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'Spyware' vendor bangs copyright shield

Sabre rattling

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RetroCoder, developers of the SpyMon remote monitoring program, is brandishing copyright law in a bid to protect its software from being detected by anti-spyware or anti-virus products.

SpyMon is marketed as a means for the paranoid to surreptitiously monitor the activities of their partners or kids online - behaviour that has brought it to the attention of security vendors.

RetroCoder has countered by confronting visitors to SpyMon's download page with a 'copyright notice' which states that it cannot be examined by security researchers.

"If you do produce a program that will affect this softwares ability to perform its function then you may have to prove in criminal court that you have not infringed this warning. Infringement of a copyright licence is a criminal offence," RetroCoder's End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) states.

It's questionable whether this agreement would withstand legal challenge but RetroCoder is making good on its threat to take security vendors to task for detecting its product. Anti-spyware maker Sunbelt Software has been sent a nastygram threatening legal action against it for labelling SpyMon as spyware.

"If you read the copyright agreement when you downloaded or ran our program you will see that anti-spyware publishers / software houses are NOT allowed to download, run or examine the software in any way. By doing so you are breaking EU copyright law, this is a criminal offence. Please remove our program from your detection list or we will be forced to take action against you," RetroCoder said.

Sunbelt Software is standing firm in its decision to label SpyMon as malware. It's far from alone in labeling SpyMon as potentially harmful. CA, for example, designates the software as a keystroke logger.

Red Herring

RetroCoder's effort to to cow security vendors is far from unique. Simon Perry, CA's VP of security strategy in EMEA, said security makers are getting hit by such legal threats on a regular basis. "I'm not aware of any developer successfully using this tactic in order to get a security vendor to back off," he said.

Perry said that the copyright threat tactic was something of a red herring. "A copyright license has nothing to do with looking at software. You don't need to decompile code to look at its behaviour. By looking at whether software 'does what it says on the tin' you can say whether its potentially harmful or not," he said. ®

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