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BizReport : Law & Regulation : January 16, 2007

Pay Up or Pop-Up Says

Various Digital Enterprises Inc. websites have been told to revise their pop-up activity in line with Washington’s Computer Spyware Act.

by Helen Leggatt

Several websites run by Digital Enterprises have fallen foul of the FTC by “invading” users’ computers. Washington's Computer Spyware Act prohibits, among other things, taking control of a user's computer, modifying security settings, and interfering with a user's ability to identify and remove the spyware. users, amongst others, that had signed up for a three day “free trial” of its Internet movie download services, complained in their hundreds last year, when they were threatened with a continual bombardment of intrusive pop-up ads unless they paid $29.95.

The sites sell a subscription-based entertainment service that provides access to a variety ofmovie clips, including adult content, along with information.

The download also prevented users from easily uninstalling the software via the standard Windows Control Panel Add/Remove process. In fact, attempting to uninstall the program took users to a website that presented them with various payment options.

The FTC charged that the scheme was unfair and deceptive and violated federal law.

In its defence Digital Enterprises Inc. pointed out that users were advised that they would be obliged to purchase a monthly license if they did not cancel during the three day trial period. However, it was found that the advice did not sufficiently explain what would happen if the software was installed.

The interim agreement allows the sites to continue installing the pop-up software on condition that there is an easily visible button which allows other browser windows to be used, and disables any audio. They must also limit pop-up frequency to five a day, no more than one per hour, ad length must not exceed 40 seconds and they are to seek consent from users before offering any ads that might require payment.

The case will resume in 2008, and a copy of the full complaint is available in PDF format.

Tags: Digital Enterprises Inc., download, FTC, pop-up, spyware

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