Jon Lech Johansen was only 15 years old when he became the movie industry's greatest nightmare. The Norwegian teenager created a software program, DeCSS, that broke the copy protection on movie DVDs. He then distributed it for free on the Internet.
Now 22, Johansen has turned his sights on the music industry. And his latest effort seems likely to upset the titan of online music distribution, Apple Computer Inc.
Some courts, however, have narrowly construed this language, ruling it reaffirms fair use as a defense only to copyright infringement claims, not to alleged violations of the DMCA. As a result, behavior that is permissible under copyright law can violate the DMCA.
"If you circumvent a technological measure for the purpose of doing something that would otherwise be lawful, that is still a violation of the DMCA," says Seth Greenstein, a partner at Constantine Cannon.
"Apple is using DRM to protect its competitive position, not its songs," says Fred von Lohman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights advocacy group that is advising Johansen.
Apple hasn't indicated whether it will haul Johansen into court. But if he overcomes the legal hurdles, he could give a boost to competition in the markets for online music and digital audio players.