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EFFector - Volume 16, Issue 14 - Supreme Court to Hear California DVD Case

EFFector       Vol. 16, No. 14       May 21, 2003

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 253st Issue of EFFector:

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Supreme Court to Hear California DVD Case

The California Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing May 29, 2003, on a key legal challenge to the publication of DeCSS, the software that decrypts DVDs. In this case, called DVD-CCA v. Bunner, California resident Andrew Bunner was one of thousands of republishers of 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 publishing the software 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 discloses 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 had no involvement in the initial disclosure of a trade secret. Bunner had republished DeCSS on his website after reading about it on Slashdot and deciding it was newsworthy.

"Trade secret protection stops once information is no longer a secret," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "DeCSS is obviously not a secret -- it's available on thousands of websites worldwide. Even if some of the information in DeCSS was once a secret, and even that is not clear, DeCSS is now publicly available. If DVD-CCA had wanted additional protections, it should have used other legal techniques such as patent or copyright rather than trade secret law."

"We're confident the Supreme Court will recognize, as the Court of Appeal did, that this is a classic First Amendment case. The trial court's order was a prior restraint on Mr. Bunner's speech. The constitutional test for restrictions on the publication of 'confidential' information that apply in numerous other contexts must also apply here," said David Greene, Executive Director for the First Amendment Project and main author of the groups' legal brief.

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.

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TIA Report Shines No New Light

The Bush Administration released its long-awaited report to Congress on the "Total Information Awareness" program (now renamed "Terrorism Information Awareness") on May 20, 2003.

"The report is disappointing -- after more than a hundred pages, you don't know anything more about whether TIA will work or whether your civil liberties will be safe against it," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "It's also disingenuous for a report about new technologies for monitoring people to keep saying, 'don't worry, we'll follow existing privacy law.' Privacy law is already behind the technology curve, and the Bush Administration fully understands that TIA will only make the problem worse."

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EFF Accepting Used Car Donations

Donating a vehicle to charity can earn you a healthy itemized tax deduction. Now EFF is able to accept used car donations all around the country!

EFF has partnered with Vehicle Donation to Any Charity, which gives us the ability to process vehicle donations with minimal expense to us and very little hassle for the donor.

If you want to get rid of an old vehicle and help EFF, just visit our online donation center, follow the appropriate link, and walk through the donation process. Thanks for your support!

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Deep Links

Deep Links features noteworthy news items, victories, and threats from around the Internet.

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Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit our online calendar.
  • Saturday, May 24: Assorted EFF staff at the "Be Here Now Fundraiser," an event that benefits EFF and others.
  • Sunday, May 25: Cory Doctorow on "The Computer Report" radio show. WOTW 900 AM, Greater Nashua, NH.
  • Tuesday, May 27: Wendy Seltzer will be at U.C. Irvine for a roundtable discussion on the DMCA.
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EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
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Editor:
Ren Bucholz, Activist
  ren@eff.org

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