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DVD Jon to work for Michael Robertson 265

GuNgA-DiN writes "Jon Lech Johansen, the 21-year-old Norwegian media hacker nicknamed DVD Jon, is moving to San Diego to work for maverick tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson in what can only be described as the most portentous team-up since Butch met Sundance. "I have no idea what I'll be doing, but I know it will be reverse engineering, and I'm sure it will be interesting," Johansen told Wired News during a Friday stopover in San Francisco. Robertson's website reveals that they are working on a new project and all he said was: "Oboe is the code name for a significant new project we have underway that will launch before the end of the year. It's as momentous as anything I've ever done in my technical career, but I won't say more since I despise vaporware. I know this project will be even better with Jon on board.""
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DVD Jon to work for Michael Robertson

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  • by Hulkster ( 722642 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:20AM (#13825832) Homepage
    The WSJ story can be read here [] and has some interesting insights as Jon as a person. Also check out Jon's Blog [] that is appopriately (?) titled "So sue me"

    Hulk'in Halloween Display/Webcam is up []

  • Stay out! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:20AM (#13825833)
    He should stay out of the US. We don't need him becoming another Dmitry Sklyarov.

  • by parasonic ( 699907 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:23AM (#13825857)
    Moving to the US...

    Officer: Welcome to America, sir
    Jon: It's a trap!
    [Brief pause] Officer: You are under arrest for crimes against the DMCA.
  • All I know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kawahee ( 901497 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:26AM (#13825873) Homepage Journal
    "All I know is it will involve reverse engineering"

    Despite the fact that reverse engineering is legal for plenty of abstract instances, there's only a few cases where it's legal (in the US) to reverse engineer to compete/modify/upgrade (with) a product.

    I'm guessing this 'Oboe' thing is doomed to fail, regardless of how 'legit' it is, it's going to be blockaded by legal barrierers and appeals and whatnot.

    That's assuming they're using the reverse engineering to enter a market and compete with another services, if it's something completely new and doesn't compete with other services (at least directly), I'll change my tune.
    • Re:All I know (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hador_nyc ( 903322 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:34AM (#13825943) Homepage
      As far as I know, it's legal to reverse engineer. Then you build something significantly different, but performing the same function, and sell it. I know people at P&G that do that with pratically every consumer product on the market. Is there a patent issue I'm missing? I though that was the whole point of patent laws and the like. You can reverse engineer if you like, but can't build something significantly similiar during the life of the patent. You can build something to perform the same function though.
      All that aside, I'm curious what they're up to. I'm a fan of competition and innovation. Isn't that the reason we all attack Microsoft so much?
    • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:46AM (#13826031)

      If he's going to be doing "reverse engineering", why on earth would he come to the place on planet Earth where he is most likely to wind up in jail for doing so?

      Why not hook him up with a VPN and have him work out of his current home? You know, some place far far away where he can't wind up in jail for DCMA violations?

      You don't need your physical body to be in the US to work for a US company, you know. Keep your body somewhere where it can't get thrown in jail.

    • IANL, of course, but reverse engineering is perfectly legal under most circumstances. The DMCA creates one exception... it's illegal to perform reverse engineering in order to circumvent a security mechanism, i.e., copy protection.
    • Re:All I know (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
      If you use Compaq's famous method, R.E. is perfectly legal.

      -Get one team to reverse engineer and document the functionality of a system (that which can be observed as a user).
      -Get another team to only take those documents and build a new system.

      This way avoids any copyright issues because nothing is copied except those parts which cannot be protected by copyright (the technical interface).

      Only thing to worry about now is patents.
      • Only thing to worry about now is patents.

        If you had to worry about patents, then you wouldn't need todo the R.E. sense patents lay out the framework in the patent application which is publicly available.
  • and fell silent..

    Who is going to break the DRM on pretty much anything and everything now?

    Why can somebody that smart be so stupid? (as to move to The Land of The DMCA)
  • Doesn't that just give the big boys someone to sue that has more money?
  • How do you get "reverse engineering" and "momentous" into one paragraph?

  • Wired Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by hojna ( 914510 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:30AM (#13825920)
    The WIRED [] story is here. It is more indepth then the WSJ article.
    • The Wired article makes a few things much more clear then the original article. It would stop this constant posting of "oh no Jon, don't move to the land of the DMCA" because it tells how Norway has adopted the EU's version of the DMCA. The original article only mentions this in passing at the end.
      Also it tells more about Robertson and his previous battles with the content industry.

      If Johansen goes on now to help make legitimate programs that will help change the face of content distribution and digita
    • The Wired article is more in depth, but it repeatedly calls the project "Obeo" rather than the correct name "Oboe".

      I suppose you could blame Evan Williams []. Maybe we'll see a correction. or not.

  • Bad Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dismentor ( 592590 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:31AM (#13825922)
    He's just going to get arrested isn't he? He's clearly comitted crimes under the DMCA; more so than Dmitry Skylarov, and look what happened to him. I think this is a really bad idea.
  • by jkind ( 922585 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:36AM (#13825961) Homepage
    But there is already something called an Oboe.
    A doublereed, soprano range instrument with a conical bore (slightly expanding diameter from reed to bell). It has a nasal, but mellow and poignant, tone.
    Honestly though I don't see how Lindows + DVD + reverse engineering = profit?!
  • by FishandChips ( 695645 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:46AM (#13826032) Journal
    Ah yes, a code word.

    Prosecuting counsel: "Moreover he is, Your Honor, a player of the pink oboe."
    (Judge faints, courtroom erupts in uproar)
  • by Xarius ( 691264 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @09:49AM (#13826063) Homepage
    Is that it will blow.
  • Absolutely true story: my novel in progress (don't tease) is about a young man going to San Diego to work for a wealthy maverick technology guru on a project involving reverse engineering. Is this a good omen or some kind of cosmic goof on me?
  • by gerbercj ( 267098 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @10:08AM (#13826213) Homepage
    Although Michael Robertson is known for things like Lindows, it seems that he's currently more excited about SIPphone and his Gizmo Project. I would guess that he's more interested in connecting that tool to the world to make a Skype killer. It's already got IP Phone, Jabber chat, and links to Google maps. Perhaps they're ready to reverse engineer some chat protocols for integration into a Jabber server? If only my crystal ball were working...
  • Jon Lech Johansen, the 21-year-old Norwegian media hacker nicknamed DVD Jon, is moving to San Diego

    So he'll be within prosecutable/persecutable range of the DCMA, then.
  • by Dave21212 ( 256924 ) <> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @10:39AM (#13826479) Homepage Journal

    Well, the techie in me believes that you always give a project a secret code name that represents some attribute of the nature of the project []... (or is that the evil genius in me)?

    I looked around for data on the Oboe (ok, I went right to Google then to the Wiki) and found this intriging entry []:
    Oboe was a British aerial blind bombing targeting system in World War II, based on radio transponder technology. The system went live in December 1942, about the same time H2S radar was introduced.

    Oboe used two stations at different and well-separated locations in England to transmit a signal to a Mosquito pathfinder (RAF) bomber carrying a radio transponder. The transponder reflected the signals, which were then received by the two stations. The round-trip time of each signal gave the distance to the bomber. (continued)
    ... let the wild speculation ensue !
  • by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @10:42AM (#13826512) Journal
    From Robertsons email...

    Last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about Jon relocating to the United States. After that, he got plenty of job offers from some of the biggest names in the technology business. I talked to him over lunch today and asked if he wanted to work at those other companies. "Not really," he replied in a typical minimalist Scandinavian-style reply, forcing me to ask why not. "I want to work on open systems, which is why I came to you."

    Sounds good to me.
  • by Caiwyn ( 120510 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @10:45AM (#13826544)
    Why do we keep wasting our time paying attention to Robertson's antics? He's not much of an innovator and he's a terrible businessman. He consistently makes the wrong decisions, both in business and in the legal gambits he inevitably gets himself entangled in. was his one true pioneering moment. The site allowed you to put a CD in your drive and have mp3 versions of the music you owned instantly unlocked in their library. There was security to ensure that only one person was logged into any account, and that you had a physical copy of the disc you were unlocking. And of course, the RIAA sued them for it. And instead of sticking to his guns, Robertson settled, inviting even more lawsuits and eventually bankrupting the company and forcing him to sell it to Universal, who gutted and subsequently abandoned it.

    LindowsOS had to be renamed Linspire -- again because Robertson wouldn't stand his ground after poking "the man" in the eye.

    This is a man who consistently rocks the boat to garner attention, then steps down when anyone calls him on it. This is yet another move designed to make public waves without actually accomplishing anything. He's not one who makes sound business and legal decisions. I just hope he doesn't drag DVD-Jon down with him.
    • Thank you!

      As someone who was burned by Robertson's "vision" of -- a vision that changed abpruptly when he decided he could make more money abandoning that vision and the people who supported it -- I was TERRIFIED when I learned he was entering the Windows market. People using Linspire are going to wake up one day and find the smoking ruin of THAT company as soon as Robertson finds a better deal somewhere else.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @12:02PM (#13827213)
      If Robertson's a failure we need more of them.

      Lets review:

      - The guy is in the 40 richest under 40
      - He help defend the first MP3 player to make it legal
      - He galvanized support for MP3 to make it the de facto standard
      - He resisted all efforts to add DRM to any of the music on
      - He sold company for $400MM
      - He started Lindows and got $20MM from Microsoft to change the name to Linspire
      - Started SIPphone to promote open standard VOIP with []
      - Launched to promote open standard IM
      - He's given millions to open source initiatives (

      I don't know what he's doing at MP3tunes or with DVD Jon, but I'd consider his resume pretty solid. He's a defender of open standards. He's opposed to DRM. He's not afraid to stand up to media companies or Microsoft. He's not just a tech guy but he's also made real money which he uses aggressively to promote causes he agrees with like Linux on Xbox.

      I think he rates at or near the top. Surely he's done more than Andreeson, Cuban and other one trick ponies.

      Of course there's no pleasing the slashdot crowd.
  • It's as momentous as anything I've ever done in my technical career, but I won't say more since I despise vaporware.

    While I make it a point not to fawn over capitalists, he'll be my hero if he holds to that mindset.
  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:10AM (#13826769)
    They are reverse engineering iTunes. I'd be willing to bet on it.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:16AM (#13826830) Journal
    Easy multiple choice quiz:

    [ ] Winter in Norway
    [X] Winter in San Diego

  • by e40 ( 448424 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @11:21AM (#13826876) Journal
    For his paycheck [], they told him he'd have to have his memory wiped at the end of each job.

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.