Jon Johansen, author of the "DeCSS" computer program which removes the encryption from DVD video discs, has pleaded innocent in a Norwegian courtroom to charges relating to his role in the software.
DeCSS came into the spotlight when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the DVD Copy Control Association filed lawsuits against 2600 and others, for distributing the program on the web. The very existence of DeCSS was seen in the U.S. as a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
From the beginning, Johansen and others have been dumbfounded by the attention the authorities have given to DeCSS. The program is only a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for purposes which may or may not be legal - the tool itself cannot be at fault. It is a fact that Johansen started work on the software not for any type of piracy, but to allow DVD videos to be played on Linux computers.
But after years of alleged "investigation" by authorities in Norway, Johansen has been charged with computer break-in for his role in DeCSS. (A more likely explanation for the long delay in charging Johansen is that the Norwegian authorities didn't care to pursue the case, until the MPAA recently contacted them with a complaint.)
Although Norway has no legal equivalent to the DMCA, it has particularly strong laws against violating copyrights and computer security. Based on opening statements, it seems that the prosecution will attempt to show that Johansen, who wrote DeCSS with help from some anonymous friends, is part of an international network of criminals bent on cracking DVD movies for piracy.
According to an article by the Associated Press, the 19-year-old Johansen went into court today with an admirably strong posture. He asserted his innocence, and said that only "the economic crime police and the film industry" believe him to be guilty. He also reiterated his claim that he has only ever used DeCSS on DVDs which he purchased legitimately.
Johansen's trial is expected to last five days, with a verdict in January.