March 28, 2000 02:30pm
Court Grants Microsystems Injunction Against Hackers
Source: Microsystems Software
by: Company Press Release
(FRAMINGHAM, MA) -- A U.S. District Court Judge today ruled in favor of a motion by Microsystems Software for a permanent injunction against two hackers who reverse engineered Cyber Patrol in violation of copyright law.
The court order, issued by Judge Edward F. Harrington, also applies to so- called ``mirror'' sites that have posted copies of the illegally-obtained material in an attempt to circumvent the court order. ``Many of the persons who created the 'mirror' sites did so for the avowed purpose of seeking to prevent this Court from awarding meaningful relief'' to Microsystems, the judge wrote.
The order means that Web sites carrying the illegally-obtained material are in violation of a court order and could face penalties that include fines and/or imprisonment for contempt.
Judge Harrington took less than 24 hours to make his decision on the permanent injunction following a hearing on Monday. In that hearing, Microsystems announced that it had reached an agreement with the two hackers, Mathew Skala of Canada and Eddy Jansson of Sweden.
The hackers agreed to a permanent injunction, agreed to never again reverse engineer and decompile Cyber Patrol, agreed to not teach any other hackers how to do it and signed over all rights to Microsystems of two primitive programs developed from ``source code'' stolen from Microsystems in violation of copyright.
In his decision, Judge Harrington commented on the importance of protections provided to intellectual property as well as the value of Internet filtering software to American families.
``The federal law of copyright ... has been a prodigious and inexhaustible stimulator of rich creative thought and the firm protector of free individual expression. It is the province of the federal court to insure that the law's protections are enforced and an owner's rights to his creation secured,'' the Judge wrote in his ``Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.''
But, the court noted, ``this case involves more than a complex and significant legal issue relating to copyright law. It raises a most profound societal issue, namely, who is to control the educational and intellectual nourishment of young children -- the parents or purveyors of pornography and merchants of death and violence.''
Judge Harrington wrote, ``the individual defendants avowed purpose for decompiling Cyber Patrol was to allow 'youth access' to inappropriate content on the World Wide Web.''
And he concluded: ``Under our Constitution, all have the right to disseminate even evil ideas and such ideas cannot by law be suppressed by the government. On the other hand, parents, in the exercise of their parental obligation to educate their young children, have the equal right to screen and, thus, prevent noxious and insidious ideas from corrupting their children's fertile and formative minds.''
Microsystems filed suit on March 15, after learning that two hackers had broken into the home version of Cyber Patrol Internet filtering software. The company alleged that the hackers had violated copyright and developed two primitive ``executables'' that allowed people who downloaded them to gain access to the password of the parent and gain access to a list of IP addresses and ``hash codes.'' This list could then, with considerable effort, be deciphered to provide the URLs for the sites on the filtering list.
``This decision and the agreement we reached so quickly with the hackers vindicates our efforts to protect our customers and defend our intellectual property,'' said Susan Getgood, general manager of Cyber Patrol, a unit of Mattel Inc.
``We are proud of the quality of our software and the list of sites that has been developed over five years by a dedicated team of researchers who look at every page to create a reliable tool for parents to protect their children from inappropriate content online.''
Getgood noted that Microsystems had filed suit over the illegal actions of the hackers and not their criticism of Cyber Patrol. ``This is about what the hackers did, not what they said. Theft of intellectual property by copyright violation is not a matter of free speech.''
Microsystems, meanwhile, has issued a new version of its home version of the filtering software that is not affected by the hack. Web sites containing the information that allows someone to circumvent the product have been placed on the list of blocked sites.