Back in June, we noted that "DVD Jon" Lech Johansen had quit working with Michael Robertson (of MP3.com fame), and had joined a new company to reverse-engineer DRM schemes that companies refused to license. He's not wasted much time in starting at the top, as his new company is already offering Apple's FairPlay DRM technology for companies to license. Apple's famously refused to let anybody else put their DRM'ed content on iPods outside a very small circle -- leading some companies like RealNetworks to try and reverse-engineer FairPlay on their own to make iPods compatible with their music services -- while it also refuses to license the technology to hardware manufacturers so it can control what devices consumers use to play back media it sells. Apple's steadfast refusal to license FairPlay creates a nice little lock-in for the company; but it also limits the usefulness of iPods and media purchased from the iTunes Music Store. For instance, the idea of selling TV shows seems to be working well for Apple, but by limiting the devices on which they can be played back, in particular making it somewhat difficult for people to watch the shows on their televisions, they're limiting their audience. Meanwhile, the value of an iPod gets held down since it can't access any media stores, apart from iTMS, selling content with DRM. The obivous solution is to scrap DRM, since it really doesn't help anyone (not to mention it doesn't really work, either), but that doesn't seem like something that will happen anytime soon. In the meantime, DVD Jon's approach, of making proprietary DRM technologies available for license to all comers, is a reasonable replacement. While it seems slightly ironic that DVD Jon's now working to spread DRM, he still shows a better understanding of how to create useful products than many manufacturers and content providers.
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