I read in the Times Online today that the protection system which stops users from copying iTunes has been circumvented by a hacker called DVD Jon. Whatever you think about the morality of the issue, I love the fact that DVD Jon looks like an inoffensive mild-mannered Clark Kent kind of character. There’s a big entry about his life story and track record of strange hacking achievements here. Robin Hood? Hyper villain? Does Steve Jobs have enough money? Do you?
A notorious Norwegian hacker known as DVD Jon is preparing for another run-in with the music industry after he released software that lets iPod owners copy music and videos bought from iTunes and play it on other devices.
The program allows people to drag and drop songs from iTunes into a folder on their desktop, which in turn copies the files to other devices such as mobile phones and games consoles via the web.
In doing so, the software breaks the copy protection – known as ‘digital rights management’ or DRM – that is built into all music that is bought from iTunes. Music bought from iTunes can be played only on the iPod.
DoubleTwist, DVD Jon’s company, maintains that its service is legal, but lawyers said that Apple would almost certainly seek to shut it down because the law now specifically targeted technologies which attempted to circumvent measures such as DRM.
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The hacker has previously enabled iPod owners to play music bought from websites other than iTunes.
DoubleTwist’s new software will initially enable files to be copied to Nokia N-series mobile phones, Sony Ericsson’s Walkman and Cybershot handsets, as well as any smartphone powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system.
The program gets around Apple’s DRM software by replaying a song in fast-forward and taking a copy of the audio track, using a process similar to that by which a CD is ‘ripped’ – or copied – to a computer.
About a hundred songs can be converted in half an hour, doubleTwist said, although there is a 5 per cent loss of sound quality – about the same as when a CD is copied.
A spokesman for the San Fransisco-based company said that its software was legal, because it only allowed a user who has already purchased music to copy it. “All we are facilitating are friends sending things to one another,” Monique Farantzos, doubleTwists’s chief executive and co-founder, told Reuters.
Lawyers today cast doubt on Ms Farantzos’s claims, however, saying that the law had taken steps to protect Apple’s efforts to control the way its music could be played, and that anyone circumventing measures such as DRM risked being found guilty of copyright infringement.
“I would be astonished if doubleTwist doesn’t get a call from Apple,” Paul Jones, a partner in intellectual property law at the London-based firm Harbottle & Lewis, said.
DVD Jon, whose real name is Jon Lech Johansen, has been an arch-enemy of the music and film industries ever since he released software which broke the copy protection on Hollywood films, aged 16.
In 2003, Mr Johansen, now 24, developed the first of several programs which attempted to bypass the system developed by Apple for synchronising its iTunes store with iPods, leading to one of a series of run-ins with the firm.