When users purchase digital books through the iBookstore for their iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, those files are only able to be played on iOS devices. That's because everything sold through the iBookstore has Apple's Fair Play digital rights management (DRM) software protecting it.
Now it appears, much to the chagrin of e-authors and digital book publishers, Apple's DRM has been cracked. The news comes from a forum post on MobileRead by user pdurrant:
"It is now possible to remove the DRM from epub ebooks bought in Apple's iBooks store. 'Brahms' has recently released a new version, 3.3, of his Requiem software, which has been able to remove DRM from music and videos bought in the iTunes Music Store for a long time. This new version can also remove the DRM from Apple's epub format ebooks."
Of course I cannot condone cracking copyrighted content, but the predicament for Apple is interesting. Though the iPad has proven to be a popular device and many publishers are slowly coming around to the idea of digital distribution of their content, a break in the DRM security may cause content producers that were on the fence to back off.
Surely Apple is already investigating the supposed crack and coming up with ways to block the exploit. In the past Requiem has been targeted by Apple to stop cracking of music and movies purchased from the iTunes Music Store, including sending a cease-and-desist letter to forums posting information on how to crack content using the software.
Interestingly, Apple's defense of DRM is in stark contrast to its founder's thoughts on the subject. In 2007 Steve Jobs penned an open letter titled "Thoughts on Music" in which he explained how DRM hurts users who download music legally and does not really affect users who obtain music illegally.
"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," Jobs wrote.
Apple is in much the same situation now with book publishers. The deals to get content on the iBookstore include Apple's promise of protecting each title with the Fair Play DRM, but a world without this restriction would allow those purchases to be read on a Kindle Fire or Barnes and Noble Nook. Catch-22.
For now, Fair Play will continue. Should Apple push harder for music companies, film and television studios, and book publishers to go DRM-free? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!