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Prosecution Changes Charges in DeCSS Case
December 15, 2002
Thomas Mennecke
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The prosecution in the trial of Jon Lech Johansen, known as "DVD-Jon" due to his connection with a computer program to decrypt DVD copy protection codes, presented amended charges in court on Friday.

The changes largely reflect Økokrim - Norway's special force for economic crime - wanting to include charges that Johansen also cracked code that revealed a repository of protection keys. According to the prosecution, this made it possible for the decryption program DeCSS to work on a wide range of films. Johansen's defense counsel, Halvor Manshaus, opposed this new development, saying he felt it changed the very nature of the indictment, which the prosecution is not allowed to do while the trial is in progress.

Prosecutor Inger Marie Sunde argues that the changes only make the original indictment more precise, and so do not represent new charges.

After consideration Manshaus withdrew his objection to the changes, not waiting for a ruling from the judge.

"I have objections to how this is done - that changes come now, so late in the trial. I have now formal objections against the changes themselves, rather that we now, after the presentation of evidence is over, get this change - which in my opinion comes without sufficient supporting evidence," Manshaus said.

"Such a formal objection would mean that we would have to present new evidence and this would in practice lead to a deferment of the trial and we have no interest in that," Manshaus said.

Throughout the proceeding Manshaus has been extremely brief, trying to get the prosecution to concentrate on what he feels are the actual charges and presenting his counter-arguments far more quickly.

The trial was originally scheduled to conclude with closing arguments on Friday. This will now take place on Monday, primarily to allow the defense to adjust arguments to reflect the newly worded indictment. Judgment will not fall until after New Year.

This was the third time the charges against Johansen change. This spring Økokrim amended the indictment to complicity with cracking DVD codes, which means that they do not have to prove that Johansen acted alone. Just before the start of the trial Johansen's defense counsel had the wording of the charges slightly adjusted.

The trial this week has been dominated by the prosecution's painstaking attempts to argue that Johansen deliberately contributed to the removal of copy protection of DVD films leading to their free distribution on the Internet.

DVDs have a reserve of 408 encrypted keys, where at least one must correspond to a key in the DVD-player in order to access the data. According to Johansen himself, the original DeCSS contained only one key, but this was later expanded thanks to the efforts of friends on the Internet.

Johansen's defense argues that he and his friends only cracked the code in order to play films legally purchased on a computer using the Linux operating system.

Much of Friday morning's trial time was spent documenting online conversations between Johansen and his friends.

DeCSS, was published in 1999 and widely associated with Johansen via reports in the media. Specialist circles have debated Johansen's level of involvement with the actual codebreaking. Johansen also made the program freely available for download via the Internet.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Developer Lawsuits
Technology News :: DRM

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