DVD Jon breaks iTunes security

The man responsible for writing software that allowed people to circumvent copyright technology on DVDs has posted software on the Internet that may allow devotees of Apple Computer's new iTunes online music store to break digital rights management (DRM) technology that protects files downloaded from that service.

A link to the file, called QTFairUse, was posted on a Web log that is maintained by Jon Lech Johansen, also known as "DVD Jon". When compiled and run, the program allows iTunes users to make raw copies of songs that use Apple's MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) standard.

According to comments in a file included with the QTFairUse code, the program allows users to open and play an AAC file using Apple's free QuickTime media player, then save raw AAC data to a file on the computer.

However, the file posted by Johansen still requires significant technical knowledge to use, according to messages posted to the Apple discussion site macrumors.com.

The file was posted as uncompiled C language code and must be compiled before it can be run.While the output file created by QTFairUse would be an identical copy of the original, the copying process also removes crucial header information that most media players require, meaning that the copied file could not be played immediately, according to messages and technical analysis of QTFairUse posted on Macrumors.com.

The program was posted last Friday without comment to Johansen's Web log (or "blog"), which is called So sue me, and is apparently designed for use on Microsoft Windows systems.

A number of contributors to Macrumors.com who analysed the code said that the program was simple - fewer than 200 lines long - and used the QuickTime application to decrypt iTunes files, simply modifying QuickTime to have the unencrypted data saved to a file on hard drive, in addition to playing it.

Johansen rose to international prominence after he created De Contents Scramble System (DeCSS) in 1999 to crack the CSS copy protection on DVDs, and made the code available to others on the Internet.

Norwegian police raided his home in January 2000 after the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed a complaint.

After a trial in Norway, Johansen was acquitted in January of charges related to his development and distribution of DeCSS. The court found that Johansen was entitled to access information on a DVD that he had purchased, and was therefore entitled to use his program to break the code.

Norwegian prosecutors have appealed that ruling.

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Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
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