Oslo, Dec. 9 (Reuters): A Norwegian teenager pleaded not guilty today to charges of illegally making software that copies movies, in a landmark case seen as a battle between cyber Davids and corporate Goliaths.
Jon Johansen, known in Norway as “DVD Jon”, is charged with helping to crack a code and develop and distribute a programme on the Internet enabling users to make unauthorised copies of DVD movies. Prosecutor Inger Marie Sunde told an Oslo court Johansen worked with people in Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Russia and the US on making and publishing the programme in 1999 and 2000, when he was 15 and 16-years-old. “It’s been seen as a fight of David against Goliath. A 15 to 16-year-old who took on the US movie industry,” Sunde told the court. “But his acts are clearly illegal.”
Judge Irene Sogn, flanked by two experts, will hear the case against Johansen, now 19.
The trial is due to last five days. Johansen could face up to two years in jail or be ordered to pay fines or compensation. Major Hollywood studios, which code DVDs to prevent unauthorised copying, have already taken legal action against several people in the US who displayed the DeCSS programme on their websites.
US and Canadian DVD and video sales totalled an estimated $20 billion this year. Hollywood says unauthorised copying of DVDs is stealing copyright material. Some 5,000 copies of DeCSS are thought to have been downloaded from the web in the months after it was made available in 1999, prompting the US Motion Picture Association (MBA), representing Hollywood, to file a complaint in Norway.