Norwegian teen raided by police in DVD suit
January 25, 2000
From staff reports
(CNN) -- Police on Monday raided the home of Jon Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who reverse-engineered the DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) to allow DVD playback on computers running the Linux operating system.
His DeCSS software breaks the encoding system in DVDs, and is the subject of several lawsuits in the United States against people who have posted or linked to the file or source code.
Entertainment industry giants including Sony, Universal, MGM and Warner Bros. have filed a complaint against 16-year-old Johansen, accusing him of cracking the codes meant to protect their products from downloading.
Warner Bros. is a part of Time Warner Inc., which owns CNN.com.
Norwegian state prosecutor Inger Marie Sunde says the Norwegian police are taking the matter very seriously.
"It is a huge problem for those who produce copyrighted material to protect their interests when it is distributed over the Internet. At the same time we want to crack down on the hero worship of the hackers. Even though the accused is only 16 years old, he seems to be aware of what he has done," Sunde says.
The copyright infringement charges against Johansen carry fines and prison terms of up to two years in Norway. Johansen was taken in for questioning and released.
"They claim we have broken the copyright protection which makes it possible to copy DVD movies. This is totally wrong. We can prove this in court if necessary," Johansen said to CNN Norge.
"I made this program to be able to view DVD on my Linux," claims Johansen. "This way, the film industry no longer has a monopoly making DVD players."
The Norwegian police also charged Johansen's father with copyright infringement, for operating the mmadb.no domain where his son originally posted the program. The Norwegian economic crime task force seized Johansen's computers and cell phone from his home in Steinsholt, Norway.
The DVD Copy Control Association, the plaintiff in the suits, asserts that the DeCSS program can be used to copy DVDs.
A provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids distribution of products designed to crack copyright protection schemes, the studios argue.
The defense cites the same law, which protects reverse-engineering "to ensure interoperability" between platforms, says Tom McGuire, vice president for marketing and communications at the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has provided lawyers for the defendants.
"This isnt about piracy or Internet hacking. No one is copying DVDs or posting them on the Internet. At the fastest dial-up speed, it'll take over two days to download a DVD movie. And the technology has always existed for copying DVDs straight to a recorder. The only issue is that this software breaks the monopoly that the [Motion Picture Association of America] has engaged in with Microsoft and Apple and gives people the freedom to watch DVDs anywhere they wish," McGuire says.
DVDs are encoded with region-specific details that allow the movies to only work with players in their own region. In other words, a DVD encoded for North America will only work on North American players. Also, software DVD players for computers are only available for Microsoft's Windows operating system and Apples MacOS.
DeCSS supporters, such as the site OpenDVD.org, maintain that illegally copying DVDs is also impractical because blank DVD media costs more than the DVD movies themselves.
Last week, a U.S. District Court judge ordered three people to remove DeCSS from their Web sites.
Another site has posted legal documents from the suits, provided by unnamed sources connected to the case. The site posted one document from a representative of the DVD Copy Control Association, which included the entire source code for DeCSS. However, a call to the California court where the suit was filed showed that the document is not among the public documents of the case. While most documents filed with a court become public record, an attorney may seal sensitive information through a protective order. Calls made to the lawyer for the DVD CCA to confirm this were not returned.
The EFF sees the issue as a David-and-Goliath battle with the MPAA. Spokespeople for the group acknowledge that the technological issues may be difficult for a court to handle, but more importantly they fear the economic might of the entertainment companies.
"Were working hard to unite the technical and civil liberties communities behind us," McGuire said, "but we dont have 10 or 20 million dollars to spend."
CNN Interactive Technology Editor D. Ian Hopper and Geir Terje Ruud of CNN Norge contributed to this report.
Civil-rights group blasts DVD suit
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