Norwegian cleared of DVD piracy

January 13, 2004

An Oslo appeals court has cleared a 20-year-old Norwegian man of DVD piracy charges in a new legal setback for Hollywood motion picture and television studios.

Upholding a verdict by a lower court last January, the court found that Jon Johansen had broken no laws by helping to unlock a code and distribute a computer program on the Internet enabling unauthorized copying of DVD movies.

The U.S. movie industry, which claims that piracy costs $3 billion a year in lost sales, had accused Johansen of theft in cracking the copy-protection code when he was 15 and appealed against the January acquittal.

Johansen, nicknamed “DVD Jon,” had pleaded not guilty to charges that he broke Norwegian law by helping break the code on commercial DVDs. The original court said that he was free to do what he wanted with DVDs he bought legally.

Prosecutors, who appealed against the original verdict, had urged a suspended 90-day jail term for Johansen. “The appeal is rejected,” Judge Wenche Skjeggestad told the court.

The MPAA will have to go to Norway’s supreme court if it appeals again. Reuters reported it was not immediately clear whether that avenue would be pursued.

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