(CN) – A family-owned software company in California claims CBS Interactive colluded with the Chinese government to distribute pirated software created to block political and religious content from the Chinese people. Santa Barbara-based Solid Oak Software says CBS helped proliferate the pirated Chinese software Green Dam Youth Escort in an effort to increase market share.
In a federal lawsuit, Solid Oak claims the Chinese government and two Chinese companies stole some 3,000 lines of code from the popular Internet filter CYBERsitter and used it to create Green Dam.
The Chinese program purports, as does CYBERsitter, to filter pornographic and violent content on the Internet. Green Dam, however, was actually intended to “block political and religious content expressing views that differed from those of the Chinese government,” according to the lawsuit.
Chinese researchers found that Green Dam uses more than 6,500 political keyword filters, the complaint says, including blocks on phrases leading to information about the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The software also contains security loopholes allowing third parties to “monitor or take control” of the computer on which it is installed, Solid Oak claims.
In June 2009, a group of independent researchers at the University of Michigan “confirmed that the Green Dam developers had copied verbatim nearly 3,000 lines of code from CYBERsitter,” the lawsuit says.
China allegedly urged citizens to download the Green Dam software for free through CBS Interactive’s Web site, ZDNet China. ZDNet is responsible for 31,000 unauthorized downloads, Solid Oak says.
“CBS participated in this Chinese government-led initiative to proliferate the pirated software among the Chinese-speaking population by offering the program for free download on its Web site,” the lawsuit states. “CBS did so in order to promote its Web site, generate Web traffic and advertising revenue, and gain increased access to the vast Chinese-speaking market.”
Solid Oak claims the 31,000 illegal downloads cost it at least $1.2 million, as the program normally sells for $39.95 per copy.
The company wants the maximum statutory damage allowed under Chinese law: 500,000 Yuan or $73,000 per infringement; and the maximum of $150,000 per infringement under U.S. law.
Solid Oak also wants an injunction stopping distribution of the software.
It is represented by Gregory Fayer of Gipson Hoffman & Pancione.