DVD Jon Fairplays Apple


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


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trademark registration

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.


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.


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.


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

David Russell

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.

suresh kumar

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

— sorry please explain — hows does this happen?

Douglas W. Goodall

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.

Ben The 13 year old genius

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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