A U.S. District Court in California has ordered a movie download service to stop barraging users with pop-up advertisements.
The court, through an interim agreement that settles an FTC lawsuit, has ordered Digital Enterprises, which does business as Movieland.com, to limit pop-ups and seek consent from users before offering any ads that might seek payment from customers.
The FTC suit claimed customers of Movieland.com downloaded software that enabled pop-up windows that bombarded customers and could not be minimized or closed. The ads, which claimed the customers never canceled their membership after a free three-day trial period, demanded $29.95 to end the pop-ups.
"Most (customers) claimed they had never signed up for the 'free trial,' never used Movieland's services and never even heard of Movieland until they got their first demand for payment," an August FTC statement said.
Representatives from Digital Enterprises and Movieland could not be reached for comment. The Movieland site is virtually unnavigable.
But David Fradin, who owned a different Digital Enterprises from 1996 to 2001, said he has received "hundreds of threatening phone calls and thousands of emails" since allegations of Movieland.com's shady practices surfaced. (Fradin still holds the rights to www.digitalenterprises.com). He site was visited so frequently, in fact, that he posted resource information for people whose computers became infected with adware.
"People thought it was me," he told SCMagazine.com today.
Washington state's attorney general also has filed suit against Movieland.com under the Washington Computer Spyware and Consumer Protection acts. Also named in the suit is Digital Enterprises, as well as Alchemy Communications, AccessMedia Networks and Innovative Networks. Those same defendants are named in the FTC suit, in addition to Pacificon International, Triumphant Videos, Film Web, Binary Source, Mediacaster and CS Hotline.
The Washington suit is the product of a seven-month investigation conducted by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit. The suit claims that the pop-ups cannot be minimized and there is no easy way to remove the spyware that initiates them, as the software prevents users from using the Windows Control Panel to uninstall. Instead, the program launches a website that again presents payment options for the service.
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