A federal court today affirmed the right of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to represent ReplayTV owners in their lawsuit against 28 motion picture and television industry companies.
Craig Newmark of craigslist.org and four other ReplayTV

customers are suing the entertainment companies to clarify their rights to record television programs and to skip commercials using digital video recorders (DVRs). Hollywood representatives have publicly stated that skipping commercials is "stealing."

The ReplayTV customers are represented by EFF attorneys and Ira Rothken of the Rothken Law Firm.

The entertainment companies tried to prevent EFF attorneys from accessing the vast majority of documents that the court ordered the companies to produce as part of the legal discovery process. EFF attorneys sought access because they believe these documents are critical to preparing the ReplayTV owners' case. The entertainment companies claimed that EFF is a "competitor" with Hollywood because of its public statements about copyright law policy and advocacy to Congress on pending and current technology legislation, including the proposed Consumer Broadband Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). The ruling sought by the entertainment companies would have effectively disqualified EFF attorneys as legal counsel for the ReplayTV owners in this case.

After hearing argument from both EFF and the entertainment companies' attorneys this morning, Magistrate Judge Eick of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, this afternoon ruled that EFF has the right to access the documents in question. Magistrate Judge Eick ruled that the restriction sought "would impair significantly the prosecution of the Newmark Plaintiffs' claims by effectively preventing attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation from serving as litigation counsel for the Newmark Plaintiffs" and found that the entertainment companies "have failed to demonstrate a sufficiently significant disclosure-related risk or danger" from disclosure of their confidential information by EFF attorneys to justify complete denial of access. The companies have not yet indicated if they intend to appeal the ruling.

"The entertainment companies' motion was an extraordinary effort to prevent EFF attorneys from representing our clients," stated EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "We are pleased that the court upheld EFF's right to both represent our clients in litigation and to engage in public advocacy before Congress and in public arenas."

"The restriction sought by the entertainment companies would have set a very disturbing precedent for the many organizations, like EFF, which engage in both public interest litigation and public advocacy," noted EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze.