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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Don Johansen asks compensation in acquittal

A Norwegian man who became a hacker hero for cracking security codes on Hollywood DVDs wants police to compensate him now that he's been acquitted twice of computer piracy, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Jon Lech Johansen, 20, also known as DVD Jon, was 15 when he developed a program to watch movies on a Linux-based computer without DVD-viewing software. He posted the codes on the Internet in 1999 and became a folk hero among computer hackers.

Norway's economic crime police charged him under data break-in laws, demanding a suspended jail sentence, confiscation of equipment and fines.

However, Norwegian courts twice ruled that Johansen could not be convicted of breaking into DVDs he bought legally, nor could he be punished for providing a tool - such as a computer program - that others might use for illegal acts.

The Oslo District Court acquitted Johansen just more than a year ago. Police appealed to the Borgarting appeals court in Oslo, and last month lost that case as well.

Johansen's lawyer, Halvor Manshaus, said his client will seek about $21,800 from the economic crime police because the case had been such a burden over the past four years.

Johansen had been charged after police received a complaint from the Motion Picture Association of America and the DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses the film industry's Content Scrambling System, or CSS.

This month, prosecutor Inge Marie Sunde unexpectedly declined to appeal to the supreme court. Many, including Johansen, had expected a high court appeal because the case was the first of its kind in Norway.

Johansen's program, called DeCSS, is one of many that can break the CSS.

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