Court rejects Web site suit

CALIFORNIA ‘ The California Supreme Court ruled in November that a company could not sue an Indiana college student in a California court for copyright infringement.

In the 4-3 decision, the court said the state had no jurisdiction over a lawsuit brought by the DVD Copy Control Association against Matthew Pavlovich, a former Purdue University student who allegedly published codes online in 1999 that allowed users to unscramble encrypted DVDs. In its Nov. 25, 2002, decision, the court said Pavlovich, who has never been a resident of California, did not seek to harm businesses there.

‘Pavlovich’s alleged conduct in posting a passive Web site on the Internet is not, by itself, sufficient to subject him to jurisdiction in California,’ wrote Associate Justice Janice Brown for the majority.

The DVD Copy Control Association of America’s suit against Pavlovich threatened to establish a precedent that would enable a business in California to sue anyone whose sole contact with the state is publishing information online that can be read there. Such a suit would saddle the defendant with the financial burden of legal representation and transportation to and from the state for court.

The court was careful to stress that while Pavlovich cannot be tried in California, he can still be sued in Indiana, where he lived when he posted the codes, or Texas, where he resides now.

Pavlovich v. Superior Court, 29 Cal.4th 262 (Cal.2002)