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The state Supreme Court seemed skeptical Thursday of arguments that an Indiana college student was immune from California law for posting computer code on the Web that unscrambles DVD encryption technology. At least three justices appeared to warm to arguments that Matthew Pavlovich — a former Purdue University student and Web master — knew code on his Web site divulged trade secrets and violated copyrights affecting the motion picture and high-tech industries in California. The case — Pavlovich v. Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, S100809 — is being closely watched because of the continuing uncertainty about state jurisdiction over the Internet. The court is grappling with whether California’s long-arm statute can be applied when the Web is the medium for possible infringement. In Thursday’s argument, Pavlovich’s attorney Allonn Levy argued that the trade secrets and copyright holder, DVD Copy Control Association Inc., could not sue in California because his client passively posted information and did not have substantial contact with California or expressly aim to harm industry here. Both are requirements under the U.S Supreme Court’s 1984 decision, Calder v. Jones 465 U.S. 783. But Justices Marvin Baxter, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Ming Chin didn’t seem to be biting. “If a defendant launches a rocket from an eastern state headed westward with the intent of causing damage, does California then have jurisdiction?” Baxter asked. “Shooting a rocket is expressly intentional activity. It is not passive,” responded Levy, an associate at San Jose’s Hopkins & Carley, which is handling the case pro bono. Gregory Coleman, DVD Copy Control’s attorney, argued that Pavlovich knew what he was doing harmed California’s motion picture and technology industry — thus meeting Calder’s requirements. “We agree that there should be aiming toward the forum,” said Coleman, a Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner in its Houston, Texas, office. “You don’t have to put on the side of that rocket, ‘California or bust,’ to satisfy that requirement.” However, Janice Rogers Brown seemed unconvinced. “Do we have any evidence in the record he was seeking to harm these industries specifically,” Brown asked. “What is it about what he did that makes it appropriate for California to exercise jurisdiction? If I picketed in front of my house with a sign, ‘American car companies are terrible,’ I can be sued in Michigan?” But Coleman countered that if a California resident organized to sabotage an automobile factory, that would create jurisdiction. DVD Copy Control first sued Pavlovich along with more than 500 other mostly John Doe defendants in Santa Clara County Superior Court in December 1999 for trade secrets theft and copyright infringement. Pavlovich, who now lives in Texas, fought jurisdiction. Both Santa Clara Superior Court Judge William Elfving and later the Sixth District Court of Appeal determined jurisdiction was proper under California’s long-arm statute. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear arguments in another appeal springing from the same trial court case. In DVD Copy Control Association Inc. v. Bunner, S102588, the high court will determine whether the Sixth District appellate court was correct in ruling that free speech rights on the Web trump trade secrets protections.

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