The geeks support «DVD-Jon»

OSLO COURT HOUSE (VG Nett) Jon Johansen, also known as DVD-Jon, had solid backing from a gang of geeks when he declared himself not guilty on the charges brought forth by the Økokrim (Economical crimes division) this monday morning.

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There is no doubt that the geeks now have occupied Oslo Court house. In the penal case against Jon Lerche Johansen, "DVD-Jon", the computer jargon is abundant and so are the discussions on whether the decryption of DVD-movies has illegal purposes or not.

There are several people in the audience that fit in under the description 'geek', on the witness list are even more geeks and when expressions like 'reverse engineering', 'decryption', 'algorithms' and GNU/Linux passes around the room, it's almost like Christmas eve for the geeks.

DVD-Jon does not believe he did anything illegal when he made and distributed the DeCSS program in 1999, a program making it possible to omit the encryption in DVD movies.

- There was no DVD software available for Linux during the fall of 1999. By the means of an IRC channel where DVD was discussed, I came in contact with persons interested in the same subject. Another person wrote his own version of the CSS algorithm, DVD-Jon said when he entered the witness stand Monday morning.

CSS is the name of the encryption of DVD movies.

- After recieving the both the authentication code and the code for decryption of the moves from others, I put it together in a program called DeCSS. I made this program available for others, Jon said befor he stated:

- Økokrim speaks of CSS as if it were a protection from copying, but thinking in objective terms it's an access protection.

Then Inger Marie Sunde, the prosecutor, started her cross-examination of DVD-Jon. This was a series of questions regarding what was disussed in the chat channels on IRC in the autumn of 1999. DVD-Jon answered the questions in short sentences, usually "that is correct" or "I can't remember that".

Earlier, his defense lawyer, Halvor Manshaus, told the court why he thinks DVD-Jon is innocent according to the law.

- There is no protection [of DVD movies] in the terms of the law. The contents of the disc is rendered unreadable, but it is the purpose that you can actually read the contents. DVD players are readily available and encryption of the contents have no effect. The user will not notice if the movie has encryption or not, said Manshaus.

- Jon Johansen's actions were not unlawful. It is only natural that a consumer buys the movie to watch it. Gaining access to the movie, either by regular playing or by evading a technical limit, is the same as opening your own letter, stated Manshaus.

He also stated that the Norwegian Supreme Court earlier had ruled that broadcasted movies are not data, and that the law applied in the case against DVD-Jon is not valid because of this.

- Johansen made the interface to the software DeCSS, a way for the user to communicate with a program. Johansen did not make the core of the program. These parts have been developed by several other persons, Manshaus said.

- It is fully legal to make your own DVD player, it is legal to decrypt CSS and it is legal to copy DVD movies for personal use, he concluded.

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