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DVD Jon gets retrial date

Hollywood persuades Norway to stage hearing sequel

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Norwegian teenager Jon Lech Johansen has been given a date when he must once again face DVD piracy charges.

Johansen's attorney, Halvor Manshaus, told Reuters yesterday that Norway's Borgarting appeals court had scheduled a hearing beginning December 2. Eight days have been set aside to hear the case.

The hearing is taking place despite the January acquittal of the Norwegian 19 year-old by a lower court on charges 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 the DeCSS descrambling program, in order to play back movies on his Linux PC. On this basis, Johansen (affectionately known as 'DVD Jon') 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 studios, decided to appeal against this verdict. Økokrim is appealing against the "application of the law and the presentation of evidence" during the original trial.

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

An appeal hearing has been expected since the end of the original trial. Johansen's legal team is confident of once again winning the case.

"I regard our prospects for the appeal as positive. We are in a stronger position now than ever before, since we won the first time," Manshaus, of the law firm Schjødt AS, told Reuters.

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.

Reuters notes that there is "no specific legislation in Norway that bars the digital duplication of copyrighted material", but Johansen's conduct is actionable in the US through the controversial Digital Copyright Millennium Act.

But double jeopardy rules in the US law would prevent the unfortunate Johansen been tried twice for the same offence, the fate that has befallen him in Norway. ®

Related Stories

DVD Jon faces summer retrial
Prosecutors to appeal DVD Jon innocent verdict
DVD Jon is free - official
DVD hacker Johansen indicted in Norway
2600 withdraws Supreme Court appeal in DeCSS case
'DeCSS' DVD descrambler ruled legal

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