DVD Jon cracks Apple’s FairPlay DRM, looks to license it

“Growing up in a small town in southern Norway, Jon Lech Johansen loved to take things apart to figure out how they worked,” Robert Levine reports for Fortune.

Levine reports, “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.”

“If you want to be specific – and for legal reasons, he does – Johansen has reverse-engineered FairPlay, the encryption technology Apple uses to make the iPod a closed system,” Levine reports. “Right now, thanks to FairPlay, the songs Apple sells at its iTunes store cannot easily be played on other devices, and copy-protected songs purchased from other sites will not play on the iPod. (The iPod will play MP3 files, which do not have any copy protection, but major labels don’t sell music in that format.)”

Levine reports, “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.”

“There’s an obvious question: Isn’t opening the iTunes system illegal? There is no obvious answer. FairPlay is not patented, most likely because the encryption algorithms it uses are in the public domain. (Apple would not comment for this story.) And Johansen says he is abiding by the letter of the law – if not, perhaps, its spirit,” Levine reports.

Levine reports, “To let other sites sell music that plays on the iPod, his program will ‘wrap’ songs with code that functions much like FairPlay. ‘So we’ll actually add copy protection,’ he says, whereas the DMCA prohibits removing it. Helping other devices play iTunes songs could be harder to justify legally, but he cites the DMCA clause that permits users, in some circumstances, to reverse-engineer programs to ensure ‘interoperability.'”

“Whatever Apple does, Johansen could have a hard time making DoubleTwist into a viable business. Companies could be reluctant to license Johansen’s software for fear of being sued along with DoubleTwist. And they might have a tough time convincing the major labels to let them sell their music, since the labels know how much that would upset Apple,” Levine reports.

Full article here.
Real (among others) already tried similar hacks and failed. Apple changed FairPlay and Real’s Harmony hack failed. You want your iTunes songs wthout DRM? Burn a CD. Apple already provides a sure-fire DRM removal method.

Related article:
DVD Jon reverse-engineers Apple’s FairPlay DRM, starts to license it – October 02, 2006
Navio threatens to hack Apple iTunes Music Store’s FairPlay DRM à la Real’s ‘Harmony’ – November 22, 2005
DVD Jon hacks Microsoft Windows Media Player file encryption – September 02, 2005
PC World review gives Real’s Rhapsody music service 2 stars out of 5; ‘just didn’t work’ – May 06, 2005
Time Magazine article about RealNetworks’ Rhapsody makes no sense – April 27, 2005
RealNetworks says ‘Harmony’ hack once again compatible with all Apple iPods – April 26, 2005
The Motley Fool: RealNetworks’ new Rhapsody ‘is still largely on the sidelines of the music war’ – April 26, 2005
RealNetworks launches new Rhapsody services, gives away 25 songs per month – April 26, 2005
Apple iTunes Music Store killer? Real expected to add subscriptions to Rhapsody music service – April 26, 2005
Resurrection Day comes quickly for PyMusique – March 22, 2005
The day the PyMusique died; Apple kills DVD Jon’s iTunes Music Store hack – March 21, 2005
‘PyMusique’ lets users buy songs without DRM from Apple’s iTunes Music Store – March 18, 2005
Real CEO Glaser calls Apple ‘deceptive’ with iTunes Music Store – March 07, 2005
Real CEO pitches to half empty room at tech symposium; Apple draws standing-room-only crowd – February 25, 2005
RealNetworks’ CEO Rob Glaser grabs 3 of top 10 spots on ‘Dumbest Moments in Business 2005’ list – January 31, 2005
RealNetworks ‘Harmony’ stops working on iPods but nobody notices for a month and a half – December 15, 2004
Bono-Glaser photo caption contest now open – October 25, 2004
Real’s CEO Glaser: ‘Harmony’ hack legal, Mac lovers are very sensitive to Apple criticism, and more – September 14, 2004
Analyst: Rob Glaser’s ill-advised war against Apple ‘is going to bite RealNetworks on the ass’ – August 30, 2004
RealNetwork’s CEO Glaser crashes Apple’s music party – July 30, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: Steve Jobs’ comments on Real ‘not succeeding’ are ‘ridiculously humorous’ – April 29, 2004
NY Times: Real CEO Glaser was close to having ‘iPod’ before Apple, but let it ‘slip through his fingers – April 24, 2004
Real’s CEO Glaser: Apple’s iPod/iTunes combo ‘threatens to turn off consumers’ – April 20, 2004
Jobs to Glaser: go pound sand – April 16, 2004
Real CEO Glaser begs Apple to make iPod play nice with other music services – March 24, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: ‘iTunes is only going to be used for playing songs you bought using the iTunes store – January 16, 2004

35 Comments

  1. reverse-engineering is where the legal problem begins. Everyone using iTunes has agreed not to reverse-engineer the product. That little “agree” button during installation is a legal contract.

  2. Johansen should die. No one would miss him.

    Johansen and his minions want everything for free.

    If he and his lackies want things for free, then they should not be paid salaries (if they even have jobs). That will teach them a value of money.

    I really don’t care if anyone else agrees with this, that’s my belief and I’m sticking to it.

  3. Good for DVD Jon. If he really is on solid legal footing (probably not), then perhaps he’ll force Apple to just start licensing FairPlay, and therefore make FP the de facto DRM on the ‘net. That, in turn, would increase choice for end-users, while ensuring that Apple gets a steady revenue stream from anybody who does choose to license FP.

    And Apple’s marketshare would *still* be dominant because they have the best solution, regardless of DRM. If Apple suddenly licensed FP, you would not hear a “great sucking sound” as users abandon the iPod for also-rans.

  4. JasonO. Did you even READ the article?

    It has nothing to do with FREE.

    It’s capitalism. And just like IBM-Compatible took over IBM, this would do the same.

    iPod compatible.

    I would love to buy from someone else with higher bit-rates. I’d love to buy from independent artists who want to protect their investment.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.