Pavolich v. Superior Court, 29 Cal.4th 262, 127 Cal.Rptr.2d 329, 58 P.3d 2 (2002) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Matthew Pavolich is the operator of a website that offers DeCSS software for download. DeCSS software enables users to decrypt movie DVDs that have been protected by the Content Scramble System (CSS). For his trouble, Pavolich got himself sued by the DVD Copy Control Association — the company that licenses the use of CSS. The Association sued Pavolich for violating its rights under California's trade secret law, and the Association filed its lawsuit in state court in California, where it is headquartered.
Pavolich, however, lives in Texas. What's more, he never worked in California, doesn't own property there, doesn't have bank accounts there, doesn't have a phone listing there, and never solicited or transacted business there. His website doesn't have interactive features. And though his website can be accessed by California residents, there was no evidence that any ever had, let alone evidence that California residents had downloaded DeCSS from the site.
For all of these reasons, Pavolich argued that the California court did not have jurisdiction over him. The trial court, however, disagreed, as did the California Court of Appeal.
California State Supreme Court Proceedings Edit
Pavolich was successful in the California Supreme Court, by a bare 4-to-3 majority. In an opinion by Justice Janice Brown, the majority ruled that Pavolich's knowledge that his conduct may harm industries centered in California, including the movie industry, was not enough, "by itself," to give California courts personal jurisdiction over him.
Justice Brown did not bless Pavolich's activities. She described it as "tortious conduct," and noted that the Association has the ability and resources to sue Pavolich in Texas. "Pavolich may still face the music" the Justice said, "just not in California."
Justice Marvin Baxter wrote a dissenting opinion for the minority. He emphasized that Pavolich "engaged in intentional conduct purposefully targeted at interests he knew were centered or substantially present in California, with knowledge they would suffer harm here, such that he must reasonably have anticipated being called to account in this state."