Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorneys yesterday rejected an attempt by Hollywood entertainment companies to prevent access to critical court documents in a case involving the rights of five ReplayTV owners.
Craig Newmark of craigslist.org, and four other ReplayTV customers, are suing the 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 current dispute arises from the entertainment companies' attempt to deny the ReplayTV owners effective representation from EFF, their chosen counsel.
The entertainment companies are seeking a broad court order prohibiting EFF attorneys from reviewing -- or using in any way during the case -- the vast majority of the documents the court has ordered the companies to provide as part of the usual legal discovery process. The companies claim that EFF is a "competitor" with Hollywood because of 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.
"If EFF's advocacy on behalf of consumers hurts Hollywood, it's only because it convinces Congress and the public not to pass laws that Hollywood favors," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "This is about the marketplace of ideas, not commercial competition."
"Apart from the obvious harm this ruling would have on the five ReplayTV owners in this case, a rash decision here could have much broader consequences," noted EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. "If the court restricts EFF's representation in this case on the basis of its other speech activities, the court will set a disturbing precedent that could apply to other public interest law organizations and even to commercial attorneys who speak to the press and Congress about the issues involved in their cases."
The court hearing on the request is scheduled for 9:00am PDT on October 15, 2002, before Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick in the Central District of California, Court Room 20, 3rd Floor, 312 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles.