ACLU Appeals Ruling on Posting of Cyber Patrol Internet "Blacklist" Key

April 5, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — Vowing to fight legal efforts to stifle criticism of Internet “censorware,” the American Civil Liberties Union is appealing a Boston judge’s order prohibiting distribution of a program that allows owners of Cyber Patrol blocking software to learn which Web sites are “blacklisted.”

Several weeks ago, two researchers posted a decoding program on the Internet that revealed sites blocked by Cyber Patrol (NYSE:MAT), a software company owned by toy giant Mattel Inc. On March 28, responding to a lawsuit brought by Cyber Patrol, U.S. District Court Judge Edward F. Harrington issued an order that the ACLU says prohibits the decoding program from appearing on Web sites all around the world. The ACLU is appealing on behalf of three U.S. Web site operators who “mirrored” (posted duplicate copies of) the original decoding program.

“The legal issue here is whether a Boston court has jurisdiction over the entire Internet, and our answer to that is a resounding ‘no,'” said ACLU senior staff attorney Chris Hansen. “The larger issue is whether Cyber Patrol and other software companies are going to tell the American public exactly what their software blocks, especially when Congress wants to force both children and adults to use it.”

The ACLU has also asked Judge Harrington to stay his order as to mirror sites while the appeal goes forward.

Hansen said the ACLU acted after its clients began receiving notices from Cyber Patrol’s attorneys ordering them to abide by the terms of the court’s March 28 ruling. All three ACLU clients (Lindsay Haisley, Bennett Haselton and Waldo L. Jaquith) temporarily have removed their mirror copies of the decoding program.

If Harrington rejects the ACLU’s request for a stay, Hansen said, the next step will be to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, also based in Boston, for a stay.

The ACLU filed both its Notice of Appeal before Judge Harrington and the Request for a Stay on the decision before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit late yesterday.

The case was filed by Hansen of the national ACLU along with staff attorney Sarah Wunsch of the ACLU’s Massachusetts affiliate, Jessica Litman, a visiting law professor at New York University and David Sobel, legal counsel to the Electronic Privacy Information Center based in Washington, D.C.

Judge Harrington’s injunction is online at:

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