The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that courts may block Internet users from posting codes to illegally copy DVD movies, in a case that pitted trade secret rights against free speech, the Associated Press reports.
The justices did not resolve whether the code was in fact a trade secret, leaving that for a lower court to determine. They did rule, however, that they would not tolerate the posting of legitimate trade secrets online and reversed a lower court that said disseminating trade secrets was protected free speech.
The case 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.
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 today.