Teen Builds Linux Workaround For iTunes
Cody Brocious is a 17-year old 11th grader from Chamberburg, Pa., and like many other teens he loves his iPod and uses the iTunes music store to buy music.
Brocious likes using the Linux operating system more than he does Microsoft's Windows or Apple Computer's Mac OS. But Apple doesn't make software that would let Linux users like Brocious buy songs from the iTunes store, so he did what any 21st-century teen raised in the digital age would do--he and his friends wrote a program to do so themselves.
One of those friends is Jon Johansen, a Norwegian who in 1999 drew the ire of the Motion Pictures Association of America for creating a software program designed to circumvent the copy-protection technology on DVDs.
What they came up with is a program called PyMusique, which hit the Web about two weeks ago. It lets Linux desktop users buy--not steal--music files from iTunes. One unintended consequence of their program is that it saves the songs without the built-in copy-protection code, meaning that songs can be copied to other devices at will.
Brocious says that stripping the Digital Rights Management technology from iTunes songs happened more or less by accident. He first assumed that the copy protection was attached directly by the iTunes server itself. Had that been the case, he says, PyMusique would have left it intact, meaning the program would be subject to the same copy restrictions to which all iTunes users are subject.
"This is not about circumventing Apple's DRM," he says. "It's about creating a good Linux client for iTunes."
That may be true, but one might question why Brocious developed a version of PyMusique for Windows, which already works with iTunes. The only obvious reason to create a version for Windows would be to circumvent Apple's copy-protection technology.
But as it happens, iTunes users willing to go to the effort can already circumvent Apple copy protection, called Fairplay, on their own. After burning a song purchased from iTunes to a CD, users can transfer the contents of that CD as freely as they wish.
Leaving Fairplay intact on PyMusique as it is, Brocious says, is certainly an option. But it's pointless. Any user with a little programming knowledge would be able to disable the copy-protection scheme because of the way it's applied. And die-hard Linux users won't bother with any software that isn't open source. They tend to like examining the source code of software before installing it on their machines, he says.
Apple had no comment on the matter, but in the past it has blocked certain customers (including those using PyMusique) from buying music on older versions of iTunes. When that happened, Brocious and his buddies released an updated version of PyMusique that again circumvented Apple's locks.
Brocious says he and his cadre of coders would like to show Apple how to change the way iTunes works so they can continue developing PyMusique and give potentially millions of Linux users who run software from companies like Red Hat (nasdaq: RHAT - news - people ) and Novell (nasdaq: NOVL - news - people ) the same access to iTunes that millions of Windows and Mac users have.
He concedes that it may not make much business sense for Apple to devote its own resources to develop an open source Linux-friendly version of iTunes. It's not clear how many people would even use it. Brocious estimates fewer than a thousand people have downloaded it so far.
It's certain to be a small drop in Apple's bucket. The company has never revealed how many iTunes customers it has--only how many songs they've downloaded, which as of March 2 stood at 300 million.
This is why Brocious is offering up PyMusique and his coding services to Apple. He says he wants to work with Apple's blessing to create a Linux-friendly iTunes program, built in such a way that open-source devotees would embrace it. "The solution is to work with us, not against us," Brocious says.