Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who Owns the Data in Your Database?

The recent news (see BetaNews article for details) of Apple employing a DMCA clause to block open source development of tools to replace iTunes or provide an alternative for Linux users.  It brings into question the ownership of data within and constructs of proprietary repositories.  In this case, the database file on the iPod that stores the metadata for songs, playlists, and so on.  Apple employed a hashing algorithm to protect the database such that only iTunes can connect to it and manage it's contents.   United States and EU laws concerning IP ownership of content differ quite a bit and this too will add some interesting twists to the arguments.  The EFF has expressed an interest in the case, saying they would represent the defendant if requested.

Personally, I think Apple is being dicks about this.  They should let people access their own data on their own iPods and let them choose what tools to use for managing them.  If iTunes is so damn good, why would they fear people using something else?  I'll tell you why:  Because iTunes sucks.  It sucks like Vanilla Ice in a Detroit rap club.  Compared to other media players and media library managers, it is the WORST I have ever seen or used.  Even crappy Real Player makes it look dumb.  It's slow.  It's awkward at managing ad hoc playlists and doesn't let you cross tag items that are incorrectly loaded into the wrong category.  Ever load an eBook MP3 into iTunes manually?  Try to make it list as an "Audiobook"?  Good luck.  Or a TV show H.264 file into the "TV Shows" category?  Nope.  It insists that it is a "Movie" and you're just too stupid to recognize their sheer genius. 

We now own seven (7) iPods and an AppleTV, so I've paid my share of Apple revenue.  I can speak my mind, whether it upsets Apple fans or not.  I really don't care.  For Apple to say you cannot open a file on your iPod for your own needs is anti-American.  It's wrong.  I don't care who the vendor is, it's wrong.

Sure, you can argue that other situations are the same.  Like accessing data on your rented DVR box.  Or the logic cache under the hood of your car.  Or even the insides of the electric meter out back of your house or apartment.  But you don't "own" those.  I own my iPod.  I didn't buy a license to use it, like you do with software products.  Nope.  Read the warranty and users guide.  You own it and they incur (very) limited liability for manufacturing defects and faulty components, but only up to specific boundaries.  So they don't want to be tied to your iPod but they want to control what you can do with it.  F-that.  Apple is becoming the new Sony.
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