An appeals court Monday upheld the acquittal of a 20-year-old Norwegian man who posted a program on the Internet for cracking DVD security codes, a setback for anti-piracy proponents in the entertainment industry.

Prosecutors appealed after Jon Lech Johansen was acquitted in January of violating Norway's data break-in laws with his DeCSS program for DVDs last year. Johansen's lawyer, Halvor Manshaus, tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed.

The prosecution had sought a 90-day suspended jail sentence, confiscation of computer equipment and a $2,940 fine.

But Judge Wenche Skjeggestad ruled that Johansen could freely copy DVDs he bought, adding he didn't violate the Nordic country's laws protecting intellectual property.

"The balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and consumers has been clearly defined," Manshaus told The Associated Press.

The case was widely seen as a test of Norway's computer protection laws. Prosecutors said they were considering appealing to the country's supreme court.

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 the codes on the Internet in 1999 and became a folk hero among computer hackers.

Prosecutors charged Johansen after a complaint from the Motion Picture Association of America and the DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses the film industry's Content Scrambling System, or CSS.

Johansen's program is just one of many that can break the CSS, which prevents illegal copying and blocks the use of legitimate copies on unauthorized equipment.

Last week, in the United States, a federal appeals court ruled that the recording industry couldn't force Internet providers to identify users who swap music online.

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