With DeCSS behind him, "DVD Jon" turns his attention to Apple's Fairplay

Summary:Robert Levine of Fortune reports:When he was 15, [Jon Lech] Johansen got frustrated when his DVDs didn't work the way he wanted them to. "I was fed up with not being able to play a movie the way I wanted to play it," that is, on a PC that ran Linux....

Robert Levine of Fortune reports:

When he was 15, [Jon Lech] Johansen got frustrated when his DVDs didn't work the way he wanted them to. "I was fed up with not being able to play a movie the way I wanted to play it," that is, on a PC that ran Linux....To fix the problem, he and two hackers he met online wrote a program called DeCSS, which removed the encryption that limits what devices can play the discs. That meant the movies could be played on any machine, but also that they could be copied. After the program was posted online, Johansen received an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation - and a visit from Norwegian police.

Johansen, now 22 and widely known as "DVD Jon" for his exploits, has also figured out how Apple's iPod-iTunes system works. And he's using that knowledge to start a business that is going to drive Steve Jobs crazy....Johansen has written programs that get around those restrictions: one that would let other companies sell copy-protected songs that play on the iPod, and another that would let other devices play iTunes songs. Starting this fall, his new company, DoubleTwist, will license them to anyone who wants to get into the digital-music business - and doesn't mind getting hate mail from Cupertino.

The Forbes piece goes on to say that Doubletwist may have a hard time finding customers because of how they could end up getting sued by Apple for using Johansen's technology. Or maybe even other companies like Microsoft since, to the extent that protected content that's not designed to run on iPods will (thanks to his technology), the implication is that he'll be reverse-engineering other digital rights management systems as well. 

But, will DoubleTwist need customers? Or just some support from the Norwegian government. One small detail that escaped Fortune's coverage is that Norway is one of the three Scandanavian countries (the other two being Denmark and Sweden) that has publicly expressed concern about the impact of Apple's closed system -- known as FairPlay -- on its citizens.  In fact, in Norway, Apple's implementation already violates that country's laws.

Perhaps there's a double entendre to the name "DoubleTwist." 

Topics: Apple

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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