Jon Lech Johansen, in the media known as DVD-Jon, was this week acquitted in Oslo Courthouse on all charges, a ruling that comes as a crushing blow to the public prosecutors and entertainment giants. Norwegian prosecutors, acting largely on a complaint from the powerful American movie industry, had maintained that Johansen acted illegally when he shared his DVD decryption code with others by posting it on the internet.
On the wrong side of the law since 1994
Lars Aanesland has had particular reason to follow the trial closely. In May 1994 he started his career as a VHS-copier. Having rented "Police Academy 2" at the local store, he started to wonder: He had paid for the tape with his own money, why should he have to return it?
After some research on the technology, he discovered he could connect an extra VCR with a regular cable and copy the tape. It turned out to be quite simple, the hardest part for him was tuning the receiving VCR correctly. Now he had his own copy, and could gladly return the rented tape.
- The next day I borrowed "Penthouse Boobies XVIII" from a guy I used to know, to see if the method would work with other films as well. After that I was in business, the video monopoly was history, Aanesland says. He admits to having copied "at least 50 or 60" films in total.
Discrimination. Left: protesters demanding that DVD-Jon is set free. Right: local guys relaxing with a video VHS-Lars copied for them.
- Why am I denied a lawsuit? VHS crime is a crime too, though it seems computer crime is considered more "advanced" and a greater danger to society. Bear in mind that VCRs contain a lot of electronics and data stuff too. And recently I have found out that the "open source" thing DVD-Jon has been hiding behind, very likely has been an influence on my work as well, Aanesland explains.
He does not agree with claims that such copying is not very profitable, saying that people know very little about this type of crime.
- I have actually sold several copies. In my community I am now established as VHS-Lars, and I know people think I am a dubious person. These are sordid and despicable activities, and not being sued is a strain on me and my reputation. I know the judicial system is slow, but the time for justice must come.
The recent chain of events has made him wonder what is really going on in our judicial system.
- I have seen these kinds of things over and over again in movies, and can't help speculating if there is some kind of conspiracy involved here as well.
Hopes DVD-Jon will squeal
- Of course I congratulate Jon on his acquittal, at the same time I kind of hope the police have pressured him to squeal on his "partners in crime" in the hacker world. I have seen in movies how they bully people in custody, they can be pretty hard-handed, concludes a hopeful Aanesland.