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Norgies Acquit “DVD Jon”

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Norwegian teen acquitted of charges associated with posting DVD decryption code on Internet – another legal win for decrypters (see Elcomsoft acquittal):

    The case had been widely described as a “David vs Goliath” battle, pitting 16-year-old Jon Lech Johansen from a small town south of Oslo against huge corporations and organizations including the Motion Picture Association of America.

    “David” clearly won.

    Norwegian prosecutors, acting largely on a complaint from the powerful American entertainment industry, had maintained that Johansen acted illegally when he shared his DVD decryption code with others by putting it out on the Internet.

    ….they lost badly. Johansen and his defense attorney Halvor Manshaus won on all counts, with the Oslo court ruling that Johansen did nothing wrong when he helped cracked the code on a DVD that was his own personal property.

    The court ruled there was “no evidence” that either Johansen or others had used the decryption code (called DeCSS) for illegal purposes. Johansen therefore couldn’t be convicted on such grounds, nor for acting as an accessory to other alleged illegal activity, wrote judge Irene Sogn in the court’s ruling.

    Nor, wrote Sogn, was there any evidence that Johansen intended to contribute to illegal copying.

    The court determined that it is not illegal to use the DeCSS code to watch DVD films obtained by legal means. [Aftenposten]

Sensible Norgies – courts in general have been much more sensible than legislatures regarding what amount to digital fair use matters (read DMCA) thus far.

Reuters adds:

    The judge said Johansen could view DVDs he had legally bought however he wanted. Prosecutors had failed to give evidence that Johansen’s program had been used by others to watch pirate copies, she added. The ruling can be appealed within two weeks.

    “This is a very solid ruling,” Johansen’s lawyer Halvor Manshaus told Reuters. “It is saying that when you have bought a film legally, you have access to its content. It is irrelevant how you get that access. You have bought the movie after all.”

    Hollywood studios, which encode DVD movies to prevent people from copying them, had said unauthorized copying was copyright theft and undermined a market for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North America alone.

    Johansen hinted he would continue to challenge Hollywood.

    “DVD players which skip commercials still don’t exist,” said Johansen, who is making about 35,000 crowns ($5,039) a month as a computer programmer. “This ruling means that anyone can produce equipment which allows you to skip commercials.”

This “David” doesn’t appear to be going away quietly.

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