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The California Supreme Court agreed to weigh in on a uniquely modern-day dispute Wednesday, voting to review a case that pits traditional free-speech rights against corporate trade-secrets laws. Chief Justice Ronald George and Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin, Janice Rogers Brown and Carlos Moreno voted to hear the case in which the DVD Copy Control Association is attempting to shut down Norwegian teen Andrew Bunner’s Web site, which provided a link to code that unscrambles encrypted DVDs. Justice Joyce Kennard was recused and did not participate in Wednesday’s vote. The industry group had won a temporary injunction from Santa Clara, Calif., County Superior Court Judge William Elfving, but San Jose, Calif.’s 6th District Court of Appeal overturned that in November, holding that the First Amendment trumps the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The association’s lawyers were livid, even going so far as to say in their petition for supreme court review that the lower court had applied the First Amendment in a “blunderbuss manner.” “The court of appeal reversed the preliminary injunction granted by the superior court because it held that the First Amendment’s prior restraint doctrine prohibits the use of an injunction to prohibit expression,” the lawyers from New York’s Weil, Gotshal & Manges wrote. “Because any trade secret can be communicated by expression, the court of appeal’s decision improperly eviscerates the only effective remedy historically available to protect a trade secret that has been stolen.” Opposing lawyers say the industry lawyers are overreacting. “They argued that the sky is falling on trade secrets,” David Greene, executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based First Amendment Project, said in November. “If they want to restrict people from publishing information,” he added, “they have to meet the First Amendment test.” The case is DVD Copy Control Association v. Bunner, S102588. Among the nine other cases granted review Wednesday was Martin v. Szeto, S103417, which questions whether defamation defendants can recover attorney fees under a California code even if they aren’t peace officers. San Francisco lawyer Craig Martin sought review after California’s 1st District said Richard Szeto and Anthony Lincoln, whom Martin unsuccessfully sued for defamation, could collect attorney fees under California Code of Civil Procedure � 1021.7. Martin had argued that the code applied only to peace officers. The appeal court disagreed and overturned San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II’s order denying fees. “The legislative history,” 1st District Justice Patricia Sepulveda wrote, “indicates an intent to permit defamation defendants, other than peace officer defendants, an opportunity to recover attorney fees.” Chief Justice George and Justices Kennard, Baxter, Chin, Moreno and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar voted to grant review.

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