Avira wins German case over adware blocking

Avira had warned users that an Angry Birds clone came with a bunch of other software

Moorhuhn Remake

Moorhuhn Remake

A lawsuit alleging that security software from Avira improperly blocked downloads of a software bundle that presented itself primarily as an Angry Birds-style game has been dismissed.

Freemium GmbH had sought a cease-and-desist order in Berlin District Court against Avira, based in Tettnang, Germany, whose security software warned users that a game called Moorhuhn Remake came with other potentially unwanted software.

A three-judge panel in Berlin District Court dismissed the case on a lack of grounds, ordering Freemium to pay €500,000 (US$551,000) in court costs, according to Avira. The court gave its decision verbally in May but just recently released its written ruling.

The case could mark an important precedent for software publishers within the European Union that seek to challenge security companies seeking to give users more advice on what they're about to download.

Avira classified Moorhuhn Remake's download manager as a potentially unwanted program (PUP). It's a term used by security companies to advise users that what they're about to download may not be malicious, but could end up installing other software on their computer, such as advertising programs, or adware. Users can ignore such warnings and continue to download the programs if they choose.

Software publishers sometimes wrap many other trial versions of programs into download packages in the hope that consumers will eventually purchase the full versions. Such affiliate marketing schemes abound across the Internet.

Moorhuhn Remake was one of several programs wrapped into a software download manager offered on websites including www.computerbild.de, published by Axel Springer, according to a professional translation of the ruling provided by Avira.

Other programs were offered in the bundle, which go by the names PC TuneUP, Driver Finder, Super Easy Register Cleaner, Web Companion, Sparpilot, Browsing Secure, OK Freedom and Zoomit.

Freemium maintained that users could opt out of downloading the additional programs, but both parties disagreed over how transparent that process was.

Avira contended that there was no discernible link between Moorhuhn Remake and the other applications. The fine print and licensing terms were also unclear to users, Avira argued. Avira blocks what it considers to be PUPs from other publishers aside from Freemium.

Freemium claimed that the blocking by Avira's security software had caused a 50 percent decline in its revenue since February.

Freemium had sought a €250,000 fine for each violation of trade regulations and up to six months in prison for Avira's managing director, Travis Witteveen.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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