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California court can't grab Pavlovich
By Jon Newton, p2pnet.net
(more articles from this author)
2002-12-08
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Matthew Pavlovich, the Texas resident who like, thousands of other people, published DeCSS online, can't be forced to stand trial in California, the California Supreme Court has decided.

DeCSS is a free, open source DVD-descrambling DeCSS app that allows you to play DVDs without technological restrictions, such as region codes and forcing you to watch movie commercials.

Now Pavlovich won't have to defend a trade secret lawsuit simply because he knew his publication could cause "general effects" on the motion picture and technology industries in California, ruled the court, at the same time laying out clear jurisdiction rules for claims arising from publishing information on the Net.

The decision is part of a larger legal struggle over Net publication of DeCSS in 1999.

Norway's Jon Johansen, a member of MoRE (the Masters of Reverse Engineering) who made DeCSS DVD for the Linux system, originally published it in October 1999.

Not long after, Hollywood's Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) contacted the ŘKOKRIM - Norway's economic crime unit - demanding a criminal investigation into Jon and his father, Per, who owned the system on which the DeCSS software was posted.

For two years, nothing happened. Then the Norwegian government apparently caved in to Hollywood pressure and Jon now faces criminal charges levelled by ØKOKRIM. The MPAA's attempt to also have Jon charged with contributory copyright infringement failed.

Ironically, Jon won Norway's prestigious "Karoline Prize," awarded every year to a Norwegian high school student with excellent grades who makes a significant contribution to society outside of school, for his DeCSS software innovation.

The MPAA's DVD CCA, the sole licensing entity for a DVD-scrambling technology called CSS, sued hundreds of named and unnamed individuals and entities in the case on December 27, 1999.

Attorney Allon Levy represented of Pavlovich pro bono with help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

"This decision clearly puts to rest the notion that you can drag someone into California court simply because he should have known that a web publication could harm Hollywood," says EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

The court made the point that without reasonable rules for court jurisdiction in Net cases, "plaintiffs connected to the auto industry could sue any defendant in Michigan, plaintiffs connected to the financial industry could sue any defendant in New York and plaintiffs connected to the potato industry could sue any defendant in Idaho."

A number of other defendants, all but one located outside California, are also affected by the decision.

The appeal of the preliminary injunction against Andrew Bunner, the only Californian named in the case, is awaiting an argument date before the California Supreme Court.


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