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A Norwegian acquitted of piracy after he released a program that cracked DVD security codes was back in court Tuesday as prosecutors began appealing his case, a test of the country’s computer protection laws. Jon Lech Johansen, 20, was acquitted Jan. 7 of charges that he violated Norway’s data break-in laws with his DeCSS program for DVDs. “I’m beginning to get a little tired of this case,” Johansen told Norway’s biggest newspaper, Verdens Gang, as Tuesday’s proceedings started. He pleaded innocent to the same charges for the second time in a year. The trial is scheduled to last through Dec. 12, with a verdict expected in January. Johansen, also known as DVD Jon, was 15 when he developed the program to watch movies on a Linux-based computer without DVD-viewing software. He posted it on the Internet in 1999 and became a hacker folk hero. The program is just one of many that can break the film industry’s Content Scrambling System, or CSS, which prevents illegal copying and blocks the use of legitimate copies on unauthorized equipment. Prosecutors charged Johansen after a complaint from the Motion Picture Association of America and the DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses CSS. At the time, prosecutors asked that Johansen get a 90-day suspended jail sentence, have his computer equipment confiscated and pay court costs. The Oslo District Court said Johansen could not be convicted of breaking into DVD films he legally owned, or of providing a tool others might use to copy films illegally. The court said prosecutors had failed to prove that Johansen or others had actually used the program to access illegally pirated movies. Because the case was the first of its kind in Norway, and key in determining how far existing laws protect copyright holders, prosecutors appealed the verdict. In an apparent poke at prosecutors and the entertainment industry, a new security-cracking program called QTFairUse was posted last month — along with the message “So sue me” — on a Web site that Johansen owns. That program circumvents the anti-copying measures used by Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes song-downloading service. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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