San Francisco - Texas resident Matthew Pavlovich yesterday for a second time asked the California Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision requiring him to defend a trade secret case in a California court. Pavlovich, who did not reside in or have any contact with California, has resisted being forced to defend the case in that state.
"Courts have uniformly held that simply publishing something on the Internet is not sufficient to hold jurisdiction worldwide," noted EFF Intellectual Property Attorney Robin Gross. "Without the proper application of constitutional safeguards, the Internet will become a liability minefield for users."
In December 1999, a movie industry association called the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) sued hundreds of individuals, including Indiana college student Pavlovich, for allegedly publishing DVD decoding software called DeCSS on websites that hosted various Linux-based open-source projects. The DVD CCA claims that Internet republishing of DeCSS on their websites constitutes a trade secret violation.
Pavlovich's appeal is similar to the major case on the trade secret issue, DVD CCA v. Bunner, where an appeals court has stayed the trade secret misappropriation issue pending the outcome of Pavlovich's jurisdictional motion.
The U.S. Constitution's due process clause limits a state court's ability to assert power over out-of-state defendants who have no connection with that state. The Pavlovich case has already gone to the California Supreme Court once before; the Court sent the matter back to the Appellate Court to explain why it believed Pavlovich could be required to come to California. The Appellate Court again held that Pavlovich is required to defend himself in California.
"The lower court's ruling means that a person would be subject to jurisdiction everywhere the Internet reaches," said Allonn Levy, who represents Pavlovich. "It means that movie industry moguls can drag web publishers from anywhere in the world to defend themselves here in California."
DeCSS is free software that allows people to play DVDs without technological restrictions, such as region codes, preferred by movie studios.
Norwegian teenager Jon Johansen originally published DeCSS on the Internet in October 1999. Norwegian prosecutors recently indicted Johansen more than two years after the DVD CCA urged them to do so.