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DeCSS verdict vanquishes MPAA

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The entertainment lobby has failed to persuade a Norwegian court to convict a teenager for creating a utility for playing back DVDs on his own computer.

Jon Lech Johansen has been acquitted of all charges in a trial that tested the legality of the DeCSS DVD decryption utility he produced, Norwegian paper Aftenposten reports.

Norwegian prosecutors, acting largely on the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), argued in court that Johansen acted illegally in sharing his DeCSS tool with others and distributing it via the Internet. They claimed the DeCSS utility made it easier to pirate DVDs.

The court rejected these arguments, ruling that Johansen did nothing wrong in bypassing DVD scrambling codes that stopped him using his Linux PC to play back DVDs he'd bought.

Judge Irene Sogn ruled that there was "no evidence" that either Johansen or others had used the decryption code (DeCSS) illegally, Aftenposten reports. Judge Sogn dismissed prosecution arguments that Johansen intended to aid and abet DVD piracy.

The ruling means its legal to use DeCSS code to watch legally obtained DVD films, at least in Norway.

The case began three years ago with a raid on Johansen's home, after which he was charged by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit for obscure offences against Norwegian Criminal Code 145(2) which carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.

The case has been closely watched ever since, and Johansen's victory represents a big win for the tech enthusiasts against the bully-boy tactics of the US entertainment industry. ®

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