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Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Blog You Here, Sue Me There Another case currently in the appellate pipeline in California will decide whether net users in other states have to defend claims in California that involve only out-of-state conduct. On December 12, 2001, the California Supreme Court granted review in Pavlovich v. Superior Court, which was decided last August. The issue at stake is whether a defendant in Texas (open-source enthusiast Matthew Pavlovich) who posted the DeCSS code on his site should have to defend a suit brought in California by the DVD CCA. Pavlovich argued to the trial court and Court of Appeal that his actions in Texas did not give California jurisdiction to hear the DVD CCA's claims against him; if the DVD CCA wanted to pursue him it would have to do so where he lived and where the conduct took place. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that the claims could proceed in California because Pavlovich knew or should have known that his conduct could harm industries with a strong presence in California: "Because Pavlovich knew that California is commonly known as the center of the movie industry, and knew that Silicon Valley, California, is one of the top three technology 'hot spots' in the country, he knew, or should have known, that the DVD republishing and distribution activities he was illegally doing and allowing to be done through use of his Web site, while benefitting him, were injuriously affecting the motion picture and computer industries in California. The question is whether Pavlovich's lack of physical and personal presence in California incapacitates California courts from jurisdictionally reaching him.... We hold it does not." EFF quotes Pavlovich's lawyer as saying this means "that movie industry moguls can drag web publishers from anywhere in the world to defend themselves here in California." He's correct, but of course it goes further than that. If the Supreme Court affirms this decision, any party who alleges harm in California conceivably can compel web publishers from other states to defend claims in a California court. The appellate court did not consider this too great a burden, reasoning that for those who "purposely derive benefit" from intrastate activities, it is not unfair - given the benefits of "modern trasportation and communications" - to subject them to litigation in another state. So, until the California Supreme Court decides how this will come out, all you bloggers had better be extra nice to us Californians: lots of links please, and let's keep the libelous epithets to a dull roar, shall we? That is, unless you're hankering for an extended "vacation" here while we iron out our legal differences.

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