Prosecutors appeal DVD Jon innocent verdict

Possible 'double jeopardy' retrial looms

Norwegian prosecutors are appealing the court ruling that cleared teenager Jon Lech Johansen of criminal charges for creating a utility for playing back DVDs on his own computer.

Norway's special division for white-collar crimes, Økokrim, has decided to appeal the acquittal of the 19 year-old on charges of "piracy and distribution of the DVD code-breaking program", Web site Nettavisen via Norwegian daily Aftenposten reports.

The legal move means that Johansen once again faces criminal charges for helping to write and publish the DeCSS DVD descrambling program, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which has campaigned vigorously on the issue) notes.

Johansen used DeCSS to watch his own DVDs on his Linux computer, which copy protection measures on DVDs prevented.

This outrageous behaviour provoked a raid on his home three year ago, 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 went to trial earlier this month after which a lower court ruled unanimously that Johansen did not violate Norwegian law.

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

We thought the ruling meant it was legal to use DeCSS code to watch legally obtained DVD films, at least in Norway (whose citizens don't have the DMCA to worry about). It seems we spoke to soon.

Johansen's attorney Halvor Manshaus, of the law firm Schjødt AS, expected prosecutors to appeal the case.

"This is not unexpected, as the prosecution has flagged this as a case of principle interest," Manshaus said.

"The appeals court, Borgarting lagmannsrett, may decide not to grant the appeal, as there is a screening principle for criminal cases. If the appeal is granted, this means that there will be full proceedings before the appeal court on all aspects of the case, i.e. both factual evidence and legal arguments," he adds.

Manshaus however remains confident that his client will prevail in the end. ®

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