Press Releases: August 2003
On Wednesday, August 25, the SCO Group Inc. announced plans to sue individual Linux users who decline to pay it a $700 license fee. "Suing consumers in order to speed-up resolution of SCO's lawsuit against IBM is completely unjustifiable," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "SCO should prove its legal claims against IBM and Red Hat before it turns consumers into collateral damage. SCO should not wield the threat of litigation to extract licensing fees from consumers when it's not at all clear that it has any legal right to do so."
Sets High Standard for Publishing DVD Decoding Information
San Francisco - The California Supreme Court ruled today that publication of information regarding the decoding of DVDs merits a strong level of protection as free speech and sent a key case back to a lower court for a decision on whether a court can prevent Andrew Bunner from publishing this information, whether on the Internet, on a T-shirt, or elsewhere.
In the case, DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA) v. Bunner, California resident Andrew Bunner was one of thousands of people worldwide who republished DVD-decryption software called DeCSS. DVD-CCA, the company that licenses the use of the DVD encryption code, convinced a trial court to issue an order barring publication of DeCSS pending a final decision in the case, claiming that DeCSS contained its trade secrets. The Court of Appeal ruled that the ban on publication was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court today required the Court of Appeal to reexamine the evidence.
"The appeals court can now examine the movie industry's fiction that DeCSS is still a secret and that a publication ban is necessary to keep the information secret," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "DeCSS is obviously not a trade secret since it's available on thousands of websites, T-shirts, neckties, and other media worldwide." EFF serves as co-counsel on the case.
In issuing its ruling, the California Supreme Court found that publication of the DeCSS code is an activity that requires the court to apply strong First Amendment principles. DVD-CCA had claimed originally that the courts need not consider any First Amendment issues.
"We are heartened that the court acknowledged that trade secret injunctions must be subject to a high level of First Amendment scrutiny," said David Greene, Executive Director of the First Amendment Project who argued the case on behalf of Bunner. "We are confident that, having looked at the facts, the Court of Appeal will remove the restriction on Bunner's right to republish publicly available information.
DVD-CCA is a consortium of the major motion picture studios and major consumer electronics manufacturers that licenses DVD encryption technology. DVD-CCA originally filed suit in December 1999, three months after the DeCSS code became available on the Internet.
DVD-CCA 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 those who republish DeCSS improperly disclose its trade secrets, despite the fact that those people didn't create the DeCSS software which is widely available on the Internet.
DVD-CCA doesn't claim that Bunner created DeCSS or stole any trade secrets. Instead, DVD-CCA is attempting to stretch trade secret law to include Bunner, a member of the public who had no inside information or contractual arrangement with DVD-CCA, but who instead found the program on a public website and decided to republish it.
Bunner is a defendant in one of several lawsuits the entertainment industry has launched since the publication of DeCSS to mixed results.
Another branch of the case, DVD-CCA v. Pavlovich, ended this spring when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to rule in favor of DVD-CCA after the California Supreme Court decided 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.
In another case, a coalition of movie studios prevented further publication of DeCSS by 2600 Magazine using the federal anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
- California Supreme Court decision in DVD-CCA v. Bunner
- DVD-CCA v. Bunner and Pavlovich case archive
- 6th Appellate Court decision overturning Bunner injunction
- Jon Johansen case archive
- 2600 Case archive
- EFF Board member and Boalt Hall School of Law Professor Pam Samuelson's new paper on trade secrets and the First Amendment
Electronic Frontier Foundation
email@example.com +1 415 436-9333 x108 (office)
Executive Director and Staff Counsel
First Amendment Project
firstname.lastname@example.org +1 510 208-7744
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and
challenges industry and government to support free
expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported
organization and maintains one of the most linked-to
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A Massachusetts district court blocked the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) from using a single court in Washington, D.C., to issue subpoenas for Massachusetts students' identities. "The court rejected the RIAA's bald-faced attempt to use a single D.C. court ruling to steamroller Internet users' privacy nationwide," said EFF staff attorney Wendy Seltzer. "This ruling confirms that Due Process continues to apply, even on the Internet, and we hope other colleges and ISPs will take similar steps."
District Judge Joseph Tauro granted MIT and Boston College motions to quash RIAA subpoenas demanding identities of students on the university networks.
Rejects Music Sharing Subpoenas Sent to MIT, Boston College
Boston, MA - A Massachusetts district court today dealt the
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) a serious
setback by rejecting its Washington, D.C., subpoenas for
the identities of Massachusetts students. For the moment,
MIT and Boston College need not respond to the RIAA demands.
"Today's ruling requires the recording industry to file
subpoenas where it alleges that copyright infringement
occurs, rather than blanketing the country from one court in
D.C.," said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff
Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "The court ruling confirms that due
process applies to Internet user privacy nationwide."
Massachusetts District Judge Joseph Tauro granted requests
from MIT and Boston College to reject RIAA subpoenas
demanding identities of students the RIAA claims are
violating copyright. The subpoenas are part of a
nationwide effort by the RIAA to identify and crack down on
alleged copyright violators using peer-to-peer (P2P)
software to share music on the Internet.
"We urge other colleges and Internet service providers to
take similar steps to protect their users' privacy," said
EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "ISPs should notify users
whose information is sought, and fight against improper
Pacific Bell Internet Services has filed suit in California
complaining of the threat to subscribers' privacy and the
burden on Internet service providers. The RIAA has
reportedly filed more than 2,000 subpoenas through the D.C.
court and has announced plans to sue file-sharers later this
EFF offers an online database users can check to see whether
their identities have been subpoenaed by the RIAA. EFF
urges concerned citizens to learn more about ways to make
filesharing legal while getting artists paid as part of the
Let the Music Play Campaign.
- Court documents at RIAA v. The People
- EFF Let the Music Play campaign
- Check the RIAA Subpoena Database
- How Not To Get Sued By The RIAA For File-Sharing
Electronic Frontier Foundation
+1 415 436-9333 x125 (office)
Electronic Frontier Foundation
+1 415 436-9333 x108 (office)