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Wednesday, May 28, 2003
California supreme court to hear DVD case


The California Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for May 29, 2003, on a key legal challenge to the publication of information regarding the decryption of DVDs.

In the case, called DVD-CCA v. Bunner, California resident Andrew Bunner was one of thousands of republishers of the DVD-decryption software called DeCSS throughout the U.S. and the world. The court will review an appellate court decision that held that a preliminary lower court order preventing Bunner from disclosing in any language and in any medium the information regarding the decryption of DVDs violated his First Amendment rights.

DVD-CCA, the organization that licenses DVD technology for Hollywood movie studios, originally filed the lawsuit in December 1999 and obtained the preliminary anti-publication order shortly thereafter. DVD-CCA named hundreds of people in the lawsuit, including those who printed DeCSS on T-shirts. DVD-CCA contends that republication of DeCSS improperly disclosed its trade secrets despite the fact that the program was widely available. It is uncommon for trade secret owners to attempt to restrict publication by members of the public with whom they share no contractual relationship or who were not involved in the original discovery and disclosure of the trade secret.

Bunner republished DeCSS on his website after reading about it on Slashdot. He is the only defendant who has appealed the preliminary injunction.

"DeCSS was publicly available throughout the world when Bunner published the DVD-decryption information on his website and when the court issued a preliminary injunction," said EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. "DeCSS is obviously not a trade secret since it's available on thousands of websites, T-shirts, neckties, and other media worldwide."

"We're confident the Supreme Court will recognize that DVD-CCA v. Bunner is a classic First Amendment case, just as the Court of Appeal did," said David Greene, Executive Director of the First Amendment Project and main author of Bunner's legal briefs. "The trial court failed to apply the commonly-recognized constitutional test for restrictions on the publication of 'confidential' information in DVD-CCA v. Bunner when it issued the preliminary injunction."

Another branch of the case, DVD-CCA v. Pavlovich, ended this spring when DVD-CCA decided not to appeal a California Supreme Court decision that it was improper to force Matthew Pavlovich, another alleged republisher of DeCSS, to come to California to defend the trade secret claim.

In other DeCSS-related litigation, the original publisher of the program, Norwegian teenager Jon Johansen, was acquitted of all criminal charges. The Norwegian government has appealed that decision, and the case is currently scheduled for re-trial in December 2003.

The Supreme Court hearing in DVD-CCA v. Bunner is scheduled for 9:00 am on May 29, 2003, in the courtroom at 350 McAllister Street, Fourth Floor, San Francisco, California.


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