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A DoubleTwist On DRM
Thursday, October 26th, 2006 at 2:20 PM - by
Jon Johansen, best known for his DeCSS application that removes copy protection from DVD movie discs, is approaching digital rights management (DRM) from a different angle with his company DoubleTwist Ventures. Now he plans to add DRM code to songs to mimic Apple's FairPlay copy protection technology.
Mr. Johansen, also known as DVD Jon, has played a cat-and-mouse game with Apple Computer for some time by reverse-engineering its FairPlay copy protection technology. His code was used in applications like QTFairUse to strip the copy protection out of songs so that they could play on portable music devices other than the iPod. Apple would release updates that broke his code, and a few days later Mr. Johansen would release a new version that worked.
At the beginning of October, however, he announced that DoubleTwist was taking a different approach by adding FairPlay-like DRM code to already copy protected songs. In effect, it allows companies to sell copy protected music that plays on a wide range of devices - including Apple's iPod. Any company that wants to take advantage of DVD Jon's code has to license it through DoubleTwist Ventures.
Right now, the DoubleTwist Ventures Web site is scant on details, but that doesn't seem to be stopping companies from considering purchasing licenses. Apparently, at least one anonymous company has already signed on.
In a meeting Mr. Johansen had with Apple in January, Steve Jobs warned him that "while Apple was not a litigious company, other tech firms might not take kindly to whatever DVD Jon might be up to." The implication is that at some point, DoubleTwist's code will likely land Mr. Johansen in court.
Ultimately, DVD Jon's turnabout from stripping copy protection out of songs to adding it back in may work out in Apple's favor. If companies license his technology for their own music stores, it could ultimately drive iPod sales even higher.
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