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A family-owned software firm in Santa Barbara, Calif., has filed a $1.2 million copyright infringement lawsuit against CBS Interactive Inc. for distributing software that was designed to limit Chinese citizens’ access to the Internet. Solid Oak Software Inc., in a suit filed on Oct. 5 in federal court in Los Angeles, claims that two Chinese companies, Zhengzhou Jinhui Computer System Engineering Ltd. and Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Ltd., both of which received funding from the Chinese government, stole 3,000 lines of code from its CYBERsitter software program to develop the controversial Green Dam Youth Escort software. CYBERsitter, available for $39.95 and downloadable from Solid Oak’s Web site, is intended to block pornography and violent content from the view of children. CBS Interactive, the suit claims, distributed copies of the infringing Green Dam software in China and elsewhere by making it available for download on its Chinese Web site, ZDNet.com.cn. Solid Oak said that its suit is its first infringement action involving Green Dam, which made headlines in recent months after the Chinese government mandated that all computers sold in China after July 1, 2009, contain the software. Chinese officials said the idea was to block pornography and violent content from children. Critics complained that the software also would prevent Chinese citizens from viewing political or religious Web sites disfavored by the government. The Obama administration warned China that the requirement could violate free-trade agreements. The European Union protested that the software would limit free speech. The Chinese government subsequently delayed implementation of the Green Dam requirement. Gregory Fayer, a lawyer at Los Angeles-based Gipson, Hoffman & Pancione, who represents Solid Oak, said that the infringement came to light after a group of computer science researchers at the University of Michigan found in June 2009 that the Green Dam manufacturers had copied nearly 3,000 lines of code from CYBERsitter. Those findings were confirmed by Solid Oak, he said. “This came out of the blue,” Fayer said. The researchers “were looking primarily for security vulnerabilities and things like that, which they found. But also, in the course of that investigation, they found that the pornography content filters, as opposed to the political and religious content filters also added, had been stolen from CYBERsitter.” CBS Interactive, a subsidiary of CBS Corp., removed the Green Dam program from its ZDNet site on Sept. 7, but not until Green Dam had been downloaded from its site more than 31,000 times, Solid Oak alleges. CBS Interactive would have been aware of the software’s infringement for months, Fayer said. He added that Solid Oak is looking into pursuing claims against the two Chinese companies, as well. “Our investigation is ongoing, and we’re looking at all the potential legal options we have to protect our client’s rights,” he said. “And we believe this is a pretty open-and-shut case.” Calls to CBS Interactive were not returned.

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