Hackers Settle in Cyber Patrol Case

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - The Swedish and Canadian hackers who reverse-engineered Cyber Patrol's filtering software and posted a program to their Web sites allowing Cyber Patrol customers to see the list of sites it blocks have agreed to stop their actions.

Matthew Skall of Canada and Eddy Jansson of Sweden have agreed to a settlement with Microsystems Software, which filed a lawsuit against them alleging they violated copyright law by "decompiling" its software to create their program.

In the settlement, the defendants agree to sign over to Microsystems the rights to the program they wrote and to a permanent injunction against distributing it or decoding any other Cyber Patrol software, says Sydney Rubin, a spokeswoman for Microsystems. At a hearing today in Boston, a U.S. District Court judge extended a temporary restraining order against the defendants and is expected to announce a permanent injunction within a few days, Rubin says.

Microsystems is asking that three Web site owners in the U.S. who posted the program to mirror sites be included in the permanent injunction. The three - Waldo Jaquith of Virginia, Bennett Haselton of Washington state and Lindsay Haisley of Texas - removed those sites after being notified by e-mail that their mirror sites were in potential violation of the temporary restraining order.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the three Web site owners who posted the program, argues that banning the program constitutes a prior restraint on speech in violation of the First Amendment. In addition, the organization says Cyber Patrol users should have the right to see a list of blocked sites and that the issue is more important now that there are laws and other movements to install the filtering software on computers in public libraries and schools. "There is a strong public interest in people knowing the blocked sites," says Chris Hansen, an ACLU lawyer. "Our clients didn't do anything wrong by copying what the defendants wrote."

However, Microsystems says the program, which also allows children to obtain their parents' passwords, was created illegally and that the list of blocked sites is proprietary information. Cyber Patrol customers have other ways to see if Web sites are blocked and to add and delete sites from the list, Rubin adds. "This case is about a violation of copyright law and about a judge's ability to permit parents, rather than hackers, to decide what's best for their children," says Irwin Schwartz, a lawyer at Schwartz-Nystrom LLC, which is representing Microsystems.

Cyber Patrol, meanwhile, has issued a new version of its filtering software that is not affected by the program that exposes the blocked sites, and it has put the Web sites that posted the program on its list of blocked sites.

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