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Summary:

DRM-buster DVD Jon has a new target in his sights, and it’s a big piece of fruit. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple’s devices. Instead of breaking the DRM (something he’s […]

dvd jon by irina slutskyDRM-buster DVD Jon has a new target in his sights, and it’s a big piece of fruit. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple’s devices. Instead of breaking the DRM (something he’s already done), Jon has replicated it, and wants to license the technology to companies that want their content (music, movies, whatever) to play on Apple devices. This may not be good news for iTunes the store, but it could make the iPod even more popular.

Jon Lech Johansen became famous for hacking encrypted DVDs so they would play in Linux when he was 15, making him the target of criminal charges for which he was eventually acquitted. Last year he moved from Norway to San Diego to work for Michael Robertson. But the work — a digital locker for music — didn’t captivate Johansen, so he struck out on his own at the beginning of the summer.

Twenty-two-year-old Johansen moved to San Francisco to work with Monique Farantzos, who had contacted him after reading a Wall Street Journal profile of him last fall. The two now live in the Mission District and devote their time to DoubleTwist Ventures, which is Johansen’s first major attempt at commercializing his hacking. They haven’t raised any outside money because they have already found at least one (undisclosed) paying customer.

Johansen isn’t much of a swashbuckler; he barely touched his Heineken when we were out at drinks last week. But he has a lot of chutzpah, and related the story of how he emailed Steve Jobs and set up a lunch meeting in January.

Johansen and Farantzos went down to Cupertino for an audience with King Jobs, but weren’t terribly specific about their new company’s plans (to be fair, at this point, they didn’t quite know what their plans were). Jobs apparently warned that while Apple was not a litigious company, other tech firms might not take kindly to whatever DVD Jon might be up to. Ha!

Johansen doesn’t think what he’s doing is illegal; he’s adding DRM rather than breaking it. He and Farantzos were giddy about the prospect of Apple’s iTV, hoping companies will pay up to get movies on the set-top box when it comes out, after seeing the ill effects of being shut off the iPod. Spurned by Apple? Step right up.

This is a different twist on the constant battle between DRM crackers and builders (see, just last week, Microsoft’s lawsuit against a hacker for releasing an app that strips off its PlaysForSure DRM). If successful, DoubleTwist will eliminate Apple as a middleman to its own hardware. But in doing so, it just might help Apple sell more of that hardware. Apple enjoys fat margins on its devices, and perhaps should turn a blind eye, for now.

We won’t be crossing our fingers for Jobs to keep his non-litigious promise, though.

Photo of DVD Jon by Irina Slutsky

  1. DVD Jon selling Apple DRM to Apple’s competitors…

    Om sez, “DRM-buster DVD Jon has a new target in his sights, and it’s a big piece of fruit. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple’s devices.” Johansen doesn’t th…

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  2. Hasn’t Real been here before? All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.

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  3. GigaOM » DVD Jon Fairplays Apple…

    Could be interesting — DVDJon reverse engineered Apple’s DRM, and is looking to license it to other companies wanting to sell DRMed tracks. Of course, Apple can break it again with a firmware update, so who knows where this is…

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  4. Yep, Real did this ages back: Apple broke it with a firmware update, Rob Glaser put out a shouty press release, and it all went a bit cat-and-mousey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairPlay#Harmony

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  5. In A Twist, Now DVD Jon Wants To Give You More DRM…

    Back in June, we noted that “DVD Jon” Lech Johansen had quit working with Michael Robertson (of MP3.com…

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  6. The journalism here is a bit weak. Anay analysis on the commercial viability of such an endeavour? This seems wildly speculative: “If successful, DoubleTwist will eliminate Apple as a middleman to its own hardware.”

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  7. DVD Jon’s is back to once again make FairPlay fair…

    Filed under: Portable Audio, Portable VideoAs much as we’d like to hang on to the importance of PlaysForSure…

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  8. pwb,

    you gotta be kidding me. this is fresh news, which we are bringing to you and other readers. for me that is journalism. analysis has its place, and we do that as well. read this for what it is – news.

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  9. Surely thisll break when Apple do an update, leaving all the customers of these ‘licensed’ companies with unplayable media until an update (if possible) is made available. You wouldnt see me buying any media from those companies.

    Also, what EXACTLY is stopping these companies selling their media to work on the iPod as it is? The article makes the iPod sound as if it will only play DRMd files. Just sell MP3s or MP4 movies and theyll play on the iPod.

    This sounds like a very dubious business idea to me.

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  10. There is no question that DVD Jon is a technical Genius – But he’s a really dumb business man if he thinks this is going to fly… and so is Monique F whom I would have thought was smarter. I wonder if they will offer a guarantee that they can keep up with Apple’s code reactions to this.

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  11. “…he barely touched his Heineken when we were out at drinks last week…”

    The next time, try buying him some very good French wine. He loves that. Give him a 2002 Meursault Francois Jobard En la Barre, and he’ll be happy.

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  12. Does anyone have any links to any sites which explain or talk about why DVD Jon stopped working for Michael Robertson? I had assumed they were still working together.

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  13. So how is this not a violation of the DMCA?

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  14. I can think of one use for this. Seattle’s Public Library loans audio recordings of in-copyright books to Windows users to play on their PC, which isn’t that useful. But this software could let the library also loan audio books that Mac and Windows users could play on their iPods without breaking the DRM for the audio books.

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  15. I am guessing that this is a patent infringement which could have severe financial penalties, as reverse engineering and then selling a patent protected “invention” is completely illegal. I foresee lawyers in the intellectual property and patent law fields becoming rich and yet another tech genuis being ruined. Why hasn’t this guy gone and and got himself a nice six figure career?

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  16. I agree with the last poster. If the Apple patent lawyers did their job right, they would have covered any and every reverse engineering angle, I predict an early demise for this DRM. No device maker will license it without complete indemnification against lawsuits.

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  17. I don’t think the DMCA applies– this isn’t breaking copyright protection measures, it’s using them.

    I’m sure there are other problems…

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  18. DVD Jon Offering Apple’s Fairplay DRM For a Price…

    DVD Jon, the man-child who’s famed for cracking DVDs for Linux boxes—among other things—has…

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  19. mike perry said:
    I can think of one use for this. Seattle’s Public Library loans audio recordings of in-copyright books to Windows users to play on their PC, which isn’t that useful. But this software could let the library also loan audio books that Mac and Windows users could play on their iPods without breaking the DRM for the audio books.

    SPL uses the expiration feature. There is no such feature in Fairplay and doubtfully in this clone of it.

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  20. Seems the bright move to me, stop fscking around and make shit happen. The past still has somet’ing to give.

    Good luck to him, open the itunes DRM, not so good for Apple, but better for the world, better than Windows Media Player at least.

    Sell talent not technology.

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  21. DVD Jon plays fair with Apple DRM…

    DVD Jon, who made himself famous by hacking encrypted DVDs at the age of 15, has reverse-engineered Apple’s Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple’s devices, reports GigOM. Instead of…

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  22. the photographer’s name is slutsky! that’s awesome!

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  23. das rite ‘dude’ – what kind of sky is it? slutsky?

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  24. Apple DRM 的矛與盾…

    DVD Jon 通通幫你搞定 :p

    今天看到很多消息,來源通通指向這裡,提到有名的 DVD Jon 開了一家叫做 Doubletwist Ventures 的公司,他賣什麼產品呢 ? 這很有趣,他破解了 Apple 所使用的 FairPlay 技術,…

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  25. Uh, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act does apply. I don’t like the DMCA, but DVD Jon is clearly violating the DMCA. The Apple implementation of the Fairplay codec is a technological protective measure (TPM) and mere circumvention of a protected work is a violation.

    Sec. 1201(a)(1)(A) Circumvention of copyright protection systems. Violations Regarding Circumvention of Technological Measures.
    (A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.
    (A) to ”circumvent a technological measure” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and
    (B) a technological measure ”effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

    DVD Jon also also cannot license the “crack” since he does not have any rights under copyright law to grant. He does not have the right to distribute, publicly display, copy, destroy, sell, etc.

    We need to change the laws instead of risk breaking them. Check out http://static.chillingeffects.org/1201.shtml, and http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA.

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  26. I agree with Matthew. This seems to have a parallel to what happened with homebrew games on the Sony PSP.

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  27. I think it will not be ling until Apple Fairplays DVD Jon.

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  28. OK, yes, it was a good news item but I’m a little surprised there were no suggestions that it is hardly viable.

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  29. Chris,

    Jon is not circumventing Fairplay DRM on existing content, he’s allowing new content to be protected in a manner that is compatible with Apple’s Fairplay’s DRM. He’s adding protection, not removing it.

    Until now, only Apple has been able to protect content with Fairplay. By ‘cracking’ Fairplay,, anyone who licensees Jon’s technology can create protected content that plays on iPods, iTV, etc.

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  30. It strikes me that patent infringement is he only way Apple could pursue this in the courts.
    As several other commentators have pointed out, DVD Jon isn’t circumventing DRM, he’s adding it to allow non-Apple files to be compatible with the iPod while still retaining DRM. If Apple were to challenge the notion that other companies could sell DRM-encoded files for the iPod, they might be opening up that can of iTunes+iPod anti-trust worms that they’ve been skillfully avoiding up to this point.
    But to challenge DoubleTwist’s licensing of a technology that Apple owns, well that might just be the simplest route, assuming the FairPlay patent is robust enough to take on DVD Jon’s ‘re-interpretation’ of it.

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  31. How long do you guys thing Apple is going to get away with building a monopoly in entertainment backed by technology. 3 more years? 5 more years? 10 more years?

    DVD Jon is working on technology that will be direly needed when society understands that it is not in their best interests to create these kind of monopolies (another Microsoft?).

    Now when this happens, and consumers really start voting with their money. DVD Jon will be there to reap the hay with his technology.

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  32. Apple’s DRM licensed to others by DVD Jon…

    Reverse engineer THIS! It’s IT Blogwatch, in which “DVD Jon” turns his sights on Apple. Not to mention the pilot episode of The Coded Smorgasbord…

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  33. Apple – seller of razors or razor-blades?…

    The online columnis Robert X Cringely has had a few columns recently where he has analyzed Apple’s iPod, iTunes and related products and, contrary to most analysts, stated that Apple is in the razor selling business as opposed to the razor-blade one. …

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  34. DVD Jon’s DRM Spoofing Business…

    Well-known hacker, DVD Jon (famous for breaking the DVD security system), has broken Apple’s FairPlay DRM system. What is interesting about this is that he is not releasing the technology, but rather is selling it to companies that want to port their …

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  35. DVD Jon Selling the Keys to Apple’s FairPlay DRM…

    DRM-buster DVD Jon has a new target in his sights, and it’s a big piece of fruit. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s Fairplay and is starting to license it to companies who want their media to play on Apple’s devices…

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  36. Strange Bedfellows…

    Jon Lech Johansen’s DoubleTwist Ventures is selling a third-party implementation of Apple’s Fairplay rights management system (the software that makes sure that only you can use your iTunes purchases, and then only in iTunes, iPod or the up…

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  37. The legal question over Fairplay is just one issue. Apple doesn’t have any issued patents on Fairplay per se so it is possible Doubletwist could license a compatible implementation to others.

    But there is another legal issue being overlooked here. How can a Norwegian citizen legally move to the US and start their own venture? He might have come over here on an H1B initially for his earlier job but that wouldn’t cover his new venture. He would have had to refile. The USCIS generally won’t approve H1’s for brand new startups with no cash. Is it possible that DVD Jon is now a gasp illegal immigrant!?

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  38. Irena’s last name was the nickname we had for one of my middle school teachers back in the day. Those were the good ol days.

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  39. I met Jon at FooCamp a few weeks ago and he told me he’s employed by DoubleTwist, though he didn’t go into details about what they do. I’m assuming he’s not a founder.

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  40. arheddis varkenjaab Tuesday, October 3, 2006

    slutksy is hilarious! is anyone here familiar with how to install aol 8.0 on their computers?
    i need to make sure my computer does not run java.

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  41. Apple’s DRM licensed to others by DVD Jon…

    DVD Jon has adopted a “If you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em” attitude and has created a DRM scheme via reverse engineering Apple’s FairPlay. He has now started selling licenses to music companies who want their music to play on the iPod but don’t want…

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  42. Are the 13 (!) instances of pingbacks, flashbacks, and whatnot really necessary?

    I cam here to read the real comments, not page through tech sites high-fivin’ each other in the comments column.

    Nemo

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  43. Would be cool, if you could seperate the comments and the trackbacks.

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  44. Jon Lech Johansen aka DVD Jon breaks Apple’s Fairplay…

    Jon Lech Johansen aka DVD Jon is one guy who can’t keep his hands away from cracking software copyrights and now he’s done it again. He’s famous for hacking encrypted DVDs and now he’s planning to licence his reverse-engineered versions…

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  45. Ben The 13 year old genius Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    i say they make a drm that just reports on use and
    abuse abuse being filesharing limewire
    uploading to websites like angelfire 250free google video
    youtube metacafe newgrounds etc
    use being burning 2 cd playing adding 2 movies etc
    bu if said abuses were to happen said drm would autodestruct
    thus killing by keeping it from being played said media
    then person would be given chance to regain said
    media rights by means of having to download a
    program like the winblows genuine advantage program and verify
    that said abuse was not his or her fault or having to pay fine
    equal to x amount of times original price of said purchased media
    that way we would need no plays for sure or the fairuse spyware/crapware/bloatware
    th pt owareoe the cnsume about 10 megs of spzce i know this because
    i own a iriver ifp780 with no plays for sure which has capacity like this
    128 out of 128 and an iriver t30 with 498 out of 512 with the stupid drm

    I may not be as old as some of you because im only 13 but you have to admit
    this has some appeal to it

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  46. looks like his company is doubletwist ventures.

    http://doubletwistventures.com/

    Cheers,
    Dean

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  47. I guess DVD Jon won’t be releasing doubletwist as open source software under Richard Stallman’s new version of the GNU Public License (GPL).

    :-)

    It’s really a shame about all this DRM. I don’t want to buy any new media because of this. I have plenty of regular old Vinyl LPs without any DRM other than you have to own a turntable, then there are my cassettes without DRM except that you have to own a cassette player. Given that optical media is supposed to last longer than I am, who is to say that DRM protected media won’t outlast the equipment/virus-proof systems required to play it. This is worse than the question about beta versus 8trk. Windows XP Service pack1 systems just went out of support with Microsoft. No more security updates for them. I would hate to buy DRM protected media and have to keep vendor specific systems around to play them.

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  48. “DoubleTwistIf successful, DoubleTwist will eliminate Apple as a middleman to its own hardware.”

    – sorry please explain — hows does this happen?

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  49. Apple have a very strong incentive not to sue – they make a helluva lot more money of iPod sales than they can ever hope to make off iTunes, which is just a promotional vehicle to encourage people to buy iPods.

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  50. Intersting note…

    DoubleTwist Ventures website http://doubletwistventures.com/ is blatantly copyrighted!

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  51. Copyright and DRM are very very different animals JC.

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  52. giochi online calcio…

    news…

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  53. The USCIS generally won’t approve H1’s for brand new startups with no cash. So believe it ;)

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  54. I met Jon at FooCamp a few weeks ago and he told me he’s employed by DoubleTwist, though he didn’t go into details about what they do. I’m assuming he’s not a founder.

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  55. There is no released Fairplay expiration date yet, but I know for a fact that Apple is working on $2 movie rentals for the iTunes Store.

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  56. DVD Jon seems to have done it again. IPod is already the leading MP3 player, so there’s no doubt that once other companies are able to use the device to their own ends that the device will become even more popular than it already is – if that’s even possible.

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  57. [...] by hacker Jon “DVD Jon” Lech Johansen to combat restrictive DRM (and which we were first to write about in detail back in October 2006), launches Tuesday. The company has raised a Series A round of an [...]

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  58. [...] by hacker Jon “DVD Jon” Lech Johansen to combat restrictive DRM (and which we were first to write about in detail back in October 2006), launches Tuesday. The San Francisco-based company has raised a [...]

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  59. [...] durumu) daha sonra bununla da yetinmedi Apple FairPlay DRM kodlarını da kırarak iyice popüler oldu. son marifeti ile yine steve jobs‘u sinirlendirecek gibi. steve jobs’un müzik [...]

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  60. [...] durumu) daha sonra bununla da yetinmedi Apple FairPlay DRM kodlarını da kırarak iyice popüler oldu. son marifeti ile yine steve jobs‘u sinirlendirecek gibi. steve jobs’un müzik [...]

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  61. [...] durumu) daha sonra bununla da yetinmedi Apple FairPlay DRM kodlarını da kırarak iyice popüler oldu. son marifeti ile yine steve jobs‘u sinirlendirecek gibi. steve jobs’un müzik [...]

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  62. [...] FairPlay DRM kodlarını da kırarak iyice popüler oldu. son marifeti ile yine steve jobs‘u sinirlendirecek gibi. steve jobs’un müzik [...]

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  63. [...] mention of FairPlay1 as a nod towards the known issues with the DRM; namely, that DVD Jon had reverse-engineered the technology for music, so it was reasonable to assume that others were hard at work trying to break the DRM [...]

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  64. [...] CTO Jon Lech Johansen is famous for reverse engineering DVD CSS as a teenager. We had broken the story of him trying to commercialize his content accessibility efforts back when doubleTwist was founded [...]

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  65. De Eindhovense gemeenteraad gaat de Rekenkamer vragen onderzoek te doen naar de gang van zaken rondom Siegobert Jansen over de slechte financiële situatie van het Parktheater. Dit doordat er wederom problemen zijn met de bruto-marge. Siegobert Jansen heeft een lange staat …

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  66. Dit doordat er wederom problemen zijn met de bruto-marge. Siegobert Jansen heeft een lange staat …

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  67. Fiod legt beslag op de panden en het onroerendgoed van architect en ontwikkelaar ir. M.L. (Marco) Aartsen Aartsen & Partners Architecten B.V

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  68. [...] the only story in the last 24 hours that tempted me to return to GigaOM to follow up on something I wrote way back in the [...]

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