Friday, December 14, 2001
S.C. to Determine Jurisdiction Over Distant Website Operator in Trade Secrets Dispute
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a California court has jurisdiction over the operator of a distant website that publishes trade secrets or copyrighted material belonging to a California plaintiff.
All seven justices agreed Wednesday to hear Pavlovich v. Superior Court, DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. RPI, 91 Cal.App.4th 409, a court official said.
The Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled in August that the Santa Clara Superior Court did not have to dismiss Texas resident Matthew Pavlovich from a suit brought by the DVD industry against some 500 defendants—located throughout the United States and overseas.
Pavlovich, who has never lived in California, was a student at Purdue University in Indiana when he posted a computer program called DeCSS on a website he was operating. The program is capable of defeating CSS, or Content Scramble System, the encryption program used to protect copyrighted films on DVDs.
Pavlovich wants the high court to order that service of process on him be quashed. The justices’ ruling will likely to determine whether the other out-of-state defendants can be sued in California or whether the industry will have to pursue them in separate actions throughout the world.
The case is being closely watched for its impact on other intellectual property disputes involving massive numbers of alleged infringers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which generally opposes government interference with, and assertion of intellectual property rights against, website operators urged the high court to take the case.
Wednesday’s action is the second procedural victory for Pavlovich and the EFF in the Supreme Court, which last year unanimously ordered the Sixth District to hear Pavlovich’s writ petition on the merits.
The lower panel, in an opinion by Justice Eugene Premo, said California industry is entitled to use the state’s courts to protect its copyrights and trade secrets from predators, wherever they may be located.
In other actions Wednesday, the high court:
•Unanimously stayed the release of Patrick Ghilotti, scheduled to be the first prison inmate freed after being committed for treatment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. The court will hear arguments Feb. 6 on whether Ghilotti can be recommitted after mental health experts appointed under the act determined that he no longer fits the statutory criteria for involuntary hospitalization.
•Agreed to construe an Education Code provision requiring that new certificated employees receive a written statement indicating their employment status and salary. The statute also provides that a new employee has probationary, rather than temporary, status unless the statement indicates otherwise.
The First District Court of Appeal, Div. One, held that the employer-employee relationship is not formed until the district takes formal action, so that a letter informing a teacher that she had been hired as a temporary employee, sent two weeks after she actually started work, was timely.
All of the justices except Carlos Moreno voted to review the panel’s ruling. The case is Kavanaugh v. West Sonoma County Union High School District, 92 Cal.App.4th 411.
•Left standing a ruling by this district’s Div. One that allows gas stations to charge higher prices to customers who use credit cards rather than cash as long as the differential reflects the actual cost of processing credit transactions.
The plaintiff in a class action alleged that the practice violates state law prohibiting surcharges for the use of credit cards. But Justice Miriam Vogel, writing for Div. One, said that a posted differential reflecting actual costs, made available by the operator at all of its stations, is, as a matter of law, a cash discount rather than a credit card surcharge.
No justice voted to review the ruling in Thrifty Oil Co. v. Superior Court, Linder RPI, 91 Cal.App.4th 1070.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company