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

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." 

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Pretty brilliant

    I love the subersiveness of this idea. Instead of being sued for breaking DRM, you're actually spreading DRM by breaking one company's hold on a particular system.

    From a practical standpoint, it would be hard to invest in this, as Apple would, no doubt, repeatedly break compatibility with every update to iTunes (much as they did to Real when they hacked FairPlay).
    tic swayback
    • Right, but Real...

      eventually rehacked. It's a game of cat and mouse that the cat can't win. Navio did the same thing.
      • It can be done, but....

        ...are you going to tell your customers that periodically their songs are going to stop working while you re-hack Apple's latest upgrade?
        tic swayback
  • Ya Gotta love it!

    I HATE the idea of closed systems - -the iPod is very pretty, and the navigation tools/sound quality are as good as you can get, but the idea of selling music from commercial artists then controlling the buyers' choice of hardware platform is ridiculous. Battery exhausted and needs replacing? Get ready to shell out some serious bucks and wait a couple of weeks to get your iPod back.

    Apple takes a big enough bite when they sell the music, the user should be able to choose whatever platform they want to use to play it on. How can they be allowed to limit the audience the contributing artists are selling to?

    The regulatory commissions/governments should be protecting their citizens' freedom of choice rather than allowing this kind of market manipulation. Ironic that Apple has been crying to everyone who would listen about Microsoft's monopolistic marketing techniques while they are pulling the same BS on their own customers.

    I was a die-hard Mac fanatic from 1884 to 2003, when I finally got fed up with the high prices for Mac hardware. Even after their computers came down to a more equal level compared with Intel-driven PCs, add-on cards and such were ridiculously expensive. I needed a fast graphics accelerator (Radeon) for the graphics work I do in my job. The price was about $75 for PC version and about $200 for the Mac. That was enough for me.

    I still think Apple's OSX is way ahead of Windows in ease of use, stability, and intuitive navigation (a big factor when buying for your children to use in school or college), but when I was able to get a 3 GHz Pentium 4 for 1/3 the price of a sub-1 GHz Mac, it was a no-brainer (good for me, because I am also a no-brainer!)

    Kudos to "DVD Jon" and his new business partners, I wish them all the best for all our benefit.