Jon Johansen, author of the controversial DeCSS program, was cleared
of charges in a Norwegian court on Tuesday. Judge Irene Sogn found that
Johansen had not violated any of Norway's strict anti-piracy laws in
creating the software.
Indeed, DeCSS itself does not commit any act of piracy of its own accord.
The software allows the decoding of DVD movies, a function used for a
variety of legitimate purposes.
Halvor Manshaus, Johansen's lawyer in the case, told Reuters
that the case sets a strong precedent in Norway. "It is saying that when
you have bought a film legally, you have access to its content," he said.
"It is irrelevant how you get that access. You have bought the movie after
The case was brought against the young programmer at the behest of the
Motion Picture Association of America, which tried to use encryption to
prevent direct access to DVD content. DeCSS removes this encryption,
allowing for fair use of the content, including the ability to view DVD
movies on non-mainstream operating systems. The latter was Johansen's
original motivation for writing DeCSS.
Judge Sogn told prosecutors that they would not be permitted to appeal her
decision in the case.
Had Johansen been tried in the United States, the outcome would almost certainly have been different. DeCSS remains illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits any software that could possibly be used to circumvent digital copy protections for any reason.
2600 Magazine remains enjoined from distributing the software on its web
site, or even printing the program's source code for study.