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DVD Jon unlocks iTunes' locked music

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Exclusive Jon Lech Johansen, better known as DVD Jon for his authorship of the DeCSS decryption software, has turned his attention to Apple's locked music format.

While he hasn't decrypted the DRM that Apple uses, he has produced a simple Windows command line utility which will install a DLL which dumps the output of a QuickTime stream to a file. The short C program is called "QuickTime for Windows AAC memory dumper". (To compile the program requires MinGW and MSYS - from here.)

An application called MyTunes already performs much the same function, but Johansen's is open source. He therefore unveils the DLL entry point, and the exit hole. So let the fun and games commence: until OS vendors bring in portions of the 'trusted' architecture which Intel is building, such illuminating capers (such Great Deeds) are possible. (This isn't, as we foolishly thought earlier, the analog hole: the software isn't capturing the output of the sound card - it intercepts QuickTime playback before it has a chance to be 0wn3d (or however you spell it), by Hollywood. But it sets up an interesting confrontation.

A similar arms race took place in the early 1990s, when IBM used a similar technique to wrap its OS/2 for Windows product, a rival operating system, around Windows 3.1. IBM wanted to halve the steet price of its rival operating system; and at the time a big chunk of that OS price went to back to Microsoft, because as part of their messy divorce, IBM had agreed to bundle Windows into every copy of OS/2. So the IBM product, which came without Windows (and thus the Redmond royalty) could be sold much cheaper. But it relied on being able to run the copy of Windows that was there, and so needed to know the entry points of the key Microsoft system DLLs.

Microsoft rapidly brought out new versions of the operating system (and in this day and age, how often do you hear that?) which shifted the entry points a little each time, so IBM's programmers had to go back and work out where they were all over again.

You know the result of this skirmish already.

When iTMS began selling locked music in April, Johansen described it as the least fair-use hostile. Johansen's program defangs it one step further.

Computer companies traditionally are not too concerned about this kind of public knowledge, but the entertainment pigopolists very much are. And traditionally, the computer companies have looked the other way and whistled. Right now they all seem to be falling over themselves to give in. to join what appears to be a dotcom goldrush. Given Apple's close relationship with Hollywood, it's likely to come under the same kind of pressure. If it caves in, we'll see the same kind of arms race as before, with rapid updates of iTunes from Apple each moving those DLL entry points around a little. Unlike a traditional computer company, Apple has given Hollywood some leverage it wants: access to its copyrighted content, and those terms are set by the entertainment pigopolists.

As we said, you can see why an impatient Hollywood is so keen to lock down open computer platforms, and this includes plugging the analog hole. It doesn't like what crawls through; locked down computer systems designed to play locked down music would give Hollywood an unparalleled opportunity for social engineering. And Hollywood greatly feels the need to do this, as we've been conditioned to expect music for free, to our great cultural enrichment, it must be said.

Johansen wrote a simple decryption program that allowed Linux users to watch DVDs. He was tried in his native Norway at the behest of the American MPAA, but acquitted, in January. Prosecutors are appealing the verdict, and Brother Jon tells us he's returning from France, his home for the past few months, to prepare for his trial. That resumes next month. ®

Related Stories

DVD Jon is free - official
DRM music goldrush is a race for losers - mp3.com founder

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