Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

Norway Indicts Teen Who Published Code Liberating DVDs

U.S. Entertainment Industry Pressured Norwegian Prosecutors

For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 10, 2002

Oslo, Norway - Acting years after pressure from the U.S. entertainment industry, the Norwegian government yesterday indicted teenager Jon Johansen for his role in creating software that permits DVD owners to view DVDs on players that are not approved by the entertainment industry.

On January 9, 2002, the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit (ØKOKRIM) charged Jon Johansen for creating software called DeCSS in 1999 when he was 15 years old.

"Johansen shouldn't be prosecuted for breaking into his own property," said Robin Gross, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "Jon simply wanted to view his own DVDs on his Linux machine."

"Although prosecutors in Norway failed to defend the rights of their citizens against Hollywood's unprecedented demands, we are confident that neither the Norwegian people nor their justice system will allow this charge to stand," added EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The movie studios have used intellectual property rights to silence scientists, and censor journalists. Now, they are declaring war on their customers."

Johansen's indictment comes more than two years after the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initally contacted ØKOKRIM prosecutors to request a criminal investigation of the Norwegian teen and his father, Per Johansen, who owned the equipment on which the DeCSS software was posted.

Johansen originally published DeCSS as part of the open source development project LiVid (Linux Video) in building a DVD player for the Linux operating system. The MPAA CSS licensing entity, named DVD-CCA, refuses to license CSS to projects such as LiVid, which is an open source project collaborating on the Web to build interoperable software tools. LiVid's independently created DVD player software would compete with the movie studio monopoly on DVD players while offering more consumer friendly features.

DeCSS also enables people to exercise their fair use rights with DVD movies, like fast-forwarding through commercials or copying for educational purposes.

In January 2000, Johansen won the prestigious "Karoline Prize" for his DeCSS software innovation. This national prize is awarded yearly to a Norwegian high school student with excellent grades who makes a significant contribution to society outside of school.

ØKOKRIM Chief Prosecutor Inger Marie Sunde indicted Johansen, who recently turned 18, for violating Norwegian Criminal Code section 145(2), which outlaws breaking into another person's locked property to gain access to data that one is not entitled to access.

Johansen's prosecution marks the first time the Norwegian government has attempted to punish individuals for accessing their own property. Previously, the government used this law only to prosecute those who violated someone else's secure system, like a bank or telephone company system, in order to obtain another person's records.

Norwegian prosecutors did not indict Per Johansen, but his son Jon Johansen could face two years in prison if convicted.

MPAA also requested ØKOKRIM charge Johansen with contributory copyright infringement; however prosecutors declined. Johansen's trial could start before summer 2002.

On November 1, 2001, the California Court of Appeal for the 6th District unanimously overturned a lower court's injunction that banned the publication of DeCSS on trade secret grounds, citing the First Amendment rights of individuals to independently obtain or derive information claimed to be a trade secret by DVD-CCA.

In another legal case to outlaw DeCSS, brought under U.S. federal law, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York recently upheld a lower court's ruling that ordered 2600 Magazine to remove DeCSS from its online publication, including hyperlinks. Jon Johansen provided testimony in the 2600 Magazine case.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will continue to handle both of these U.S. DeCSS cases and is determining its role in the Johansen case.


Additional information on Johansen case:

Jon Johansen's testimony at the 2600 Magazine trial in New York under the DMCA (July 20, 2000):

Declaration of Jon Bing, Norwegian legal expert on lack of legal precedent in Norway to support ØKOKRIM's indictment (filed in California DeCSS trade secrets case):

Additional information on DVD CCA cases:

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to Web sites in the world:


Robin Gross, EFF Intellectual Property Attorney
  +1 415-436-9333 x112
Cindy Cohn, EFF Legal Director
  +1 415-436-9333 x108

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