The purpose of the project has always been to provide software that can be used to losslessly remove Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection from music purchased through iTunes, so that the buyer may exercise their right of fair use and play the music on non-Apple devices (Hear Your Music aNywhere).
The software has gone through many incarnations. The original hymn has been succeeded by JHymn, QTFairUse6, MyFairTunes, and others. Regardless of the program, the emphasis has always been squarely on fair use — not piracy. Any discussions of piracy have been strongly and actively discouraged on the site's forums.
For years now, Apple has been content to mostly ignore the Hymn Project. At worst, they would introduce subtle changes to new versions of iTunes that would break the Hymn software. Nobody really knows if this was done intentionally, but it was usually just a matter of time before a new solution was found. This seemed like a reasonable approach for Apple to take. After all, why should they care? The DRM was only in place to placate the record companies. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has even expressed his opinion that all music should be free of DRM.
Well, now things have changed. Recently, a new program called Requiem was announced that appears to be a complete crack of the iTunes DRM scheme. Previous programs had relied on various forms of trickery or memory hooks to access the unencrypted audio data — none had ever completely cracked the encryption algorithms.
Requiem seems to have been the last straw. Earlier this week, the ISP hosting the site received a Cease and Desist order from Apple Legal, demanding that all downloads be removed from the site, and that the site post no links to any programs that could remove DRM from Apple music or video. Reportedly, similar C & D orders were also sent to at least one of the project's developers, and to another ISP where Reqiuem had been hosted. Ironically, Requiem was never actually hosted on the Hymn site — merely mentioned and linked to in one of the forums. Nevertheless, the Hymn Project has now come into the crosshairs of Apple's lawyers and, lacking legal resources, has seen no choice but to comply with the order.