A trio of independent programmers has released new software that allows people to tap into Apple Computer's iTunes music store and purchase songs free of any anticopying protections.
Joined by Jon Johansen, the Norwegian programmer responsible for distributing DVD-cracking code in late 1999, the programmers say their "PyMusique" software is a "fair" interface for iTunes, primarily aimed at allowing people who use the Linux operating system to purchase music from Apple's store.
But with a Windows version of the software also available, it's likely to trigger a legal response from Apple, which has closely guarded access to its online music store and has depended on its copy-protection software to gain rights to sell music online.
An Apple representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
The PyMusique release is the latest and most ambitious skirmish in a long-running battle between Apple and hackers intent on removing digital rights management from the company's songs. As the most popular online music store, Apple has helped prove that consumers will purchase copy-protected songs but also has been a test case for whether that copy-protection can sustain attacks.
The PyMusique programmers say they have created the software so that it saves the song in the unprotected form initially used by Apple, before it is wrapped in a protective layer. Because it doesn't actually break through the copy protection, they've predicted in blog postings that the software is legal.
Apple's iTunes terms of service do seem to disallow any unauthorized access, however.
"You will not access the service by any means other than through software that is provided by Apple for accessing the service," the iTunes terms of service says.
A test of the PyMusique software showed that it did allow purchase of songs from iTunes, and that the songs were saved in the unprotected AAC digital music format, rather than in Apple's protected Fairplay format. Songs could not be downloaded without establishing an iTunes account and paying the ordinary price for the music.
Johansen said the work is specific to Apple's store, and would not be easily applied to other download stores, such as those operated by Napster and Microsoft.
"I can't say whether it's possible without looking into it first," Johansen said in an e-mail. "The iTunes Music Store sells files in a open format--AAC--which is what makes it attractive."
Johansen said that two other programmers, Travis Watkins and Cody Brocious, had written the bulk of the software, while he had developed the Windows version.