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Student hacks Apple’s music DRM

Apple’s Fairplay DRM used in the popular iPod music player has been hacked. Reports say the hacker has a notorious track record. As a teenager, he broke the encryption used on commercial DVDs.

Jon Lech Johansen, 22, a native of Norway who now lives in San Francisco, did it again when he cracked Apple’s FairPlay copy-protection technology. Monique Farantzos, managing director at DoubleTwist, a company that plans to license the code to competing businesses, made the announcement. Allegedly, Johansen reverse-engineered FairPlay, allowing other companies to offer content for the iPod. Apple had no comment.

Johansen has apparently unlocked the code that prevents songs purchased from Apple’s iTunes music store from playing on non-Apple music players. Currently, music purchased from the store will play only on Apple products.

Johansen’s technology has huge implications for Apple’s competitors, because iTunes now has an 88 percent share of the legal music download market. The iPod player has 60 percent of the market.

Nicknamed “DVD Jon” at only 15 years old, Johansen attained global notoriety for writing and distributing software that cracked the encryption codes on commercial DVDs. His code allowed DVDs to be copied and played back on any device.