The man notorious for cracking the DVD code, and Apple's FairPlay DRM, is looking to make a legitimate business out of his expertise.
Beginning Tuesday, the first product from his company,, will enter open beta. Called DoubleTwist, it's a free desktop client that essentially allows any kind of music, photo, or video file to be shared between a long list of portable media players, and through Web-based social networks.
Instead of iTunes songs or videos taken with a Nokia N95 remaining locked on the phone, DoubleTwist software allows for dragging, dropping, and syncing of different media formats no matter the device.
The idea, according to DoubleTwist founder and CEO Monique Farantzos, is that media files should be more like e-mail. It shouldn't matter what service you create the file in, or on what type of hardware, it all should work together seamlessly, she says.
Farantzos recruited DVD Jon, or Jon Lech Johansen, and the two have been working with about 10 others for the past eight months on the DoubleTwist software. Johansen says DoubleTwist allows him to bring the success he's found to a wider audience.
"It's one opportunity to write something for your Web site for use by a couple thousand geeks," he said in an interview. But with DoubleTwist, the idea is to hide all the complexity of making easy transfers of files from the user so that even non-techie types will understand. "The goal is to make something your parents can use," he said.
It works like this: When a device is plugged into a PC (Windows XP and Vista only right now, Mac OS X coming soon), DoubleTwist launches and recognizes all the media files on the device. Any file can be selected, dragged, and dropped into DoubleTwist to be synched up to a separate device, or shared with other users you've "friended" who also use DoubleTwist.
By adding Facebook compatibility (with OpenSocial platforms next on their list), DoubleTwist users can share media through the social network. A Facebook application called TwistMe will allow users to drag and drop media content into a box on a fellow user's Facebook profile. The friend will then see the shared files show up in his DoubleTwist desktop client.
Social-network compatibility is key to enable real sharing of media between users, Farantzos said. "It closes the loop between the Web, devices, and the desktop."
DoubleTwist also recognizes and imports all iTunes playlists and will read instantly which ones are protected by digital rights management technology. The software automatically plays the song files in the background (sans volume) and re-records them as MP3 files so they can be transferred to any device. Note: DoubleTwist only does this for songs you own or are authorized to play in iTunes.
Farantzos says they're not picking on any one particular brand of DRM, especially since the entire industry, led by Amazon, is leaning toward a DRM-free policy.
"Digital media is dominated by two players, Windows Media and iTunes, and they each have their own agenda...we see ourselves as the Switzerland of digital media. We are format and device agnostic."