09 February 2007

DVD-Jon Hypocrisy

Edit to this entry: Matt in his comments made me do a bit more research on this subject, so I followed his link. Indeed, I think I have perhaps unfairly maligned DVD-Jon as in those entries he does not appear to promote DRM, and also obliquely refers to his interests being aligned to it. So, I will take back my calling of DVD-Jon as a hypocrite.

What is interesting is that all the reporting I came across which made reference to DVD-Jon seemed to infer that he was against the Steve Jobs proposal. None of that reporting made reference to his self-interest in the matter. So, once again, I am left with a bad taste about the reporting which I think took comments out of context, failed to note interests and generally used such comments to support their own case.

As for DVD-Jon and a few others, I still have one big gripe which is that they talk about this as a technical issue. It is not and never has been. It is a commercial and a legal one. Apple has podcasts downloadable from iTunes for free and without DRM wrappers. It is clearly technically straightforward to allow DRM-free music on iTunes. However, none outside a close coterie of music industry execs, lawyers and music download services has any knowledge of what has been agreed. I am more willing to give Jobs the benefit of any doubt here about his intentions and reasonings. And, I am willing to give him a lot more credit for taking the stance he has, even if at this time it is without real actions.

Thanks Matt for the link.

Back to the original post, left unedited:

Famous for breaking various encryption and DRM schemes, DVD-Jon (Jon Lech Johansen) is quite a cult hero for many.

I was however quite surprised to see his comments regarding Steve Jobs open letter as carried by a number of sites, this one being quite typical. Most sites I read on this covered DVD-Jon's history, and therefore appeared to give more credence to his views because of this, even though they appeared somewhat at odds with his past. Surely, even better with which to criticise Steve Jobs' letter?

But then, I remembered reading about what DVD-Jon is up to. He now lives in California and is a key employee at Double Twist Ventures. Their mission? Quoted from the Wikipedia entry for DVD-Jon:

DoubleTwist would license the ability to apply FairPlay to media companies who wanted their music and videos to play on the iPod.

In other words, Double Twist's business model is entirely dependent upon the continuation and prevalence of DRM, especially as relates to Apple's Fairplay. As usual, poor journalism is a contributor here and should have picked this up rather than just referring to his history. I see no hypocrisy in Jobs statement, but a huge wad of it from DVD-Jon.

In a further note of irony, it should be remembered that DVD-Jon's home country is Norway - perhaps the most aggressive country pushing for changes in Apple's policies.

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Anonymous said...

I fail to see what the issue is: Jon's activities favor a more open environment than Jobs', even if they are lucrative.

Anonymous said...

Really? Jon's activities favor a more open environment than eliminating DRM entirely? How, exactly, is that possible?

Anonymous said...

You do not understand. If there is no DRM, there is no Double Twist. Get it? If DVD Jon, who has been bitching about DRM from day one, gets his way, there goes Double Twist, and ergo, there goes his job. That's the irony.

DVD Jon, if he cares about his job, wants a DRM-free world about as much as the RIAA. Its as if a cop would state, "I wish there was no crime." OK, but there goes your job. Are you OK with that?

Maybe DVD Jon knows that the world will never be DRM-free, and thus his bitching about it is more about popularity than any real ideology. Or maybe he hates his job.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you said something. DVD Jon should have disclosed that he stands to lose money if DRM is removed from music at iTunes. Personally, I wish DVD Jon much success in making money, but I am sad that he is choosing to do so by selling a new version of DRM.za

Unknown said...

That is the funny thing about Jon though, he does not care about his job. He is from the school of OSS, and therefore he is for no DRM. He just happens to have a company and job which exists because of Apple DRM and his knowledge of FairPlay. Will it suck if the big 4 open their music catalog? Sure it will. Will Jon be jobless forever? No, he will not be jobless. Jon can get a job anywhere he wants to work, because of how good he is at what he does.

When it comes down to it, he wins either way. He will get his way, no matter what the outcome of all this DRM FUD.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but to say: 'I see no hypocrisy in Jobs statement' but to then call DVD-Jon a hypocrite strikes me as dumb.

You say DVD-Jon is a hypocrite because he has a job to loose if the DRM is removed. Ok lets go with that. Jobs says he wants to remove DRM, however its clear to see that what Jobs wants is something else and this is all PR and posturing with somewhat of a different end goal IMHO – probably the immediate goal is to quell us Europeans and keep the iTunes store open and the stock price up.

So basically we have is two people potentially saying two things in public but wanting something else privately, how are they any differnt from each other?

To be honest if I had to side with one of them it would not be the guy who is notorious for his behaviour and his attitude to paying customers.

Also to the comment before mine: 'if DVD-Jon gets his way' I belive he has simply pointed out the double standards of Apple and has not been pro DRM at all. Its not as if DRM would dissappear he would have no job, there are plenty of other things he could do, to be fair he probably has his pick of jobs.

Anonymous said...

@ john evans

"Jobs says he wants to remove DRM, however its clear to see that what Jobs wants is something else and this is all PR and posturing with somewhat of a different end goal IMHO – probably the immediate goal is to quell us Europeans and keep the iTunes store open and the stock price up."

It is absurd and not humble at all to think that your "IMHO" qualifies your supposition as enough to match up against the fact that DVD-jon has a vested interest in the status quo of DRM.

DVD-Jon did not say this.

Steve Jobs, on the other hand, SAID he would prefer no DRM at all because he thinks it would be good for the consumer and the competition.

And he is right. In a level playing field where all that matters is the quality of the device, apple wins hands down, at the moment. If a new, better device enters a DRM free market, it has to compete on quality not restrictions. Does apple have a vested interest in this scenario? Yes, because apple competes always on the same level: quality. Is this better for consumers and competitors? YES.

As far as the "quell us Europeans" myth, I will simply say this. Europeans are not stupid, and laws are not circumvented by an essay meant to provoke thought. And if you look at the European responses, they like the direction of this thinking but not one lets Apple of the hook.

So yes, in this particular case, DVD-Jon is a hypocrite, and Steve Jobs is not.

Anonymous said...

DVD Jon is a smart guy, and could easily find another job if Double Twist went belly up. He's famous. He's also a poster boy of the anti-DRM movement, and Double Twist is all about fucking over Apple's proprietary DRM. Maybe just for kicks. Who cares about the money?

I see no hypocrisy here - I see somebody who thinks DRM is a load of crap that should be subverted. Steve Jobs faux, populist posturing about DRM-unencumbered music (whilst continuing to support and propogate that self same DRM) is kind of disgusting, to be honest.

If the iTunes store makes so little money from music, I say Jobs should just say "fuck it", put his money where his mouth is, and declare that from now on the iTunes store will only sell DRM-free music - really kick the record companies in the balls. But of course that will never happen.

Ian Hobson said...

Thanks for all the people who stopped by. Some of you have done my explaining for me, and others don't appear to get it yet.

Jobs cannot unilaterally remove DRM from iTunes or Apple will be sued to destruction by the labels. He has pointed out that it is the labels who wanted it. Now, what he COULD do is to remove DRM from music from the independent labels assuming they have agreed to this (not at all clear). I think Apple have not done this for reasons of keeping the whole music store experience consistent and straightforward. With more consumer education of the issues, Apple is freer to experiment with this, and I hope they do.

He is also pointing out that the market is music whether CD or digital, and right now digital is at a huge disadvantage. It may be self-serving (though bold) of Apple to prefer to get a smaller slice of the bigger pie (music sales, rather than download-only) sales, but it is not hypocritical of him to propose the end for DRM on music.

I cannot understand how those of you who support DVD-Jon think his words are not hypocrisy however. Whether he could get another job or not is immaterial to this. His current interests are clearly in maintaining the status quo, and those interests have not been pointed out when he has been quoted.

Again, thanks to all those who stopped by, and the general level of debate here!

Anonymous said...

DVD-Jon did NOT say that he did NOT want Apple to remove DRM. On the contrary:


"It should not take Apple’s iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM. This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users.

Actions speak louder than words, Steve."