Does Apple Own The Copyright On A File You Create Via iTunes?

from the discussion-should-be-legal dept

Last last year, the EFF publicly blasted Apple for threatening a wiki site, called BluWiki, that had been set up by a firm OdioWorks to reverse engineer interoperability with iPods and iPhones so that those devices could work with other software apps (such as Songbird), rather than being locked into iTunes. Apple had threatened the wiki site with a DMCA violation claim, and the EFF pointed out numerous problems with the DMCA claim. Now things have been kicked up a notch, as the site, along with help from the EFF have sued Apple to have the site declared legal. The EFF argument points out that an open discussion site alone is hardly violating the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, but perhaps the more interesting argument is the fact that the iTunes DB file, which is at the heart of this matter, is created by each user independently and is not encrypted. There are two interesting arguments here. First, since the file is not encrypted, there is no encryption to circumvent, thus no violation of the anti-circumvention clauses. Second, since the file is created by the user and his or her own interaction with the software, Apple has no claim on the copyright of the file. If there's any copyright at all, the argument goes, it belongs to the user, and thus they should have every right to do whatever they want with it. This should be a lawsuit worth watching.

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  • identicon
    Michael B, 28 Apr 2009 @ 8:50am

    They'll claim...

    ... that the STRUCTURE of the file is copyrighted, and that iTunes is the only software authorized to access that structure.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:03am

      Re: They'll claim...

      Or even if the EFF wins, it just shows that Apple didn't hire enough lawyers to copyright & patent everything.

      This win will be like the RIAA's win against the pirate bay. Something we can point to while the opposing side uses it to illustrate how they need more IP protection.

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

    • identicon
      Matt, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:53am

      Re: They'll claim...

      good luck with that, that won't hold up in court at all.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:14am

      Re: They'll claim...

      Bull. That's like Microsoft claiming copyright to document you wrote in Word.

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

    • identicon
      Comboman, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:45am

      Re: They'll claim...

      You can't copyright a STRUCTURE (i.e. a file format), though you may be able to patent the algorithm required to read/write it if it is unique enough (for example the LZW compression in the GIF format). I doubt that is the case here.

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

      • identicon
        batch, 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re: They'll claim...

        I'd put money down they just update iTunes to encrypt that iTunesDB file so that the DMCA circumvention clause can be used.

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

  • identicon
    RD, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:19am

    Done

    "There are two interesting arguments here. First, since the file is not encrypted, there is no encryption to circumvent, thus no violation of the anti-circumvention clauses."

    Case dismissed right there. Should never even make it to litigation, Apple is pushing stupidity now. If this were to stand, it would completely undo all creative works ever made on any computer, since they ALL use a "file format" of some kind.

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

  • identicon
    mg, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:19am

    Why not?

    If cloud companies can own my content by using their services, why cant apple? There's a very fine line between the use of an application on your PC vs. "software as a service".

    Just my O.

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

    • identicon
      The infamous Joe, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:37am

      Re: Why not?

      I'm not saying you're wrong, but where does it say cloud companies "own" your content?

      A link would be best.

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

  • identicon
    jguil, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:22am

    taken straight from apple.com IPOD SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT.

    (c) Except as and only to the extent expressly permitted in this License or by applicable law, you may not copy, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble,
    attempt to derive the source code of, decrypt, modify, or create derivative works of the iPod Software, iPod Software Updates, or any part thereof.

    Very clear and to the point .. no one reads the license agreement

    there is also this which makes me laugh!


    iPOD SOFTWARE AND iPOD SOFTWARE UPDATES ARE NOT INTENDED FOR USE IN THE OPERATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES, AIRCRAFT NAVIGATION OR
    COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS, LIFE SUPPORT MACHINES OR OTHER EQUIPMENT IN WHICH THE FAILURE OF THE iPOD SOFTWARE
    OR iPOD SOFTWARE UPDATES COULD LEAD TO DEATH

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

    • identicon
      Tgeigs, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      WTF? Death by iPod? And in all my time in the military I never once saw a ATCS, Fighter craft, or life support machine w/a USB drive.

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

    • identicon
      Mechwarrior, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:36am

      Re:

      How can that be possible? Isnt reverse engineering protected by court precedent?

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

      • identicon
        The infamous Joe, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:42am

        Re: Re:

        Just because they write it down doesn't make the true.

        If I wrote a disclaimer saying that by reading this comment I have rights to your first born child, it wouldn't be enforcable in court.

        Likewise, if, while watching the red sox sweep the yankees, you hear a voiceover say that you can't talk about the game without their permission, that too is unenforcable.

        They're trying to trick you into doing what they want using fear of court fees based on the assumption that you don't know the law.

        If that's not illegal, then it *should* be.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          a disclaimer is completely different than a License Agreement

          Notice the word "agreement"

          a disclaimer is a statement denying responsibility intended to prevent civil liability arising for particular acts or omissions.

          License Agreement is the legal agreement between the manufacturer and purchaser of software.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      iPod software and iPod Software updates are not intended for use in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, Air traffic control systems...


      And rightfully so! They'll just leave that to Windows!

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

    • identicon
      mike, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      taken straight from apple.com IPOD SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT.

      (c) Except as and only to the extent expressly permitted in this License or by applicable law, you may not copy, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble,
      attempt to derive the source code of, decrypt, modify, or create derivative works of the iPod Software, iPod Software Updates, or any part thereof.


      That may be clear and to the point. BUT you have to agree to it and according to that document you agree to it by using the software. If you never use i tune software and instead use a third party software or for that matter create your own then there is no legal agreement

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:38am

        Re: Re:

        """BUT you have to agree to it and according to that document you agree to it by using the software."""


        yes exactly .. you agree to the software by using it! notice that this is the ipod software license agreement NOT the itunes software license agreement .. they are two separate programs

        so yes you do agree to the ipod software by using the ipod, not by using itunes.

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      taken straight from apple.com IPOD SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT.

      (c) Except as and only to the extent expressly permitted in this License or by applicable law, you may not copy, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble,
      attempt to derive the source code of, decrypt, modify, or create derivative works of the iPod Software, iPod Software Updates, or any part thereof.


      You see teh part that says "or by applicable law"? Yeah, that's the part that allows reverse engineering and fair use.

      You can't take away certain rights via any sort of license agreement, let alone a clickwrap one that the person does not actually have a chance to agree to or negotiate.

      Otherwise, there would be no copyright at all. Instead, you'd have companies setting forth licenses that give them full control, deny fair use, and leave ownership with the creator in perpetuity. Yet, the courts and the legislators have made it clear that you can't license away certain rights.

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

    • identicon
      Baloney Joe, 28 Apr 2009 @ 1:08pm

      Re:

      just because it's part of a EULA doesn't mean it has any legal standing.

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

    • identicon
      Frank Lowney, 3 May 2009 @ 8:49am

      Re: iPod license

      So we now arrive at the question of whether these shrinkwrap licenses are binding? Further, can a customer be compelled to waive a right as the quid pro quo of using free software such as iTunes.app.

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

    • identicon
      Christian Schroer, 11 Sep 2009 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      check section 10 of the new one lol

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

  • identicon
    Freedom, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:39am

    Good reminder to why we need to support the EFF

    http://www.eff.org/support

    I've never seen a company so unwilling to let people 'play' with their devices. As someone that grew up in what I consider the golden age of IT, hacking things and figuring them out was king. For some people, tearing apart their cars was what drove them, for me it was electronic gadgets. In today's world, if I tear about an iPod, I go to jail - yeah Apple!


    Freedom

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:10am

      Re: Good reminder to why we need to support the EFF

      you can mod or hack anything you want ... just don't tell the world about it(aka posting it on the internet) and you wont get sued

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

  • identicon
    rajinder, 28 Apr 2009 @ 9:51am

    criminal by lottery

    please help me here me comes many email by like you won lotery after many email he ask from me money and i send him 1200$
    now he asking more money today. then i check on net me realised they are fraud they saying me send money this adress.i have that. today me tell them after 1-2 days.he is now also connecting please help me i will give you every information about him. do it early

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:20am

      Re: criminal by lottery

      Seems like spam posts are showing up on Techdirt lately. What gives?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:47am

        Re: Re: criminal by lottery

        Crazy evil internet crawlers are growing. this particular one is insane, I don't even understand what it's purpose is.

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

    • identicon
      DJ, 28 Apr 2009 @ 11:49am

      Re: criminal by lottery

      HUH????????

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

    • identicon
      Eponymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:04pm

      Re: criminal by lottery

      It appears that Cookie Monster has come to Techdirt, and he's out some money.

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

      • identicon
        DJ, 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re: criminal by lottery

        and it seems that someone who can't come up with his/her own alias without mocking someone else has also arrived. Way shine, brilliance.

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

        • identicon
          Eponymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: criminal by lottery

          Umm, what? You do know that anyone that doesn't enter a name gets the AC handle, yes? Thus, I only mock those who choose to remain unidentifiable, and at the same time mock myself. You following me here? It's a victimless crime, but I use the EC handle consistently as flame bait.

          I'd like to think my alias took a bit more time to conceive than, say, DJ (my initials too, by the way, so it really would have been easy for me to use that as an alias.)

          By the by, could you explain that last bit for me? I'm not sure I'm grasping the crux of your argument there.

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

        • identicon
          Eponymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: criminal by lottery

          DJ, if you meant that I was mocking the other EC post, that was me as well, and I retract my snarkiness. If not, well, I still retract the snarkiness, but I will cup and throw some passed gas at you if ever we meet.

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

  • identicon
    John Doe, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:12am

    Where are the fan boys? If Microsoft or any other company handicapped their phones the way Apple does, they would be suffering the wrath in the press. Instead, the press has a love affair with Apple.

    FYI, I went with the Blackberry Storm.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      Oh shut up. All of you fanboys are annoying. What the hell does this article have to do with smartphones? And what Microsoft phone? Just how retarded are you? What the hell does a RIM smart phone have to do with Microsoft brand smartphones (that don't exist) or apple smartphones?

      I hope you die accidentally eating coal.

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

      • identicon
        John Doe, 28 Apr 2009 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re:

        Windows Mobile is used for smart phones by Palm and maybe others. My point is, Apple is a very locked down, proprietary environment so this move should be no surprise to anyone.

        So I make a post that is only semi-related to the subject and you hope I die accidentally eating coal? And I am the bad guy here? BTW, why coal?

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

  • identicon
    Fred McTaker, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:20am

    Not an agreement

    If I don't sign it before I buy it, it's not an agreement. At best it's a declaration, and a false one at that.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:42am

      Re: Not an agreement

      explain how this is false

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:54am

      Re: Not an agreement

      straight from IPOD SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT.

      end of the first paragraph

      IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE, DO NOT USE THE IPOD OR DOWNLOAD THIS SOFTWARE UPDATE. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THE LICENSE AND HAVE NOT USED, THE IPOD YOU MAY RETURN THE IPOD TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU OBTAINED IT FOR A REFUND.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:37am

    NO.
    I copy wrote it first before I submitted to Apple. It they try to use in an unauthorized way I will sue them for Copy right infringement!

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

  • identicon
    Coyote, 28 Apr 2009 @ 10:53am

    itunes xml

    Apple is claiming a copyright on the format of the DB, much like MS has a claim on the Office file formats. Apple may be right or wrong in doing this, but the EFF should present the facts of the claim.

    The EFF skews the facts. Per their usual tactics, the EFF is essentially being a 5 year old kid who points a grubby finger and accuses another kid of saying something much dirtier or more embarrassing than he actually did.

    anyway...

    The itunes library is also available as an .xml file, which contains playlists, ratings, everything except the 'live" content such as smart playlist and Genius definitions (which are exported as static playlists in the XML)

    XML is just text, and an open standard. Lots of non-apple software reads the iTunes XML (mt-daapd,etc..) to share playlists

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2009 @ 11:19am

    "you may not copy" -> doesn't sound like anyone copied
    "decompile" -> can't decompile what's not compiled
    "reverse engineer" -> can't reverse engineer what is in plan site
    "disassemble" -> can't disassemble if you are just reading it
    "attempt to derive the source code of" -> source code, there is no source code
    "decrypt" -> not encrypted
    "modify" -> not being modified
    "or create derivative works of the iPod Software, iPod Software Updates, or any part thereof" -> the golden bullet, but to broad in legal realms because of all the points above.

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

  • icon
    Eponymous Coward (profile), 28 Apr 2009 @ 11:39am

    Has to be done

    Obligatory xkcd link:

    http://xkcd.com/501/

    Seriously, I had my eyes opened about a year ago to the ridiculousness that is iTunes, trying to move some music around between my devices. I still dig my iPod, but just ponied up $20 for MGTEK's Dopisp. Now the iPod plays so nicely with Windows Media Player. My next PMP will probably be a Sandisk or Cowon, and the fruit can rot.

    Way to alienate more customers, Apple. Bravo.

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

  • icon
    pangolin (profile), 28 Apr 2009 @ 12:37pm

    now you have done it

    The next version of itunes will have the file encrypted.

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

  • identicon
    anymouse, 28 Apr 2009 @ 4:37pm

    Why is it called a Licensing Agreement if I don't get a chance to agree?

    I think it would be better to call it what it is.

    LICENSING DEMANDS

    END USER LICENSING DEMANDS

    At least then they can be honest about what it is and change all the 'by accepting this you...' to 'We demand that you ....'.

    As far as I'm concerned if I purchase something before I get a chance to accept their licensing 'agreement' then it's not an agreement, it's a set of demands, and I have no obligation to abide by their demands. Just like they have no obligation to agree to my demands that they should provide continual media updates for all the movies/music/software that I 'license'.

    I have movies on beta and laserdisk that are no longer playable/usable due to technology changes, I demand that they provide me with updated copies on DVD/Blueray for the cost of production. Since I own a license to view the movie, they should have no problem with this, right?

    If you think EULA's are enforceable, try sending in a $50.00 payment on a $5000 loan and put 'EULA: By accepting this check you are agreeing that this loan is Paid in Full' on the check, then when they cash it (which they will, who reads notes on checks? probably the same people who read EULA's) take them to court and try to enforce it.... So why does it work when they do it? Oh yeah, they bought the government and we are just the Sheeple(tm) who have no rights.

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


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