DVD Jon and his company, doubleTwist, released beta software today that’s designed to allow users to share digital media files — music, video, pictures — across devices regardless of type or copy protection.
In other words, if you have a copy-protected song in your iTunes library and want to play it on a PlayStation Portable or Nokia phone instead of an iPod — or you want to send it to friends to play on the devices they own — you can do it with the doubleTwist desktop application.
The software automatically plays song files, regardless of copy protection, in the background. doubleTwist re-records the songs as MP3 files, which can then be sync’d to any device attached to a Windows computer using the doubleTwist application. (It’s not available for Apple computers yet, although a Mac version is in the works.)
doubleTwist is essentially doing the same process as when a user “rips” a CD onto a computer. doubleTwist allows only music already purchased and authorized (like iTunes) to be processed. It says 100 songs can be converted in about half an hour, with about a 5 percent degradation in sound quality.
For attempting to smash the digital Tower of Babel, and for all his anti-digital rights management (DRM) work, Johansen deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, a Pulitzer, an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy, a National Book Award, and the Time Person of the Year. Since the advent of digital content and devices, people have yearned for the Holy Grail — the ability to play any song purchased at any online store on any device, hassle free.
Johansen began his anti-DRM crusade several years ago when he was the first to break Apple’s Fair Play copy protection scheme, and he made himself into a household name among techies when he cracked the DVD code.
The problem with Johansen’s cracks is that the work-arounds were not for the faint of heart and easily implemented by average consumers, who didn’t know much about DRM when they bought a song or a device.
But when these consumers tried to transfer a tune to another player and couldn’t (or wanted to share legally-purchased music among family members), it only made them confused and angry and has led to the slow-boil anti-DRM movement. DRM has also been a punch in the eye to the music industry, seen by many as greedy and over zealous.
With doubleTwist, founder and CEO Monique Farantzos and Johansen sought to hide the complexity of preparing the files and them so that non-techies could do it. “The goal is to make something that your parents can use,” Johansen said in an interview with CNET.
Unfortunately, doubleTwist is not ready for Mom and Dad, but the software does make it possible for the more technically inclined, non-hacker to strip off copy protection and play the files on different devices or share them among friends.
The user interface is colorful and candy-like but rough around the edges — it is beta, after all — and it needs refinement. There are three primary tabs: Home (blue), Share (lime green), and Sync (red), which are fairly intuitive (for all but Mom and Dad).
The Home tab (watch demo) is sort of a dashboard, where users can review their doubleTwist information, add and manage their friends, and see new items or notifications sent from friends. doubleTwist makes it fairly easy to add friends — primarily through a Facebook login — but if you do not have a Facebook account you can add people by their email addresses.
The Share tab (demo) is where you choose the media you want to share with friends. Media includes pictures, video, and selections from iTunes (selection from Windows Media is also in the work). Choose friends to send files to by dragging and dropping their names (or thumbnail image) into a send box. Drag and drop the files you want to share into a drop box. Hit the big Share button and you’re done.
At the other end, friends are alerted to new shared files via the desktop application or email. They can call up the desktop application to play the new files or sync them to their own devices.
If you want to Sync media files (demo) to different players — another iPod, a PSP, a Nokia phone, among others — attach the device to the computer, then drag and drop the playlists of content you want sync. (FAQ.)
Unfortunately for me, my iPods are all formatted for Macs, so I was unable to test the syncing capability since doubleTwist is Windows-only at this time.
I did notice one thing I want to test, though. Anybody who knows the answer to this, please add it to the comment section. At my house (and many friends have a similar problem) my wife and daughter have separate iTunes accounts and they often want to share some of their downloads but can’t due to DRM and the fact that my wife uses a PC laptop and my daughter a Mac laptop.
It would be great for my wife to use doubleTwist to prepare the songs she wants to share with my daughter. Instead of my daughter attaching her Nano to my wife’s PC laptop (which cannot be done, as the Nano is formatted for a Mac), the processed files would be transfered via the home network, email, or the sneaker net to the kid’s Macbook, where she can then sync the files to her player.
Because when you get down to it, for any application like doubleTwist to be successful, it must be super simple to use. Find songs or movies in iTunes or Windows Media you want to share, hit the convert button. Want to move them to another device or send to friends? Select the files, hit the sync or share buttons. Done.
Right now, doubleTwist is still rough around the edges, but it’s a giant step forward in finding the digital content Holy Grail.
Now if only Apple and the guardians of digital content leave DVD Jon alone.