Monday, May 5, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Seeks Halt to Deceptive Marketer of Screensaver Software

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged a Colorado software business with selling screensavers that were bundled with adware or spyware. Further, although the defendants promised child-safe screensavers, their products commonly included images of unclothed women.

According to state investigators, Nexusmedia and its owner, Daniel J. McLaughlin, sold computer screensavers via the Internet. The defendants’ Web site and online advertising claimed their products were guaranteed to be free from spyware or adware. However, Friday’s enforcement action charges McLaughlin with bundling his screensavers with independent, unrelated software called the My Search Toolbar. Customers who purchased the screensavers were not given the opportunity to opt out of the toolbar. According to court documents filed by the state, the My Search Toolbar is commonly flagged as spyware or adware by anti-spyware software.

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Attorney General's lawsuit against Nexusmedia

The state’s enforcement action indicates that information about searches conducted using the My Search Toolbar is transmitted back to the My Search server. As a result, My Search can send unsolicited marketing information to the toolbar users. Because Nexusmedia and McLaughlin received compensation for the My Search Toolbar installations, the defendants had a financial incentive to increase the number of toolbar installations credited to them.

Nexusmedia also promoted its Web site as “G-rated” and safe for children. However, some of the defendants’ screensavers, those which were titled “Hot” or “Celebrity,” contained 70 images depicting naked and semi-naked females.

Friday’s enforcement action charged the defendants with violating several provisions of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Attorney General seeks injunctions and civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the act, plus attorneys’ fees.