Magazine article American Libraries

Mattel Seeks to Keep CyberPatrol Code Secret

Magazine article American Libraries

Mattel Seeks to Keep CyberPatrol Code Secret

Article excerpt

Twelve days after filing a lawsuit against two programmers who revealed the sites blocked by its popular Internet filtering software program

CyberPatrol, toy company Mattel, which owns the Framingham, Massachusetts--based software firm that sells the product, changed its strategy and reached an out-of-court settlement with the pair.

As part of a surprise agreement filed 25 minutes before a court hearing was to begin March 27, Mattel announced that the programmers had turned over their intellectual-property rights to the CPHack utility they had created by reverse-engineering CyberPatrol.

Censorware strikes back

The Associated Press reported the next day that lawyers for Mattel were now threatening any other Web sites distributing the program with prosecution for copyright violation. U.S. District Judge Edward F. Harrington issued a permanent injunction March 28 against any Web sites acting "in active concert" with original CPHack authors Eddy L. O. Jansson and Matthew Skala, who live in Sweden and Canada respectively.

The American Civil Liberties Union immediately appealed the order, acting on behalf of three U.S. Web site operators, all in their early 20s, who posted duplicate copies of the original utility. "What these guys were posting was not copyright-protected material," ACLU Boston attorney Sarah Wunsch told the CNet online news service April 5. "We don't believe the judge has authority to issue a restraining order at all."

The Web site operators, Waldo L. Jaquith, Lindsay Haisley, and Bennett Haselton, each claim that they posted the decoding program as a form of political protest against Mattel's legal actions and against "censorware" in general.

Senior ACLU staff attorney Chris Hansen said that "The legal issue here is whether a Boston court has jurisdiction over the entire Internet, and our answer to that is a resounding 'no. …

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