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DVD Jon wins again

Acquitted for second time

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An appeals court in Oslo today upheld Jon Lech Johansen's earlier acquittal on all counts of alleged copyright violations, the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten reports.

Johansen, 20, was alleged to have broken the law by writing and publishing a DVD descrambling program, DeCSS, so that he could watch films he owned on a Linux PC. It earned him the nickname DVD Jon.

The case began three years ago when he was charged by the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit and had to appear in court. The Norwegian prosecutors were acting largely on the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). They sought a suspended jail term and a fine of NOK 20,000 (about €3,000).

In January this year, a lower court had ruled that Johansen had done nothing illegal when he helped to crack the DVD copy protection code back in 1999 and then explained on his website how he had done it. The prosecutors appealed the verdict.

Today's verdict wasn't expected until early January. But the appeals court (Borgarting Lagmannsrett) didn't see any need to wait with its decision. That means the lower court's decision will stand. A supreme court case is still possible, but very unlikely.

The MPAA says it is disappointed with the Norwegian court's decision not to convict Jon Johansen: "The actions of serial hackers such as Mr Johansen are damaging to honest consumers everywhere. While the ruling does not affect laws outside of Norway, we believe this decision encourages circumvention of copyright that threatens consumer choice and employment in the film and television industries.

"It remains to be seen if the Norwegian Supreme Court will have the opportunity to decide whether the prosecution's interpretation of the law was correct, the Motion Picture Associaton says. "If the present decision is the courts' final word on the matter, we hope that Norwegian legislature will move quickly to implement the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) Copyright Treaty to correct this apparent weakness in Norwegian law." ®

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