A 22-year-old programmer has picked the lock which guards the exclusive relationship between Apple's iPod players and its iTunes online music and video store, his company said.

Norwegian-born Jon Lech Johansen found a way for rival MP3 players to download songs or shows from iTunes and for digital content from other vendors to be played on iPods, according to his San Francisco firm DoubleTwist Ventures.

DoubleTwist managing director Monique Farantzos insisted the firm was doing nothing illegal, and said they plan to license the technology to Apple competitors "in the near future.


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