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Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Norwegian appeals court to hear "DVD Jon" case

A Norwegian appeals court has agreed to hear the prosecutor's appeal of the case against Jon Johansen. Johansen is a Norwegian teenager acquitted of criminal charges for helping to write and publish a DVD descrambling program. Johansen used the program called DeCSS to watch his own DVDs on his Linux computer.

"A Norwegian court has already acquitted Jon Johansen of criminal charges for taking the steps necessary to view his own DVDs on his own computers," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We're confident that the appellate court will come to the same conclusion that Johansen has not violated Norwegian law."

Halvor Manshaus of the Norwegian law firm Schjødt who represented Johansen in the case noted, "The appeal is not surprising. We won the acquittal from earlier this year on principle, not on particulars or formalities. This is important, since the court's ruling gives weight to our interpretation of the laws in question. I had advised Johansen that an appeal was to be expected, since the prosecutors have announced that this is considered a case of principle interest, and we are prepared for yet another full round in court."

After a request from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit (ØKOKRIM) had charged Jon Johansen for unscrambling DVDs using DeCSS in 1999 when he was 15 years old.

Johansen was acquitted of the charge of violating the Norwegian Criminal Code section 145(2), which outlaws breaking into another person's locked property to gain access to data that no one is entitled to access.

Johansen's prosecution marks the first time the Norwegian government has attempted to punish individuals for accessing their own property. Previously, the government used this law to prosecute only individuals who violated someone else's secure system, like a bank or telephone company system, in order to obtain another person's records.

The three-member Oslo City Court unanimously ruled to acquit Johansen. The Norwegian prosecutors convinced an appeals court to rehear the case and the court will not likely decide the case until the end of 2003.

Johansen's indictment came more than two years after the MPAA initially contacted ¯KOKRIM prosecutors to request a criminal investigation of the Norwegian teen and his father, Per Johansen, who owned the equipment on which the DeCSS software was stored. The charges against Johansen's father were later dropped.

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