John Gruber writes that if the Palm Pre’s iTunes compatibility is achieved by circumventing Apple’s hardware lockouts, it would be “unbecoming” and “duplicitous.”
Hardly, unless you’re prepared to accept the recasting of shaky legal doctrines–the Digital Millenium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions–as moral principles. Remember the attempts of Lexmark and Chamberlain to prevent generic printer ink and garage door openers? They believed that the DMCA meant that competitors couldn’t defeat hardware locks to make products compatible with their own. It’s a legal artifice, and in those cases, even the courts didn’t buy it.
So why should you? Why shouldn’t Palm circumvent Apple’s consumer-restricting locks, if it can? This isn’t DRM hacking, such as Real attempted a few years ago: it is merely the Palm Pre convincing iTunes that it’s an approved device. Palm says it will work only to sync DRM-free music.
Gruber thinks Palm “could be faced with the public perception that they’ve stolen Apple’s IP.” But the “Intellectual Property” at hand is just an arbitrary mechanism contrived to prevent the bleeding obvious: copying files from one computer to another. Describing such mechanisms as “property” in the first place is why most people shouldn’t trust the relevant portions of the DMCA: they’re there to limit what you can do with the products you buy.