, The Register 2003-12-12
The appeal trial of Jon Lech Johansen ended yesterday in Norway, with prosecutors repeating their demand for a suspended custodial sentence. Johansen circumvented the CSS encryption scheme on DVDs, allowing him to watch movies he had already bought on his Linux computer.Johansen was acquitted in January. The judge is expected to deliver a verdict on December 22.
The case is interesting for several reasons, of which the most remarkable is that Norwegian prosecutors are pursuing a Norwegian citizen on behalf of a US-based lobby group: the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). By publishing DeCSS, Johansen broke no laws in Norway, and the prosecution changed tack several times. 'DVD Jon' was prosecuted under Section 145 of the criminal code, a law originally intended to target the opening of snail mail.
The law had been extended to cover electronic documents, but there was no precedent for an act of reverse engineering facing the same sanctions. The Norwegian economic crimes unit ØKOKRIM was reluctant to bring charges but found itself under intense pressure from Hollywood lobbyists.
The DVD Copy Control Association first brought actions against two US citizens for publishing the code in 1999. Johansen was indicted only when he turned 18, just two years ago.
Johansen recently posted a similar crack for iTunes Music Store locked music. Like his earlier DeCSS, the code which Johansen calls QuickTime AAC memory dumper also grants freedom for people to enjoy music they have legitimately purchased. Johansen recently locked horns with fanatical supporters of the Apple Computer company who called for him to be jailed. Many more found the position indefensible, and pointed out the recording industry was reaping what it deserved.
Johansen's iTunes DRM circumvention has served to illustrate that more equitable models - which compensate artists but which don't restrict fair use - have been gaining traction with industry executives. ®