Internet trade secrets outweigh free speech, California's high court says

Tuesday, August 26th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ In a closely watched case that pitted trade-secret rights against free speech, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that courts can block computer users from posting on the Internet codes for illegally copying DVD movies.

The dispute centered on San Francisco computer programmer Andrew Bunner, who in 1999 posted the code to crack an encryption program that is supposed to prevent unauthorized copying of movies.

The DVD Copy Control Association, an arm of Hollywood studios, sued Bunner and others under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a California law designed to protect trade secrets.

A state judge in San Jose ordered Bunner to remove the code-cracking program from the Internet. But an appeals court in San Jose lifted that injunction, saying 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.

Justice Janice Rogers Brown, in reversing the appeals court on a 7-0 vote, said an order to remove the program ``does not violate the free speech clauses of the United States and California Constitutions.''