In the interest of balance…

here’s a story about some of Apple’s problems, too. One lawsuit…

…is over Apple’s use of a copy-protection system that generally prevents iTunes music and video from playing on rival players. Likewise, songs purchased elsewhere aren’t easily playable on iPods.

The claim is that they’re creating an illegal monopoly. It’s certainly true that songs purchased from Apple can’t easily be played on non-Apple devices or software. But there are numerous routes which make it far from impossible.

And songs purchased elsewhere in CD or MP3 form can, of course, be played on an iPod. Of the 3000 or so tracks on mine, only about 200 came from Apple, so I’m hardly ‘locked in’, and I knew when I purchased them that I would need to use Apple stuff to play them. Songs purchased from other places in other formats are often not playable because they employ the copy-protection technologies of an earlier illegal monopoly.

Actually, it’s amusing to contrast this complaint with Microsoft’s strategy – their content doesn’t even play on their own player! The “PlaysForSure” copy protection used by services like Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo, Movielink and CinemaNow is not supported by Microsoft’s Zune, and users who purchased content expecting ongoing support from Microsoft are now disappointed. Napster, Rhapsody & co are probably even more disappointed.

But PlaysForSure doesn’t play on the iPod either. This seems like a lesser offence to me!

The moral of the story is, of course, that proprietary formats are dangerous, and whenever you buy anything in some non-standard format you should think of it more as a lease than as ownership. Buying all of your music in Apple’s Fairplay format is like storing all of your documents in Microsoft Word format. It’s very convenient now, but you must bear in mind the fact that access to this data may be denied you in future, so you need to take steps before that happens to make sure that anything of value is backed up in a non-proprietary manner.

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