Free Speech Probe To Include More Software Vendors

New York AG Says Network Associates License Infringes Rights

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New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sued Network Associates after an investigation into the software vendor's practices, is now looking into other vendors for similar alleged free speech violations.

Spitzer on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Network Associates, maker of McAfee antivirus software, alleging that the company tries to prevent customers and the media from criticizing its software.

The lawsuit was a result of an investigation in which the Attorney General's office found language appearing on the company's software diskettes and Web site that infringes on consumers' freedom of speech, a spokesman for Spitzer said.

Asked if the attorney general's office was investigating other vendors for similar activities, the spokesman said, "We have a few others we're looking at," but he declined to elaborate.

In court filings, Spitzer said Network Associates' "rules and regulations" state: "The customer shall not disclose the results of any benchmark test to any third party without Network Associates' prior written approval," and, "The customer will not publish reviews of this product without prior consent from Network Associates."

Kent Roberts, Network Associates executive vice president and general counsel, said Thursday there was nothing wrong with the language, which was intended to ensure that reviewers of its products have the most recent and appropriate versions for testing. Other vendors use similar language, he said.

Steve Baker, CFO at TLIC Worldwide, a Boston-based solution provider and Network Associates partner, said his firm was surprised that the company would use such restrictions to control product reviews. The vendor shouldn't be worried about reviews of its products because "their products are such high caliber," Baker said.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Network Associates has since changed the language to request that reviewers contact the company before conducting benchmark tests to make sure they have the correct version of the product.

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