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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 10:20 GMT
DVD teenager hit by court charge
Johansen was 15 when he wrote the software
Johansen was 15 when he wrote the software
A Norwegian teenager is facing up to two years in jail over software which makes it possible to copy DVD films.

Jon Lech Johansen was 15 and a member of an unofficial group called the Masters of Reverse Engineering (More) when the group wrote the programme DeCSS, which unlocks copy-protected DVDs.

Johansen has said the group did this only so they could play the movies on his computer, without a DVD player.

Johansen, now 18, has become a celebrity among computer hackers, who even marched to support him in New York.

This is the first case of its kind in Norway and will test the country's new computer crime laws.

The programme makes it possible to copy DVD disc movies on a computer, and transmit them on the internet.


Johansen shouldn't be prosecuted for breaking into his own property

EFF's Robin Gross
Norwegian authorities acted after complaints from Hollywood studios, who faced losing millions because of the software.

Inger Marie Sunde, from the country's economic crime police, said the action was not brought because of copyright.

She said: "We want to focus on the code-breaking part of it."

Johansen is being backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group which wants freedom of expression in technology.

Their attorney Robin Gross said: "Johansen shouldn't be prosecuted for breaking into his own property.

"Jon simply wanted to view his own DVDs on his Linux machine."

Lawsuits

The movie industry has a protection system on DVDs called Content Scrambling System (CSS) which stops people from using DVD players that are not offically licenced. It also makes DVD region encoding possible.

The programme gets rid of that protection, opening them for copying and playing.

The Norwegian authorities claim Johannsen put the software on the internet in October 1999, and that it was downloaded 5,000 times in just three months.

In the US the DeCSS programme has been the subject of at least three lawsuits.

In one of them a Californian appeal court throw out a bid to ban the publication of the software, however that is now the subject of another appeal to the Supreme Court.

See also:

10 Dec 01 | Business
Demand for DVDs rockets
29 Nov 01 | New Media
Website silenced over DVD secrets
27 Nov 01 | New Media
Grinch steals DVD sales record
23 Oct 01 | Business
DVDs propel Blockbuster growth
27 Sep 01 | New Media
DVD boom in Europe
25 Sep 01 | New Media
DVD players 'to double' in US homes
13 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand's struggle with goods piracy
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