DVD copyright case

Posted by ryan griffis | Tue Jan 7th 2003 1 a.m.

Norway Teen Cleared of Hollywood Piracy Charges

By Inger Sethov

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian teen-ager who created a
computer program to copy Hollywood movies was cleared
of piracy charges Tuesday in a "David and Goliath"
trial pitting him against the industry's biggest
studios.

The Oslo district court said Jon Johansen, dubbed "DVD
Jon," had not broken any laws when he helped unlock a
code and distribute a program enabling unauthorized
copying of DVD movies.

"I'm happy but not surprised," a beaming Johansen told
reporters after his acquittal. "This is about
consumers' rights, and all over the world copyright
holders are trying to limit consumers' rights. We
cannot have that."

Prosecutors, who had told judges to ignore the
widespread portrayal of the trial as "a fight of David
against Goliath," had urged a 90-day suspended jail
term.

Johansen, 19, developed the program, which was
distributed on the Internet, when he was 15.

The teen-ager has since become a symbol for hackers
worldwide who say making software such as Johansen's
-- called DeCSS (news - web sites) -- is an act of
intellectual freedom rather than theft.

"Johansen is found not guilty," judge Irene Sogn, who
reached the unanimous verdict with two technical
experts, told the court, adding that police could not
confiscate his equipment. There was no jury in the
six-day trial in December.

The prosecution was brought after a complaint by the
Motion Picture Association, or MPA, representing major
Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney Company,
Universal Studios and Warner Bros.

Johansen said he had tested DeCSS on his favorite
movies "Matrix" and "The Fifth Element" -- both of
which he owns on DVD -- but only managed to transfer
bits of them to his hard drive.

DeCSS is one of many similar programs available on the
Internet.

The judge said Johansen could view DVDs he had legally
bought however he wanted. Prosecutors had failed to
give evidence that Johansen's program had been used by
others to watch pirate copies, she added. The ruling
can be appealed within two weeks.

"This is a very solid ruling," Johansen's lawyer
Halvor Manshaus told Reuters. "It is saying that when
you have bought a film legally, you have access to its
content. It is irrelevant how you get that access. You
have bought the movie after all."

Hollywood studios, which encode DVD movies to prevent
people from copying them, had said unauthorized
copying was copyright theft and undermined a market
for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North
America alone.

Johansen hinted he would continue to challenge
Hollywood.

"DVD players which skip commercials still don't
exist," said Johansen, who is making about 35,000
crowns ($5,039) a month as a computer programmer.
"This ruling means that anyone can produce equipment
which allows you to skip commercials." ($1=6.945
Norwegian Crown)

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