The New York state attorney general said Thursday he filed a lawsuit against Network Associates alleging that the company tries to restrict customers from criticizing the company's software.
According to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Network Associates has told users of its software that they cannot publish product reviews or benchmark tests without its permission.
The restrictions appear on the software diskettes and the company's Web site and infringe on consumers' and the media's freedom of speech and fair use rights under copyright law, Spitzer said in a prepared statement. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Network Associates' products include McAfee antivirus software.
The suit alleges that such restrictions are illegal and suppress talk of product defects. It alleges that Network Associates cited the restriction when it demanded a retraction of a negative product review in a trade publication, Network World.
"It is unconscionable that a reputable software developer such as Network Associates would seek to chill and censor public debate about its products," Spitzer said.
Kent Roberts, Network Associates executive vice president and general counsel, said the language the lawsuit is complaining about was intended to ensure that reviewers of its products have the most recent and appropriate versions for testing.
He said there was nothing wrong with the language, which was similar to what other vendors use, but Network Associates recently changed it to request that reviewers contact the company before conducting benchmark tests to make sure they have the correct version of the product.
"We're happy to have our products reviewed, but we're concerned that they [reviewers have the current version," Roberts said.