"DVD-Jon" Lech Johansen, best known for cracking the DVD copy protection system (and being acquitted for it twice), is now turning his efforts to iTunes and its Digital Rights Management system. The Norwegian recording industry does not fear Johansen and his programming skills.
At the age of 16, programmer and software developer Jon Lech Johansen was charged by state prosecutors back by the American entertainment industry because of the computer program he created called DeCss. The program which was available for free download on the net allows owners of DVDs to view them on Linux operated PCs, not just designated DVD players. The prosecutors charged that the program also allowed for pirate copying of DVDs. In late 2003 and early 2004, Lech Johansen was acquitted both in lower and higher court instances, and since the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit decided not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, Johansen was freed of charges of copyright infringement.
Johansen has now developed a new program called PyMusique that is designed allow iTunes users to download music files on other MP3 players than that of Apple’s own hugely successful iPod player. Johansen’s current solution does not defeat copy-protection in the usual sense, but avoids it. Apple’s popular download service iTunes offers music files that cannot be copied onto other handheld devices than the company’s own iPod. PyMusique allows the user to purchase downloads from iTunes without the protection programme coming along; making the music files playable in other formats and on other types of playback devices. PyMusique also allows Linux users to purchase music from iTunes.
IFPI Norway’s Sæmund Fiskvik acknowledges and welcomes Apple’s success with iTunes, but is not enthusiastic about such tunes only being playable on the iPod. Says Fiskvik to Norwegian daily Aftenposten: “To the degree that ITunes sells music based on proprietary barriers, this is not something that has happened with the recording industry’s blessing and celebration. We are sceptical to this. This is a problem Apple has to solve.”
Fiskvik wants Apple to rely on DRM (Digital Rights Management) with iTunes. Pending legislation will likely make cracking DRM illegal, but event here the latest Johansen effort is probably on safe ground.
“As far as I can see PyMusique does not violate the DRM system in iTunes, it only keeps the music away from the (iTunes) program”.
Apple’s music is currently downloaded unprotected and copy protection is applied by the user’s iTunes program – PyMysique intercepts the music before the process is implemented.
Last year, while in the process of developing PyMysique, Johansen posted a statement on the appropriately named “So Sue Me” site, saying that critics had “failed to understand that by buying into DRM they have given the seller complete control over the product after it’s being sold” calling them “clueless about copyright law.”