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Network Associates is Sued Over Review Ban
Dick Kelsey, Newsbytes 2002-02-07

The state of New York takes the security software company to court over a license clause prohibiting unauthorized reviews of its anti-virus and firewall products.

New York State has sued anti-virus software maker Network Associates [NASDAQ:NETA], seeking to do away with the company's ban on product reviews, the state attorney said today.

Such policies, known in legal circles as restrictive covenants, are illegal, said Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Such bans "harm the public by censoring discussions of a product's flaws and defects," according to a news release posted on the attorney general's Web site.

Network Associates, which makes McAfee anti-virus software and other security products, said the language in question has been changed.

"We have modified the language to take a more suggestive approach," Network Associates vice president and legal counsel, Kent Roberts, told Newsbytes. "We still are very concerned that reviewers and benchmarkers have accurate information."

Reviews are often written about old versions of the product, and reviewers sometimes publish inaccurate information, Roberts said. The company has never taken anyone to court over a review, he said.

Spitzer cited the case of a Network Associates product that was given a negative review in the magazine Network World. The company demanded a retraction, based on its rule that user reviews not be published without permission.

"It is unconscionable that a reputable software developer such as Network Associates would seek to chill and censor public speech and debate about its products," said Spitzer.

A Network Associates representative at the company's Santa Clara, Calif. headquarters said executives were studying the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

The clauses infringe upon freedom of speech and fair use rights protected by copyright law, the attorney general said, adding that the company's statement to users that existing "rules and regulations" support the restrictions is a deceptive practice.

The New York Attorney General's Web site is at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/

Networks Associates can be found at http://www.nai.com

Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com

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