Ind. student can’t be sued in California for online content, high court says

CALIFORNIA – The California Supreme Court ruled onMonday that a company could not sue an Indiana college student in a Californiacourt for copyright infringement.In the 4-3 decision, the court said thestate had no jurisdiction over a lawsuit brought by the DVD Copy ControlAssociation against Matthew Pavlovich, a former Purdue University student whopublished codes online in 1999 that allowed users to unscramble encrypted DVDs.The court said that Pavlovich, who has never been a resident of California, didnot specifically seek to harm businesses there. “Pavlovich’salleged conduct in posting a passive Web site on the Internet is not, by itself,sufficient to subject him to jurisdiction in California,” said themajority opinion. The DVD Copy Control Association of America’ssuit against Pavlovich threatened to establish a precedent that would enable abusiness in California to sue anyone whose sole contact with California ispublishing information online that can be read there. Such a suit would saddlethe defendant with the financial burden of legal representation andtransportation to and from the state.The court was careful to stressthat while Pavlovich cannot be tried in California, he can still be sued inIndiana, where he lived when he posted the codes, or Texas, where he residesnow. “Mr. Pavlovich may still face the music – just not inCalifornia,” wrote Associate Justice Janice R. Brown for the majority.The high court ruling overturns an August 2001 decision by the CaliforniaCourt of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District that had held that Californiahad jurisdiction over the case. A friend-of-the-court brief filed by theStudent Press Law Center and the Computer and Communications IndustryAssociation criticized the previous decision. “The court ofappeals’ radical expansion of the scope of personal jurisdiction,especially for information published on the Internet, represents a real threatto journalists and publications and to their free-press rights,” the briefsaid.

Pavlovich v. Superior Court, 2002 WL 31641714 (Calif. Nov. 25, 2002)
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