DVD Jon to sell FairPlay cracks to Apple rivals

— 12:22 PM on October 25, 2006

The Norwegian hacker who cracked DVD copy protection at the tender age of 15 has struck again, this time at Apple. Jon Lech Johansen, a.k.a. "DVD Jon," says he has cracked the FairPlay digital rights management system Apple uses to protect songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store. Johansen claims he has written two pieces of software: one that allows non-iPod devices to play iTunes songs, and another that allows third parties to encrypt songs using FairPlay so they can be played on iPods without needing to be converted to MP3 and losing their copy protection.

Instead of releasing the software to the public like his DVD "DeCSS" crack, however, Johansen intends to license the two programs via his company, DoubleTwist Ventures. The software would allow other companies to sell DRM-protected music playable on iPods, breaking Apple's near-total stranglehold on legal music downloads that work on the devices. DoubleTwist already has one client, although Johansen has opted not to reveal its identity.

This endeavor seems likely to trigger intense legal action from Apple, but FairPlay isn't patented, and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's reverse engineering clause could protect Johansen. The clause states:

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a)(2) and (b), a person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure ... for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such interoperability.
If legal action ensues, Johansen says, "we will test these issues in court."
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