Norwegian David escapes Hollywood Goliath, for now

In a significant victory for digital media rights, Jon Johansen has been cleared of all charges of using distributing DeCSS. As summarized in the New York Times:

A three-member panel of the Oslo City Court, including a judge and two technical experts, ruled that Mr. Johansen had not broken any laws by using and distributing the software and that he was free to view DVD’s [sic] he bought in any fashion he chose. Mr. Johansen has said that the software was intended to help him play DVD’s [dic] he already owned on a Linux-based computer, for which DVD software had not yet been written. Consumers’ rights to legally obtained DVD’s [sic] apply, the court said, “even if the films are played in a different way than the makers had foreseen.”

The court was also quoted by the Associated Press as saying:

The court finds that someone who buys a DVD film that has been legally produced has legal access to the film. Something else would apply if the film had been an illegal, pirate copy.

Ah, sweet sanity. The MPAA has to be frothing about their ruling. I imagine there was a lot of teeth-clenching as they prepared this startement:

We understand that the prosecution in Norway is reviewing whether to take an appeal, and we support that consideration. We look forward to reviewing the court’s decision in greater detail.

I also like Dan Gillmor’s optimistically-cautious coda:

This, on the heels of a Russian software company’s acquittal of criminal charges for an alleged violation of U.S. copyright law, does not mean the tide is turning in this war. It does mean that several crucial battles have been won by the good guys.

But Hollywood and its cartel allies have infinitely deep pockets (for now), and they will not give up. Let’s cheer, however, for Johansen and everyone else who believes not that information should be free, but that people should be free to use what they’ve bought as they choose.

Amen. | Associated Press story | BBC News story | Dan Gillmor’s eJournal | New York Times story | Reuters story