Joker demands $1 million over hoax virus alert

Symantec fails to see the funny side

Online comedian Ray Owens has jokingly demanded $1 million compensation from Symantec for publishing one his gags without copyright.

Owens, who runs the "Joke a Day" mailing list, wrote a hoax alert warning that users should delete the "insidious" AOL.exe virus which had already infected 30 million computers worldwide.

The spoof, which was written in the wake of the hysteria over the sulfnbk.exe hoax, warns that "keeping this file [AOL.exe} on the system after June 8 will cost you $2.90 more per month!

"Failure to remove this file will keep your 'upper memory management' module of your intelligence quotient (IQ over 85) blocked. Deleting AOL.exe will free your IQ to go above 85!!!"

Funny stuff and after Owens published it to 320,000 subscribers on his Joke a Day mailing list the gag, which became known as the AOL.exe hoax, was published in full in the write-up of the hoax on many anti-virus vendors sites.

Owens took particular exception to Symantec's violation of his copyright and asked the vendors for $1 million as a joke - in compensation - or a link back to his site.

Symantec displayed a marked lack of humour on the subject and a corporate flak called up Owens to tell him they believed they were protected by the Fair Use Doctrine. After the conversation, Symantec partially relented and modified its description of the AOL virus hoax to say the joke originated with Owens, but it still didn't provide a link back to the Joke a Day site.

The irony of this stance was highlighted by Rob Rosenberger in a piece on his Virus Myths home page, which said that Symantec once sued Network Associates over thirty lines of copyrighted software code. This lawsuit only ended when Network Associates bought a firm with its own copyright dispute against Symantec, at a cost of over $100 million.

By that standard the $1 million Owens 'demanded' is quite cheap... ®

External Links

Joke A Day - AOL hoax virus
Symantec's write up
Rob Rosenberger points out the irony

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