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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Open-Source Firm Decries Software Abuse

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - An open-source software company claims a website violates its trademark and uses it to distribute a media-player program riddled with "potentially malicious" spyware. Geeknet and VideoLAN, creator of the VLC Media Player, claim Tightrope Interactive violated the VLC trademark, which VideoLAN has used since 1998.

VideoLAN, a French nonprofit, wants Tightrope enjoined from distributing programs through its website, vlc.us.com.

VideoLAN and Geeknet, which distributes the free VLC Media Player on its SourceForge site, accuse Tightrope of trademark infringement, cyberpiracy and violating California's consumer protection law against spyware. They claim Tightrope's program loads potentially dangerous and system-debilitating programs, Trojan horse-style, unbeknownst to the user.

Since late 2009 Tightrope's website has offered an "outdated version of VLC," which includes a bundle of "unrelated programs," according to the complaint. Tightrope does not tell users the program is old, and makes it far too easy to unwittingly install the other programs, according to the complaint.

"Upon downloading VLC from vlc.us.com, a user is prompted to install several unrelated programs - 'Bing Toolbar,' 'Weather Bug,' and 'PRICEGONG,'" the complaint states. "Unless a user actively opts out of these installations, the programs are installed on his/her computer as part of the VLC download. The user may not realize that he/she is installing these additional and potentially malicious programs.

"One of the pieces of software foisted upon the user claims to be a 'Bing Toolbar', a software program created by Microsoft Corporation. However, in addition to installing a Bing Toolbar, a program entitled 'Hugo Toolbar' is installed without the user's consent or knowledge. This program is far more malicious than any Bing software.

"In addition to these programs, the installer from vic.us.com changes the 'favorites' in the user's browser and adds shortcuts to the user's computer. Links to 'FREE GAMES' and '1,000 Free Songs!' are added. This is done without the user's consent or knowledge."

VideoLAN and Geeknet Inc. want Tightrope enjoined from offering the VLS software and from using the VLS mark, and damages for trademark infringement and dilution, and unfair competition.

They are represented by Michael Sweet with the McNutt Law Group in San Francisco.

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