October 02, 2002

The Wit And Wisdom of N2H2

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education reports, about the case Edelman v. N2H2 :

The Internet filtering company N2H2 Inc. is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that a Harvard University law school student brought against the firm.

But ...

In a filing in August with the Securities and Exchange Commission, N2H2 stated that it will take legal action against those who threaten its trade secrets.

I believe it is helpful to read all The Wit And Wisdom of N2H2 as encompassed in that filing (my emphasis below):

On July 25, 2002, Benjamin Edelman filed suit against us in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Mr. Edelman is purportedly a computer researcher who seeks to conduct a quantitative analysis of the accuracy and comprehensiveness of our "Bess" and "Sentian" Internet content filtering products. If Mr. Edelman downloads our filtering software to conduct his analysis, he will be required to enter into our standard license agreement. The license agreement prohibits users from copying or decrypting our software and from using or disclosing confidential information that belongs to us and cannot be obtained through normal use of the software. Mr. Edelman's proposed activities would violate these provisions of the license agreement or applicable law, or both. He seeks a declaratory judgment that he cannot be held liable for breach of certain provisions of the license agreement as a result of his proposed activities. In addition, Mr. Edelman seeks a declaration that he will not be prosecuted for violations of the Copyright Act of 1976, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or laws protecting trade secrets if he conducts his proposed analysis. Finally, Mr. Edelman seeks to enjoin us from initiating litigation against him on the basis of his proposed activities. We intend to defend the validity of our license agreement and to enforce the provisions of this agreement to protect our proprietary rights. We also intend to assert all of our legal rights against Mr. Edelman if he engages in future activity that violates the agreement or our proprietary rights. To the extent that this matter is resolved in Mr. Edelman's favor, however, it could have a material adverse affect on our business, future results of operations, financial position and cash flows. Even if Mr. Edelman's claims are not successful, the litigation could result in substantial costs to the company and divert management's time and attention away from business operations.

I've mentioned the following before, but this portion, right from the horse's, err, mouth, deserves repeating (my emphasis):

Our filtering services have been accused of overbreadth by free speech groups.

In a recent federal court case, a federal appeals court held that certain provisions of the Children's Internet Protection Act resulted in an unconstitutional restriction of freedom of speech. These provisions required public libraries receiving federal funds to install Internet filtering programs like N2H2's on all of their computer terminals. The basis for this ruling is, in part, that such programs are overbroad in the types of speech that they filter out. This ruling is currently on appeal to the United States Supreme Court. To the extent that this decision is upheld, it will negatively impact our ability to market our products to libraries without modification, which could be time-consuming and costly.

Again, they said it, not me ....

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , legal | on October 02, 2002 10:15 PM (Infothought permalink)

Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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