Drama Brews Between EMI, Apple Over iPod Compatibility

EMI has largely been spared heavy scrutiny during the Sony rootkit imbroglio.

But recently, the label has found itself in the middle of some new drama. The issue began when EMI chief Alain Levy predicted that Apple would eventually embrace a variable pricing plan on its iTunes Music Store, even though Apple has not indicated that it will make such an adjustment. Then, the plot thickened with a statement by EMI that pointed to a compatibility agreement with Apple involving its Macrovision-based copy-protected discs. “Apple is nearly finished with the technical work necessary to enable consumers to transfer music from content-protected discs to their iPods,” an EMI statement published in C|Net declared. Meanwhile, Apple was not happy with the characterization, noting that “we have no idea why EMI made this statement”.


EMI would not confirm or deny to Digital Music News that the statement had been made, but did note that the company was “testing a tweak in the system that will get the songs onto the iPod”. In the absence of further details, it now appears that EMI and Macrovision may be pursuing a compatibility scheme without the help of Apple. That would resemble an earlier workaround by RealNetworks, which first revealed its “Harmony Technology” project in July of 2004. That transcoding effort coincided with deep discounts in the company’s music downloads, part of a play to unseat the paid download dominance of iTunes. While it remains unclear at this point if the EMI/Macrovision effort will mirror the RealNetworks play, Apple remains quite protective of its iPod ecosystem.