Friday, February 08, 2002

NY Attorney Sues Anti-Virus Software Maker over Restrictive Licensing Agreement

The New York state attorney general on Thursday filed a suit against computer security software provider Network Associates on the ground that the company has attempted to censor criticism of its products The issue pertains to the wording in the company's software license agreement which requires Network Associates' consent before publishing reviews of its products or disclosing with third parties results of "benchmark tests" that compare the effectiveness of Network Associates products and competing software. Full ZDNET text here.

This is going to be an interesting case. Network Associates will likely argue that the clause cannot be said to curtail freedom of speech because the user is always free not to get the software in order not to be bound by the prohibition. Yet, civil libertarians will argue that the product involves public interest and the public has the right to know and discuss their views on the consumer product. It can go on and on. Ultimately, however, the court will have to assess its values: Which one is more important the right to freely enter into contracts or the right to free speech? Knowing Americans, it is very likely to go the way of free speech.

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