RealNetworks has hit back at Apple's accusation that it resorted to "hacker tactics" by developing software to allow iPod customers to download music from the RealPlayer site.
The company insisted that consumers should be allowed to make up their own minds about what they play on their iPod devices.
RealNetwork's Harmony tool allows music from the RealPlayer Music Store to be transferred to any music player, including Apple iPods. Currently, iPod owners can only buy music online from Apple's own iTunes Music Store.
"Compatibility, choice and quality are critically important to consumers and Harmony provides all of these to users of the iPod and over 70 other music devices including those from Creative, Rio, iRiver and others," stated RealNetworks.
"That is why so many consumers have welcomed the news of Harmony. Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod."
RealNetworks went on to claim that Harmony follows a well-established tradition of legal, independent development that bypasses proprietary formats to achieve compatibility.
The firm maintained that there is ample and clear precedent for this activity, citing the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq.
"Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real's Music Store in a way that is compatible with the iPod, Windows Media digital rights management [DRM] devices and Helix DRM devices," RealNetworks said in a statement.
"Harmony technology does not remove or disable any DRM system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] are relevant to this dispute.
"In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content, and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software.
"We remain fully committed to Harmony and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple iPod, choice and compatibility."
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