Remember “DVD Jon?” Norwegian code Jon Johansen became a cause celebre for digital rights types, and a bete noire for Hollywood’s DRM lovers, for his role in DeCSS, the popular software program that made it incredibly easy to break the copy protection on DVDs. The Norwegian government went after him, at the request of the big movie studios, but wasn’t able to convict him of any crimes.
Well he’s one of the folks behind a new company, called doubleTwist, that seems sure to raise eyebrows, if not more, in Hollywood. As this Gizmodo review details, the Mac program organizes the music, photos, videos, etc. stored on your computer (no problem there), connects to portable devices and organizes their media as well (no problem), publishes public feeds of all the media you own (not necessarily a problem), lets friends send any type of file back and forth to each other (ummm, that could be a problem), and auto-converts media formats to make files compatible with any device (definitely a problem, if it’s breaking any DRM or terms of service agreements).
The record labels are pretty much done with DRM, you see, but movie studios and tv networks most definitely are not. If you downloaded any file legally and doubleTwist is allowing you to do things with it you’re not allowed, they won’t be happy. Similarly, if doubleTwist is allowing people to share illegally obtained filed, it could easily be held responsible for the piracy that takes place on its network or via its software (by the same principle that brought down Napster and Grokster).
Of course, Hollywood is a little more lawsuit averse these days than it used to be. All those efforts to scare music and movie pirates via lawsuits have faded away. Big media wants to be seen as digital friendly, not hostile. So it’s unlikely it’ll go after doubleTwist right away.
But the application could very well become popular. As more and more people manage media on their computers, there’s more and more need for better software to manage it. Windows Media Player doesn’t cut it and iTunes quickly becomes annoying if you’re not downloading everything from Apple and connecting only to iPods. And Gizmodo sure seems to like it, saying “DoubleTwist is an extremely promising app that really could become the de facto standard for media players if they continue to develop and improve on this beta.” If it does just that, it could easily catch on. And if there’s even a Windows version, well forget about it.
By then, Hollywood undoubtedly will be paying attention. And if they feel doubleTwist is subverting their ability to control the rules on the media they sell, or helping to spread illegal copies of their media that they don’t sell, DVD Jon could very well be back in court.