No jail time sought for teen in Norway DeCSS trial

In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors called for Jon Lech Johansen, the 19-year-old Norwegian charged with using and distributing DeCSS, a program that can be used to break the digital copy-protection mechanism of DVDs, to be given a three-month suspended jail sentence and made to pay 10,000 Norwegian kroner (AUD$2,490) in police costs, according to Johansen's defense counsel, Halvor Manshaus.

A three-month suspended jail term means Johansen would not go to prison if found guilty -- unless he committed a crime within the next two years, in which case the three-month sentence would enter effect.

Part 145 Section 2 of the Norwegian criminal code, under which Johansen was charged, provides for a maximum sentence of six months for gaining illegal access to information by breaking or circumventing a code or barrier, or two years if the act is motivated by profit, Manshaus said.

Johansen, also widely known as "DVD Jon," developed the DeCSS program in late 1999 in order to watch DVDs on a computer running the Linux operating system.

Prosecutors from Norway's special force for economic crime, Økokrim, claimed that DeCSS could be used to make pirate copies of DVDs. According to Manshaus, Johansen replied that you can make copies to which you are not entitled using the software, just as you can with CD burners, photocopiers and video cassette recorders -- all technologies that, like DeCSS, can also be used for legal purposes.

On Friday, just before the trial was due to end, Økokrim asked the judge for leave to change the nature of the charges against Johansen, to add a charge of breaking the DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) and gaining access to the player keys, a series of digital encryption keys usually stored in DVD players and used to unlock the content of DVDs.

After initially objecting to the move, Manshaus agreed to the changes without waiting for the judge to rule. Objecting would have resulted either in a refusal of the change, or a retrial if the judge had accepted it.

"We've waited three years for this trial, we didn't want to delay it any longer," Manshaus said.

The judge will announce the verdict on Jan. 7.

The investigation began in January 2000, when a Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) complaint against Johansen led Norwegian police to raid his home. His trial finally began on Dec. 9.

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Peter Sayer

Peter Sayer

PC World
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