DeCSS Creator Cleared on Appeal

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An Oslo Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's ruling clearing Jon Lech Johansen of charges related to his development and distribution of DeCSS, a software tool that can be used to crack copy protection on DVDs.

Johansen, also known as DVD Jon, was acquitted in January by the Oslo City Court. Okokrim, the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, decided in March to appeal the verdict.

Okokrim had called for 20-year-old Johansen to be given a 90-day suspended jail term.

Important Precedent?

"The appeals court went through all the arguments on both sides and concluded that the city court's ruling was correct," said Halvor Manshaus, a senior associate at Advokatfirmaet Schjodt AS, who represented Johansen.

In its ruling, the appellate court states that although DeCSS can be used to make illegal copies this was not Johansen's intent, and in addition, he has not made copies in violation of intellectual property regulations, Manshaus said.

"The ruling draws up a line of demarcation between the interests of owners and distributors of intellectual property on the one side, and consumers on the other," Manshaus said. "This ruling will be an important precedent in the application of existing intellectual property regulations on digital media."

Cracking the Code

Johansen was accused of helping users get around the content scrambling system (CSS) on DVDs. He created a program called DeCSS and in 1999 made that available online. Norwegian police raided Johansen's home in January 2000 after the Motion Picture Association of America filed a complaint.

Okokrim has the option of appealing to the Norwegian Supreme Court.

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