[ISN] 'DVD Jon' scores huge legal victory

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 08 2003 - 02:52:49 PST

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    Forwarded from: Frode E. Nyboe <frodeenat_private>
    Kjetil Kolsrud 
    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 
    content property.
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