognizes mp3's you downloaded from the service. I could be wrong, I don't read or speak Korean.

    btw, if you didn't read the article, melon is the service that SKT uses to give you music.

    I dunno, Verizion does a good job or crippling their phones to 'guide' you to using their 'Get it Now' service and no one has made a stink about it yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), Dec 20th, 2006 @ 12:10pm

    False advertising

    Perhaps I read this wrong, but my guess is that they were fined for advertising the 'phones as being "MP3 Compatible" when in fact they were only enabled to play some proprietary format. That would certainly make the story make sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Hegemon, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Just tell customers

    Almost lie? There's no almost about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 12:36pm

    Re: False advertising

    Good call, pete. Thatd be worth the hassle--a smackdown in bogus advertising.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    anonymous coward, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 12:37pm

    wow, government giving good business advice. too bad some government agency didn't tell Sony to stick to standard formats. if so, they might actually have some products on the market that people would buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Joe Blow, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 1:02pm

    Korean Laws

    Phones must compatible industry standard, even the power jack and headphone jacks (Meaning LG and Samsung cannot use different headphone jacks. This law went into effect recently. MP3 issue is the same, the phone must not use a format only compatible with one website they own. The law is meant to save money for consumer, so they don't have to buy new acc's everytime they change phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    sendeth, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 1:59pm


    verizon does this to all of their phones. you have to buy the song directly from them if you want to use it on the phone. you can "listen" to it, but no ringtones, obex transfers, or anything like that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    It's possible that they are confusing the term mp3 with files from the cell phone service which are not actually mp3 files. Another possibility I can think of is that they designed the phones such that there's no way (without some serious hacking) to get standard mp3 files from an external source into the phone in order to be playable. I believe that's why the bluetooth capabilities of the Motorola V710 phone (which is what I have) were crippled to not allow file transfers over bluetooth. I can easily get around it though by putting mp3s on a 512MB transflash card and popping it into the phone. The only issue I run into is that you can't use an mp3 for a ringtone or alarm unless you move it to the phone's internal memory which is a measly 10MB, almost half of which is clogged with factory wallpapers and other crap that it won't let me delete.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 3:33pm

    I don't want to spam but there is a company that makes open source television recorders, I bet they'd be a freaking hit if they made open source cell phones. Their products currently are freaking sweet but the whole concept of non proprietary code is a new business model and the company will probably continue to grow but at a slow pace. Then when people realize how smart it is everyone will go opensource.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 4:51pm

    There is an open-source 'phone being developed, called Tux phone (named after the Linux penguin). It was in the New Scientist a few months back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    kyle m. c., Oct 1st, 2007 @ 12:30am

    i have an SK phone

    I think I have one of these phones.

    It says it plays MP3s, and it takes micro SD cards, so you can hold lots of songs.

    so I figured I'd be wise, and just pop the micro SD into my computer and copy the MP3s to the SD, then pop it in the phone and not have to install a bunch of crap on my computer.

    thats when I ran into problems. it can see the MP3s as being mp3 files, but it can't play them. instead, the phone relies on 'playlists'. it won't let me make a playlist on the phone, and it won't let me play files without one. so mp3s, and movie files have to be run through this melOn player.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    PANCHA PRAWIRANEGARA, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 6:39am

    big troubles for me

    i have the sky mobile phones for type imb-1000 but i can't play the mp3 files, even i had been copy that files to the micro sd, how i can use my feature on my phones for mp3s, and read the manual book said use the melon player service but i don't have the usb driver and my usb cable has lost, can melon player convert the files without usb cable ( just copy after convert by computer to micro sd using card reader ) ???, please reply as soon as possible you can because its really big trouble for me

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Muratti, Nov 5th, 2007 @ 7:39am

    How i can down Melon player

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    sweethinata, Jan 13th, 2008 @ 7:05pm

    then how?

    hey guys then i don't understand how to transfer music files to my Motorola MS700 which i bought from Korea and using in different place it sounds unfair i love music and i can't listen to it on my phone which i actually bought just for doing this....... does anyone know how to do that without making so much trouble. cuz i spend whole week to figure out how. they don't give me any install cds with the phone all i have is my phone my usb. if you help me i will really appreciate this. thanks for advance

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Mat, Mar 25th, 2008 @ 4:28am

    Motorola MS700

    Could someone tell us either where to find this melon player or how to convert/encode the files to the strange SK format? Any help really welcome!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    degun, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 7:23pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    hlaing, Aug 11th, 2008 @ 5:02am

    I also want MeLOn Software

    i want to input some MP3 into my SKY imb 1000 . anybody know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    puujee, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 2:20am

    Re: Motorola MS700

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Alex, Aug 7th, 2009 @ 6:11am

    SK telecom

    Find this problem today. I have bought Anycall SGH-W460 (Samsung phone) connected by SK telecom. It has an MP3 player, but cant see any MP3 on SD card. The only way to get music - download it over air or move throught special software by USB cable. But this software prevents to move any of MP3 to phone. :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    stephen abangan, Dec 28th, 2010 @ 4:49am

    melon player

    how can i uprgade my melon player in my anycall celfon

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.