Who could forget DVD Jon, the Linux guru who was co-author of DeCSS? This Linux application 'unlocked' DVDs with content otherwise protected by Content Scrambling System (CSS) encryption and landed DVD Jon in front of a judge. Which did not stop him from continuing his quest to free audiovisual content from the chains of whatever encryption is being used to tie it to the original format. Perhaps most notoriously with his uncanny ability to quickly break new DRM systems such as the Fairplay wrapper for iTunes music for example.
DVD Jon has now moved on from his Linux PC and has established a new company called DoubleTwist which has just released a desktop application that makes the movement and management of these DRM-protected AAC format files literally child's play. Sure, it is not the first to find a workaround to iTunes device sharing, and those with enough time on their hands will burn tracks to CD and then re-rip them off again in a different format. DoubleTwist takes iTunes purchased AAC files and turns them into MP3s that will play on any device, not just the 'authorised' PC, all at the press of a button.
Interestingly, a Facebook app called Twist me has also been released today, adopting a different approach: that of sharing audio and video content on their profile pages with other users. In fact, it provides a sync ability between a number of devices such as the Nokia N Series, Sony Ericsson Walkman & Cybershot phones plus Sony PSP, LG Viewty and Windows Mobile smart phones. Notably missing from the list at the moment is the Apple iPhone, but DVD Jon is already working on that.
It is DoubleTwist that is likely to get most music industry knickers in just that predicament, although the company reckons it is simply giving consumers the choice to enjoy the music that they have after all purchased on any device they like, something it insists is 'fair use.' Monique Farantzos, doubleTwist's co-founder and CEO argues that "Users can only play back the music they have already purchased and they are authorised to play." Given that DVD Jon was acquitted in December 2003, albeit in Norway, over the DCeCSS affair and has not faced any further serious legal challenges despite developing numerous DRM evading technologies, it looks like she has a point.
The real issue is just how relevant such workarounds to DRM remain to the music buying public though. Legal arguments could put paid to it all, of course, but I have a funny feeling that the nature of commerce in the online music industry will solve the problem first. We are already seeing a backlash from within the digital music industry against draconian DRM measures, in response to popular public pressure, and Apple itself reports that half of its iTunes music is available in a better quality format without the DRM restrictions. Others, such as Amazon and EMusic, have scrapped the DRM altogether and sell their audio wares in unrestricted MP3 format.