Mattel has filed a federal lawsuit against two software programmers who have allegedly discovered how to get around the toy maker's CyberPatrol internet blocking software.
Microsystems Software, part of Mattel's Learning Company division, has asked a judge to order Eddy Jansson and Matthew Skala to stop distributing their Cphack program immediately, after they made the utility freely available for download.
Cphack lists more than 100,000 internet sites that are considered unsuitable for children, and if run on a parent's computer, can release the password, potentially providing minors with access to such sites.
Defendants Jansson and Skala live in Sweden and Canada respectively and the two internet service providers that host the websites are Scandinavia Online AB and Islandnet.com.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Massachusetts, claimed that Jansson and Skala violated US copyright laws by reverse engineering the software. The software licence agreement says users "may not reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble the software", according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleged that the company has suffered "irreparable harm" from these actions. "The practical effect is that children may bypass their parents' efforts to screen out inappropriate materials on the internet," it said.
But Skala said: "I oppose the use of internet filtering software on philosophical grounds. The issue here was to see what CyberPatrol actually blocks. Parents have a right to know what they're getting and without our work, they wouldn't know."
Skala, who attends the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said he spent about six weeks analysing CyberPatrol with Jansson's help via email.
A spokesperson for Mattel said he could not comment on a pending lawsuit.
Mattel is in the process of restructuring its Learning Company subsidiary and is laying off various Interactive Division employees. Mattel acquired the software publisher last year for $3.6bn.
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