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DeCSS show trial opens in Oslo

DVD Jon in the dock

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The trial of a Norwegian teen accused of developing a utility that enables people to illegally copy DVD movies opened in Oslo yesterday.

Jon Johansen has pleaded not guilty to charges that carry a maximum sentence of up to two years in jail or huge fines and compensation for his role in creating and distributing the "DVD cracking" DeCSS utility.

Johansen created DeCSS in 1999, when he was only 15, in an effort to develop an open source software player which would allow people to play their lawfully purchased DVDs on computers running the Linux operating system.

Prosecutors argue that the utility's prime purpose is to crack protection codes and facilitate the piracy of DVD movies.

An estimated 5,000 copies of DeCSS were downloaded from the Net in the week after its release in 1999, prompting Hollywood studios (through the Motion Picture Ass. of America) to file a complaint against Johansen which eventually led up to this week's trial. Hollywood also launched legal actions against US Web sites (such as hacker magazine 2600) that provided links to copies of DeCSS.

The trial is expected to last five days, during with Johansen expected to take the stand to testify in his defence. Few believe Johnasen will go to jail but he could face a thumping fine if convicted.

Even if Hollywood succeeds in making an example out of Johansen, the industry still has to face the fact that DeCSS is only one of several utilities available on the Net that allow DVD protection codes to be broken. ®

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External Links

Reports (in English) by Norwegian paper Aftenposten here and here

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