Famed DeCSS hacker doesn't buy into Steve Jobs' words on DRM

Jon Lech Johansen, or better known as DVD Jon for cracking CSS encryption, posted a response to Steve Jobs’ open letter about DRM. As one who clearly stands against the restrictions placed upon media by corporations, it may be surprising for some to learn that Johansen isn’t buying Jobs' preach.

One of Johansen’s immediate criticisms are what he believes to be Jobs’ use of misleading statistics. Jobs said in his letter that customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store, which he equated to 22 songs purchased for each iPod ever sold. Johansen points out that the stats are misleading because not all of those 90 million iPods are in use, and that some of them may not even be operational.

“It’s the number of iTunes Store customers and average sales per customer that’s relevant, and Apple has never disclosed these figures,” Johansen wrote. “Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands. At the 2004 Macworld Expo, Steve revealed that one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music.”

iPod users who have purchased nothing from iTunes are not at all locked in to Apple’s technology and cannot be considered as attractive customers by competitors. Microsoft and Sony (along with the record companies behind them) want the customers who have already spent a considerable sum of money on iTunes, proving that they are willing to pay for music. “In effect, it’s the customers who would be the most valuable to an Apple competitor that get locked in. The kind of customers who would spend $300 on a set-top box,” concluded Johansen.

As one who has already reverse engineered Apple’s FairPlay technology, Johansen takes issue with Steve Jobs’ claim that opening up FairPlay to others would endanger its security. DVD Jon points out, “Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM 10 (marketing name PlaysForSure) has not had more security breaches than FairPlay despite the fact that it has been licensed to dozens of companies,” adding that Microsoft’s decision to make the Zune DRM a closed system was a business decision and had nothing to do with DRM security.

In his most recent post, Johansen said with a grin and a wink, “Licensing FairPlay is quite feasible, it’s just that Steve doesn’t want to do so. Of course, from a business perspective I don’t mind.”

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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