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DVD Jon opens Apple DRM for profit and pleasure

With Jobs' blessing? Umm...

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DVD Jon is back in the public eye with a method of reverse-engineering Fairplay, Apple's digital rights management software. He thinks Apple won't stop his efforts to turn his technology into cash.

DVD Jon, better known to his parents as Jon Lech Johansen, has set up in business with partner Monique Farantzos in San Francisco’s Mission District. Called DoubleTwist Ventures, their company "focuses on the development of interoperability solutions for digital media and the reverse engineering of proprietary systems for which licensing options are non-existent or impractical".

Their idea for Fairplay, first reported by Giga-Om's Liz Gannes, is to "replicate the technology to companies that want their content (music, movies, whatever) to play on Apple devices. This may not be good news for iTunes the store, but it could make the iPod even more popular".

So what will Apple to make of this? Gannes writes:

Johansen and Farantzos went down to Cupertino for an audience with King Jobs, but weren't terribly specific about their new company's plans (to be fair, at this point, they didn't quite know what their plans were). Jobs apparently warned that while Apple was not a litigious company, other tech firms might not take kindly to whatever DVD Jon might be up to. Ha!

Ha! Indeed. The words 'Apple', 'notorious' and 'litigator' fit like a glove. And, when it comes to its own DRM, the company has never shown any laissez-faire inclinations. Fairplay hooks iTunes users into iPods when they are the move. So why would Apple yield on DRM interoperability, unless it was forced to - by an important regulator, for example (the US or the EU, not the Nordic countries)?

But we wish Johansen and Farantzos well in their enterprise. Still only 22 years-old, DVD Jon has sought ways of playing with Apple's DRM software for three years or more. In 2003, we exclusively reported how Johansen had unlocked iTunes' locked music. Since then, his work on Apple's DRM has attracted several news stories.

DVD Jon first hit the headlines seven years ago, when he released DECSS, a program that enabled people running their PCs on Linux to play DVDs. The Motion Picture Ass. Of America (MPAA) took a dim view of the Norwegian teenager's philanthropy, as his descrambling software also enabled people to copy DVDs. They pressed police in his home country to charge DVD Jon with something - anything. Norway's Economic Crimes Unit obliged, but their case was thrown out of court in 2003 and dismissed by an appeals court the following year. ®

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