Norwegian DVD Jon (aka Jon Lech Johansen) has done it again. While he had already cracked earlier versions of Apple’s FairPlay DRM, there had not been releases for recent versions. His early crack, called FairKeys, was a crack that was used by Apple crack software such as JHymn, but it only worked on iTunes version 5 or earlier.
Now Jon has “reverse engineered” the current version of FairPlay, and according to several reports, he has been licensing the reversed engineered version to allow interoperability between players. This could potentially earn him a free trip to France, but I’m more interested in the potential legality of his actions, particularly considering that he now lives in the United States.
The DMCA (section 1201(f)) actually offers an exception for reverse engineering. This exception permits circumvention by a person who has lawfully obtained a right to use a copy of a computer program for the sole purpose of interoperability with other programs. Similar provisions exist in other legislation, such as the UK’s CDPA, and of course in the 1991 European Software Directive. The question is then if Jon has obtained permission from Apple to reverse engineer Apple’s DRM. If he has not, he could be in trouble as he would have circumvented an effective technological protection measure.
Thhis is good news for interoperability, but it could be bad news for DVD Jon.