California court can't grab Pavlovich
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
Not long after, Hollywood's Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
contacted the ěKOKRIM - 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
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.