Acquittal decision appealed in DVD copyright case

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

OSLO, Norway -- Norway's economic crime police on Tuesday appealed the acquittal of a teenager charged with digital burglary for creating and circulating online a program that cracks the security codes on DVDs.

Jon Lech Johansen, 19, was found innocent of violating Norway's data break-in laws Jan. 7 in a ruling that gave prosecutors two weeks to decide whether to appeal. The unanimous verdict said Johansen, known in Norway as "DVD-Jon," could not be convicted of breaking into DVD films he legally owned, or for providing a tool others might use to copy films illegally.

The case was seen as an important test of how far copyright holders can go in preventing duplication of their intellectual property.

'Quite comprehensive'

Johansen's attorney, Halvor Manshaus, confirmed that the appeal was filed and said he was given a copy of "the quite comprehensive document."

"They appealed on all counts," he told The Associated Press. He said the appeal covers legal interpretation, evidence and claimed errors in the legal process.

"This means there will be a completely new trial, if the appeal is allowed," he said.

The Borgarting appeals court in Oslo will review the case before deciding if the appeal can move forward.

Rune Floisbonn, a prosecutor with the economic crime police, said the appeal was required because the case was the first of its kind in Norway.

"There were some principles for storing and distributing data on new media that the court should have considered," he told the Norwegian news agency NTB. "The interpretation that the court used creates unfortunate consequences to copyright holders."

Johansen, who was 15 when he developed and posted the program on the Internet in 1999, said he developed the software only to watch movies on a Linux-based computer that lacked DVD-viewing software.

The program is just one of many that can break the film industry's Content Scrambling System, which prevents illegal copying and blocks the use of legitimate copies on unauthorized equipment.

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