Oslo, Jan. 7 (Reuters): A Norwegian teenager was cleared of DVD piracy charges today in a landmark trial brought on behalf of major Hollywood studios.
The Oslo court said Jon Johansen, known in Norway as “DVD Jon”, had not broken the law when he helped unlock a code and distribute a computer programme enabling unauthorised copying of DVD movies.
“Johansen is found not guilty,” Judge Irene Sogn, flanked by two technical experts, told the court. “The verdict is unanimous.” She said prosecutors could appeal the ruling.
Prosecutors had asked for a 90-day suspended jail term for Johansen, 19, who developed the programme when he was 15.
The teenager has become a symbol for hackers world wide who say making software such as Johansen's — called DeCSS — is an act of intellectual freedom rather than theft.
The prosecution was brought after a complaint was filed by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which represents the major Hollywood studios.
The studios, which code DVD movies to prevent people copying them, said unauthorised copying was copyright theft and undermined a market for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North America alone.
In the US, Johansen’s case has raised concerns among Internet users of what they see as a constitutional right to freedom of expression.