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From: InfoSec News (isn_at_c4i.org)
Date: Wed Jan 08 2003 - 04:52:49 CST
Forwarded from: Frode E. Nyboe <frodeeneunet.no>
07 January, 2003
A Norwegian teenager who helped crack a code meant to protect the
content of DVDs won full backing from an Oslo court on Tuesday. The
court acquitted him on all charges, a ruling that comes as a crushing
blow to public prosecutors and entertainment giants.
The case had been widely described as a "David vs Goliath" battle,
pitting 16-year-old Jon Lech Johansen from a small town south of Oslo
against huge corporations and organizations including the Motion
Picture Association of America.
"David" clearly won.
Norwegian prosecutors, acting largely on a complaint from the powerful
American entertainment industry, had maintained that Johansen acted
illegally when he shared his DVD decryption code with others by
putting it out on the Internet.
Prosecutors, who indicted Johansen after a raid on his bedroom three
years ago, also had claimed the decryption code could enable pirate
copying of DVDs. They seemed mostly interested in achieving victory in
principle, rather than tough punishment for Johansen, and sought a
sentence equivalent to three months on probation.
Instead, they lost badly. Johansen and his defense attorney Halvor
Manshaus won on all counts, with the Oslo court ruling that Johansen
did nothing wrong when he helped cracked the code on a DVD that was
his own personal property.
The court ruled there was "no evidence" that either Johansen or others
had used the decryption code (called DeCSS) for illegal purposes.
Johansen therefore couldn't be convicted on such grounds, nor for
acting as an accessory to other alleged illegal activity, wrote judge
Irene Sogn in the court's ruling.
Nor, wrote Sogn, was there any evidence that Johansen intended to
contribute to illegal copying.
The court determined that it is not illegal to use the DeCSS code to
watch DVD films obtained by legal means.
Johansen, who was just 16 when the fuss around him started, maintained
all along that pirate copying was never his intention. Rather, he
claimed, he was merely trying to avoid buying an expensive DVD player
to view DVDs that he had bought.
Johansen felt strongly that since he owned the DVDs, he should be able
to view them as he liked, preferably right on his own computer. He
needed to break the code on them in order to do so.
The court, citing Norwegian laws that protect what a consumer can do
with his or her own property, agreed.
The decision had been eagerly awaited, with some legal experts
contending it will have ramifications for Internet use as well as
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