Infamous Johansen working on secret project.

Michael Robertson, founder of MP3tunes, has hired infamous hacker Jon Lech Johansen to work on a new digital music project with the code name Oboe.

Johansen, also known as DVD Jon, is the software programmer best known for cracking the digital rights management code on DVDs when he was 15 years old, allowing them to be played and copied on any computer. He has been tried and acquitted twice in European courts for posting instructions on the Internet that details how to crack the code.

Most recently, DVD Jon created a program called PyMusique that allows users to buy music from the iTunes Music Store, stripped of Apple Computer's FairPlay DRM technology. He also expanded the service to strip Microsoft's DRM from WMA-encoded files.

Details on the Oboe project are slim. In a posting on his Web site, Robertson said only that it will launch later this year and "bring digital music into the 21st century. It is as momentous as anything I've ever done in my technical career."

DVD Jon is expected to work on some type of reverse engineering of existing DRM systems, similar to what he did with both FairPlay and WMA for PyMusique and with DVD software.

Robertson's MP3tunes is a digital music store that sells tracks for 88 cents with no DRM protection. The site today contains mostly independent music from smaller labels and artists.