DVD Jon hacks Apple - and pushes Banana Bread
With just a bit of code, Norwegian Jon Lech Johansen, a.k.a. DVD Jon, has done what the French parliament was unable to do, despite all their Gaullist sound and fury: he has broken the three-year old locks that tie Apple's iPod exclusively to iTunes, and vice versa. The story has hit the wires this morning, though Fortune's Robert Levine laid out the deep background earlier in the week. In a nutshell, Johansen, who became famous in 1999 for breaking the security around DVDs, has launched a company called DoubleTwist that hopes to license his latest hack, which sidesteps Apple's Fairplay rights management system. "I don't like closed systems," he says. Fair enough, but Levine gets at the fascinating point:
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.Expect to hear more from the Apple suits. Meanwhile, the news has revitalized the ongoing digital rights management (DRM) debate on Slashdot, a boisterous conversation that includes the usual entertaining diatribes, and even some exhortations to political action, as in:
No, DRM isn't evil, but it does subvert the intent of the law (to provide new works to the public) and replace it with the capitalistic, lucrecratic belief that profit is the only ends we work towards....That said, yes, the best bet is to change (or clarify) the law...Sitting in the basement burning tracks doesn't help! Get out there; vote; talk to politicians and your voting friends and family. If you don't, the law will be written by the corporations, and they do not have your best interests at heart.The most charming tidbit in all this? Johansen maintains his own outpost on the web, a blog appropriately named So Sue Me, to which he posts ... recipes for baked goods. Perhaps Steve Jobs is looking for a recipe for Banana Walnut Bread? It doesn't get any better than this.
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