iTunes 4, is Apple stupid or courageous? MAY 14 2003
Now that people have had a couple of weeks to tinker with it, it's become apparent that in iTunes, Apple has created their own little Napster. Well, half of Napster anyway. Just like with Napster or Kazaa, users of iTunes can share their music libraries with anyone with anyone they want. Several public sites and applications have already sprung up to help people find folks who are sharing their music, most notably ShareiTunes and SpyMac.
The catch is that you can't save songs from someone else's library to your local library using iTunes. However, a few enterprising developers looked at how iTunes shares music and have been building applications that provide the other half of the Napster experience, the downloading of music from remote libraries. iLeech is a very simple, tiny program that lets you download music from any publically available iTunes library (and there are other apps that do similar things).
Conventional wisdom is that Apple seriously fucked up, the RIAA is going to sue Apple's pants off, and Apple's new iTunes Music Store will be shut down by the some seriously pissed off record companies.
I'd like to believe an alternative theory. Apple had to know what they were doing with iTunes. Their engineers aren't stupid. They left the whole thing wide open and had to know how trivial it would be for developers to figure out the protocol and write apps to download the music directly. Maybe Apple is taking a stand here, saying that this type of software is not illegal and that it is individual users who choose to break the law. Apple knows that it's in our nature to want to share music, photos, and movies with each other and is building applications (social software?) to support that behavior. Apple wants to make a business out of this and maybe they're daring the RIAA to sue them over it. Or daring the RIAA not to sue them. After all, Apple and the record companies are all buddy-buddy now with the iTunes Music Store...are they willing to sue Apple right after getting Jobs on the cover of Fortune with Sheryl Crow? If Apple is in fact taking a stand here, I say, go Apple!