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‘DVD Jon’ seals final victory

Norwegian police said on Monday they would not make a second appeal on a landmark DVD piracy case, marking a final victory for 20-year-old Jon Johansen.
/ Source: Reuters

Norwegian police said on Monday they would not appeal a landmark DVD piracy case for a second time, marking a final victory for a 20-year-old hacker and a defeat for Hollywood.

An Oslo appeals court cleared 20-year-old Jon Johansen, dubbed "DVD Jon", of piracy charges in late December, angering the U.S. film industry which had hoped for a legal precedent to prevent unauthorised copying of DVDs around the world.

Norwegian police, which brought the charges on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), had considered appealing to Norway's Supreme Court by a two-week deadline from the December 22 ruling.

Police "have decided not to appeal the ruling in the DVD case. The acquittal in the District Court will therefore stand," they said in a statement, but gave no further detail.

The appeals court said Johansen, hailed by hackers worldwide as a hero for free speech, had not broken the law by helping to unlock a code and distribute a computer program on the Internet enabling unauthorized copying of DVD movies.

He made the program, called DeCSS, when he was only 15. Supporters worldwide have portrayed the trials as a David against Goliath battle over a teenager's right to free speech.

"This brings this case to a final end, following acquittals in both the district court and the appeals court," Johansen's lawyer Halvor Manshaus told Reuters. "I am pleased with the final outcome and so is my client."

The verdict was a major defeat for the MPAA, grouping Hollywood studios like Walt Disney Co., Universal Studios and Warner Bros, which had brought the case in a bid to stifle piracy that it says costs $3.0 billion a year in lost sales.

The studios feared an erosion of their DVD sales similar to that experienced by the music industry when Napster created a free service allowing online users to download digital free music from other users.

Napster, however, was successfully sued by the five largest record companies for copyright infringement, forcing it into bankruptcy.