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DVD Jon faces summer retrial

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Norwegian teenager, Jon Lech Johansen, is to be tried again by an appeal court this summer despite being cleared of cyber piracy crimes earlier this year, his lawyer confirmed last Friday.

"DVD Jon" Johansen, 19, was acquitted on criminal charges this January relating to his involvement in creating and distributing a utility for playing back DVDs on his own computer.

An Oslo district court decided that Johansen was entitled to copy legally-purchased DVDs using his DeCSS DVD descrambling program, in order to play back movies on his Linux PC. On this basis, Johansen was cleared of piracy and distribution of the DeCSS DVD code-breaking program.

Norway's special division for white-collar crimes, Økokrim, acting at the behest of Hollywood studies, decided to appeal this verdict to the Borgarting appeals court. Økokrim is appealing against the "application of the law and the presentation of evidence" during the original trial, Reuters reports.

Hollywood had hoped the case would set a legal precedent in Europe for its fight against piracy and is determined that the original verdict, which might frustrate its plans, won't stand in its way.

"The appeals court has decided to bring up the case again," Johansen's lawyer Halvor Manshaus, of the law firm Schjødt AS, told Reuters. The legal move is not unexpected and Johansen is prepared to fight the case.

"We have a victory behind us and we are confident with regard to the final outcome," Manshaus added.

A fresh trial is expected to begin this summer.

The case began three years ago when Johansen, then aged only 15, helped develop DeCSS to get around the copy protection measures on DVDs that prevented their playback on Linux computers.

The Motion Picture Ass. of America concluded the tool could be used to facilitate piracy by defeating "security" safeguards on DVDs. It filed a complaint against Johansen with Norway's Economic Crime Unit.

A raid on Johansen's home three year ago, led to charges by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit for obscure offences against Norwegian Criminal Code 145(2) that carry a sentence of up to two years in jail. ®

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