- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

OSLO (AP) Hollywood didn't get its happy ending yesterday when a Norwegian court acquitted a teenager of digital-burglary charges for creating and circulating online a program that cracks the security codes on DVDs.
The ruling, the latest setback in the entertainment industry's drive to curtail illegal copying of its movies, was a key test in how far copyright holders can go in preventing the duplication of their intellectual property.
Jon Lech Johansen, who was 15 when he developed and posted the program on the Internet in late 1999, said he developed the software only to watch movies on a Linux-based computer that lacked DVD-viewing software.
"I'm extremely satisfied," said Mr. Johansen, who sat placidly in the small courtroom with his family and computer enthusiasts as the verdict was read. "Most of those who have watched the case from the outside have said nothing criminal happened."
Mr. Johansen, now 19, said he would celebrate by watching DVDs using similar DVD-cracking software.
Head Judge Irene Sogn said people cannot be convicted of breaking into their own property. Judge Sogn said prosecutors failed to prove that Mr. Johansen or others had used the program to access illegal pirate copies of films.
"The court finds that someone who buys a DVD film that has been legally produced has legal access to the film. Something else would apply if the film had been an illegal pirate copy," the three-member Oslo City Court said in a unanimous 25-page ruling.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which had encouraged the prosecution, had no comment, spokeswoman Phuong Yokitis said from Washington.
The decision was only the latest setback for the entertainment industry in its efforts to discourage the digital distribution of its wares.
Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor lifted an emergency stay that prohibited the posting of similar DVD-decryption programs on the Internet.
And last March, a Dutch appeals court cleared copyright-infringement charges against KaZaA, a maker of computer software that lets people download music, movies and other copyright-protected material.
Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard University law professor who studies the Internet, doubted yesterday's decision would discourage the entertainment industry's anti-piracy campaign.
"The fight over Johansen's program, DeCSS, was always more a symbolic fight," Mr. Zittrain said. "This is not the literal code that millions of Americans would use to copy Hollywood's treasures."
Nonetheless, the ruling signals that Hollywood cannot tell buyers of its products how they can be used, said Robin Gross of IP Justice, an organization that promotes more balance in applying intellectual-property laws.
"Now the people are beginning to say, 'Hey, wait a minute. We have some say in this,'" she said. "These are our DVDs, and if we want to watch them on computers using the Linux operating system, we are well within our rights to do that."
Mr. Johansen became a folk hero to hackers, especially in the United States, where a battle still rages over a 1998 copyright law that bans such software.

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