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'DVD Jon' faces piracy appeal

Johansen
Johansen developed the program when he was 15

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OSLO, Norway -- A Norwegian teenager faces another trial on DVD piracy charges as local officials prepare to appeal against his acquittal earlier this month in a landmark trial brought by major Hollywood studios.

Jon Johansen, dubbed "DVD Jon," was cleared of charges on January 7 when an Oslo court said he had not broken the law by helping unlock a code and distributing a computer program enabling DVD films to be copied.

The Norwegian Economic Crime Unit said on Tuesday it would appeal against the court decision, seen as an important test of copyright protections.

Rune Floisbonn, Economic Crime Unit leader, told Norway's NTB news agency: "It will be unfortunate if the ruling stands.

"There are some principles for storage and distribution of data in new storage media that the court should have taken account of."

The verdict followed a six-day trial brought after entertainment industry giants including Sony, Universal, MGM and Warner Bros. -- part of Time Warner Inc., which owns CNN.com -- filed a complaint accusing him of cracking the codes meant to protect their products from downloading.

Johansen, 19, created the DeCSS (De Contents Scramble System) program in 1999 when he was 15 so that he could view his DVDs on a Linux machine.

DeCSS defeats the copyright protection system known as Contents Scramble System (CSS), which the entertainment industry uses to protect films distributed on DVDs.

The studios argued unauthorised copying was copyright theft and undermined a market for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North America alone.

But Johansen argued that since he owned the DVDs, he should be able to view them as he liked, preferably on his own computer. The court, citing consumer laws which protect consumers' fair use of their own property, agreed.

The court ruled there was "no evidence" that Johansen or others used the decryption code called DeCSS for illegal purposes nor was there any evidence that Johansen intended to contribute to illegal copying.

The court also ruled it is not illegal to use the DeCSS code to watch DVD films obtained by legal means.

The teenager has become a symbol for hackers worldwide who say making software such as Johansen's is an act of intellectual freedom rather than theft.

Johansen's lawyer Halvor Manshaus said in a statement regarding the appeal: "I am positive with regard to the final outcome of the case."

-- CNN Norge's Morten Overbye contributed to this report



Reuters contributed to this report.

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