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Hot off the Press - News & Commentary
by Zack Bryce, TEE Tech Lab Manager

ITunes Music Store Hacked, QTFairUse Shags DRM
November 25th, 2003

There is an old saying that my old boss Jack Welch (GE Chairman and CEO) used to say, it doesn’t pay to be the pioneer because you always end up with the arrows in your back.

Napster (the original one) and now Apple is learning that the hard way. A cult famous Norwegian programmer noted for writing the first widely used tool for cracking the copy protection technology on DVDs, has turned his attention to Apple Computer's iTunes.

On Thursday of last week, programmer Jon Johansen posted a small program called QTFairUse to his Web site. The word spread quickly, but only his fellow “Crackers” (Black Hat Hackers) knew what it really was and how to implement it. Although it wasn’t that hard to figure out how to implement it and get it running.

Within days though a lot of people also learned that the program served as a demonstration of how to evade and exactly break the anti-copying technology wrapped around the songs sold by Apple in its iTunes store. Basically buy a tune for iTune in ACC, crack it with QTFairUse and you can share it, load it or burn it anywhere, PC or Mac.

While this application isn’t for the casual user, the big concern is that other developers could use the open source code to write an easily used application for even the novice to use. In it’s current form, which works only for the Windows version of iTunes, doesn't create a working song file which can be played from a digital music application like iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player.

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We put in a call and sent email, but Johansen did not respond to an e-mail asking for comment. Neither has Apple responded to requests for comment. We can only imagine what the RIAA is thinking.

Anti DRM Critics have long alleged that in the past much of Apple's software-development advantage came from its small, tightly controlled market. With Apple is pushing a DRM-enabled product such as the iTunes Music Store and the iPod into the wider Windows world, the company is finding out how difficult it is to control those plentiful numbers of Hackers taking issue with DRM. This week's iTunes Music Store hack is actually the second time programmers have hacked the service in the past month and the third time this year.

Just a few weeks ago, another Hacker released MyTunes (a link is available on our Freeware Page) that allows Windows iTunes users to share their downloaded titles with other Windows iTunes users. And apparently the application is not subject to Apple’s scrutiny since it does not hack any Apple code.

Johansen's latest program (QTFairUse) is the most recent move in the ongoing game of cat and mouse being played by digital rights management technology creators and hackers, who see the copy locks as a challenge.

The Norwegian's 1999 program, called DeCSS, ignited a debate over the legality of copying DVDs that has yet to end. Now widely distributed, DeCSS and similar tools are the foundation for much of Hollywood's fear that digital versions of movies will be copied and distributed online. Johansen was sued in Norway for releasing the software, but a court there ruled that he had the right to decode a DVD he had purchased so that he could play it on a Linux-based computer.



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