DVD Trade Secrets Outweigh Free Speech, Cal Supreme Court Says

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that courts can block Internet users from posting codes to illegally copy DVD movies, in a case that pitted trade secret rights against free speech.

The dispute centered on San Francisco computer programmer Andrew Bunner, who in 1999 posted the code to crack an encryption program that the movie industry says is used to replicate thousands of copyright movies per day.

The DVD Copy Control Association, an arm of Hollywood studios, said it controls the program, which prevents unauthorized copying of a movie sold in the DVD format. The association sued Bunner and others under California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

A San Jose judge ordered Bunner to remove the code-cracking program from the Internet. But the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose lifted that injunction, a move the DVD Copy Control Association said was akin to giving crooks the technology to reproduce protected material such as movies on a large scale.

The court of appeal ruled that protecting trade secrets is not as important as "the First Amendment right to freedom of speech."

A unanimous Supreme Court, however, ruled otherwise Monday.

From the San Francisco Chronicle here. Or access the court's opinion here (PDF).