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Jon develops new utility to decrypt iTunes DRM tracks

Posted at 06 April 2004 10:37 CET by Seán Byrne
Back in November, DVD Jon Lech Johansen who originally helped distribute the DVD DeCSS had developed a utility to dump a QuickTime stream to a file.  Now he has written code under the project name 'playfair' to allow iTunes users to decrypt their purchased AAC files.  The utility works by taking the decryption key from either an iPod (required for MAC users) or iTunes for Windows (no iPod required) and using it to decrypt the DRM protected AAC track into a regular AAC file.   However this utility will not work if you do not have the key to the protected song, for example if you copied the DRM protected iTunes tracks off another machine.  The utility will optionally also copy the tags (artist, name, etc.) and cover art into the output AAC file.  The resulting decrypted AAC file may be used as with any other AAC file including the use of other AAC compatible players or transferred to another computer. Jon Lech Johansen's code that circumvents iTunes DRM has been given a fresh workout. A project named 'playfair' allows users with an iTunes key to create unencrypted AAC files. Apple uses the AAC format in combination with FairPlay DRM to lock down the music bought from its iTunes Music Store. "The playfair program is quite simple," according to the README. "It takes one of the iTMS Protected AAC Audio Files, decodes it using a key obtained from your iPod or Microsoft Windows system and then writes the new, decoded version to disk as a regular AAC Audio File. It then optionally copies the metadata tags that describe the song, including the cover art, to the new file." The restriction doesn't allow wholesale decryption: you must own a key and the files must be associated with that key. On the Macintosh, you'll also need an iPod to generate the key. Jon Johansen first published his circumvent ion in November, and in January worked it into the open source VideoLAN project. Despite Steve Jobs comments to Rolling Stone magazine - "we don't believe it's possible to protect digital content" - Apple continues to lead the industry in attempting protecting digital content. It promises to keep the hackers busy: a patent application published last July indicates that Apple is brewing its own DRM, which it may or may not share with the industry. The author co-chaired the secretive Copy Protection Technology Working Group - which bars journalists from attending its sessions - with representatives from Sony Corporation and Warner Brothers.   While Apple may not be happy with its iTunes DRM being hacked, they may run into another problem:  Apple rely on hardware sales to make profit, but as this utility can convert purchased tracks into standard AAC files, it gives the end user the ability to use any AAC compatible player to play their purchased iTunes music. Source: The Register

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There are 8 comments

Posted on: 06 Apr 04 11:00
    I love the fact that "Jon" does the complete oppisite of what "Microshaft" does.
    Posted on: 06 Apr 04 11:05
      Steve Jobs comments to Rolling Stone magazine - "we don't believe it's possible to protect digital content" - I sure hope he is Right I sure don't want to go through life listening to everything on "DRM Encrypted WMA" Files. :r (BTW: Man the process of unlocking these files is so teadious why not go through the easiest route? :d
      Mr. Belvedere
      MyCE Resident
      Posted on: 06 Apr 04 11:45
        Just posted it on the forum as well :
        Waiting on Activation
        Posted on: 06 Apr 04 14:30
          He's pretty clever that Jon Johansen. Was he also the one that broke the dvd audio protection before they even released the dvd audio onto the market?
          CD Freaks Senior Member
          Posted on: 06 Apr 04 18:04
            May whatever deity you care to subscribe to bless and keep blessing people like "Jon". They are our defense against a world where no one will be allowed digital freedom.
            CD Freaks Senior Member
            Posted on: 06 Apr 04 18:44
              Digital protection doesn't work cause a DRM protected file is much like an audio cassette saved in a bank vault. That cassette doesn't do you much good unless you can get it out of the vault and into your cassette player. Same with a DRM file, they don't do anything unless you take them out of the digital vault and play them. Problem is once they're out of the vault. The person listening to the file may decide not to put it back in. And this is why encryption will never work as a DRM method.
              CD Freaks Senior Member
              Posted on: 06 Apr 04 20:03
                Then you must really dislike Apple, since they not only encrypted the files, they were also locking you in to one player. At least MS is allowing anyone to license theirs, so you can use more than one player.
                CD Freaks Junior Member
                Posted on: 07 Apr 04 22:29
                  God bless Jon!

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