Computer Crime Research Center

DVD Hacking Case Heads to Court--Again
(by Joris Evers)

Norwegian teen faces two years in prison and fines for creating a program that bypasses the copyright protections on DVDs.

Three years after creating a program to watch DVDs on computers running Linux, Jon Johansen finds himself in an Oslo courtroom facing criminal charges.

The 18-year-old Norwegian, famous in his home country as "DVD Jon," entered a not guilty plea on Monday, according to the online edition of Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper. The trial is scheduled to last until Friday. Johansen could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, and ordered to pay fines and damages, if found guilty.

Johansen stands accused of helping users get around the content scrambling system (CSS) on DVDs. He created a program called DeCSS and in late 1999 made that available online; he was then 15 years old. Norwegian police raided Johansen's home in January 2000 after the Motion Picture Association of America filed a complaint.

Testing the Boundaries

The case against the Norwegian teen is one in a string of cases, with differing results, that test the boundaries of copyright protection, free speech, and fair-use rights.

The MPAA, which represents the major Hollywood studios, won a lawsuit against hacker magazine 2600 in the United States for publishing and linking to DeCSS online.

Also, the DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses CSS, sued Johansen for publishing DeCSS, claiming that he violated a trade secret under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. A California appeals court ruled last year that DeCSS could not be barred from publication, however.


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