New York state is suing Network Associates (NAI)
over its McAfee anti-virus software.
The complaint? Violating free speech by blocking its customers from publishing product reviews without the company’s approval.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed briefs Thursday in Manhattan asking the courts to “prevent enforcement of any clause restricting product reviews of the company’s software, as well as costs and penalties for the company’s conduct.”
In a statement Spitzer said, “Whether the subject is political debate or debate over what software to buy, we must protect free speech from intimidation in order to preserve the public’s right to information.”
Spitzer cited one instance where Network Associates demanded a retraction of an unfavorable review published in the online and print magazine Network World. The review was asked to be pulled based on a clause on NAI’s Web site that prohibits product reviews without permission.
NAI says it has made some changes in its license agreements to “encourage, but no longer require, consumers to use the latest versions of its software when doing reviews of company products.”
“Our past experience is that reviewers will sometimes have out-of-date versions of products, which is especially critical with our products because they’re updated monthly, if not sooner,” NAI general counsel Kent Roberts told Reuters.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company also produces Sniffer Technologies and Magic Solutions (Web-based service desk software).
The suit is being supported by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, and Stanford University Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig.