August 24, 2001

EFF argues against DVD software ban

Author: JT Smith

A California appeals court today
heard a debate over whether a lower court should have
ordered dozens of Internet publishers to "stop the presses"
pending the outcome of a California trade secrets trial.

In January 2000, as part of a trade secrets case brought
by the motion picture industry, Santa Clara County
Superior Court Judge William Elfving ordered Andrew
Bunner and numerous other defendants to halt Internet
publication of DeCSS pending the outcome of the trial.
DeCSS is free software that allows people to play DVDs
without technological restrictions, such as platform
limitations and region codes, that are imposed by movie
studios.

Today Bunner, represented by the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF) and the First Amendment Project (FAP),
argued on appeal that this injunction violates his free
speech rights under the First Amendment and the California
Constitution. The argument took place in San Jose before
three judges of the Sixth District California Court of
Appeals.

"It is well-established that publishers of computer code
are protected by the First Amendment. In granting the
injunction against Mr. Bunner, the Superior Court failed to
adequately consider Bunner's First Amendment rights," said
David Greene, Executive Director and staff counsel to the
First Amendment Project, who argued the appeal on behalf of
Mr. Bunner. "The mere invocation of 'trade secrets' does not
trump a publisher's First Amendment rights."

During today's oral arguments, the judges clearly
appreciated the important First Amendment issues raised and
asked probing questions of both sides. Upon completion of
the oral arguments, the court took the matter under
submission. A decision is expected in approximately 4-8
weeks.

Background on the DVD Copy Control Assoc., Inc. v.
Bunner case:
http://www.eff.org/IP/Video/DVDCCA_case/

About EFF:

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, privacy, and openness in the information
society. EFF is a member-supported organization and
maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world:
http://www.eff.org/.

About FAP:

The First Amendment Project is a nonprofit, public interest
law firm and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting
and promoting freedom of information, expression, and
petition. FAP provides advice, educational materials, and
legal representation to its core constituency of activists,
journalists, and artists in service of these fundamental
liberties and has a website at:
http://thefirstamendment.org/.

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