One of RIAA’s most un-favorite people Jon Lech Johansen, a 22-year-old Norwegian who lives in San Francisco, better known as DVD Jon, has struck again!

DVD Jon shot to fame at age 15 when he managed to crack the security system embedded in DVD movies. Needless to say RIAA “had a kitten” and took young Jon to court. Jon managed to prove that all he was doing was unlocking an unfair security system that prevented him from using perfectly legally obtained DVD’s on his home computer. The judge, who probably had come across the same stupid restriction sided with Jon and that was the end of the case.

DVD Jon now works for DoubleTwist, a Silicon Valley high tech startup (with a very sparse web site). According to stories circulating DVD Jon has found a way to crack Apples iTunes security system. Apple iTunes uses a DRM (Digital Rights Management) system called Fairplay. The very unfair Fairplay system means that if you download music from iTunes you can only play it on an Apple product, usually an iPod. Conversely, if you have an iPod and download music from another legal pay site you cannot play it on your iPod.

Apple is the owner of both iPod and iTunes, and most estimates show that Apple has approximately 78% of the legal music download business. Do I smell ‘monopoly’?

DVD Jon is claiming that his new invention will permit non iTune music obtained to be played on the iPod, and iTune obtained music to play on other devices.

DVD Jon has grown up a little since his last go around with the Darth Vader’s of the recording industry, and has not released his handiwork onto the internet. Instead the plan is to ‘sell’ the technology to other companies.

This is a very interesting situation. DVD Jon has opened up a Pandora ’s Box. Which companies would be interested in this circumnavigation technology? One that springs to mind is Microsoft. Bill and his elves are just about to launch a portable music player of their own, Zune. For Zune to be a success they need to build a following, most avid portable player users are already entrenched in their iPods. What a coup it would be if they could bundle in some software with Zune that will allow users to transfer their music from iPods.

Of course Microsoft will have to come up with some really creative ideas about how this is a completely different situation to Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to anti piracy.

This will also put RIAA in a very difficult position. If they back Apple they will be seen as not just targeting the illegal music downloaders but also regular folks that pay their money. If they back Microsoft then all bets are off about them being successful preventing people from removing DRM from other music and video products.

If this plays out the right way, it will be the fight of the century, all three major players, RIAA, Microsoft, and Apple share a couple of things in common, they all have deep pockets, and they all love to ‘Litigate first’ and ask questions later. Better still, they will be so busy suing each other that they won’t have time to bother the little guy.

DVD Jon just can not lose under these circumstances. All he did was develop the technology!

Simon Barrett

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