US court bars security speakers

Wednesday, 16 April 2003, 12:31 PM EST

Education software company Blackboard successfully convinced a Georgia state court to block the students' presentation, which was scheduled to be given at the Interz0ne conference in Atlanta last weekend.

Blackboard argues that the restraining order blocked the publication of information gained illegally, which would have harmed the company's commercial interests and those of its clients. But conference organisers contend that the students' free speech rights were abridged.

"The temporary restraining order pointed out that the irreparable injury to Blackboard, our intellectual property rights and clients far outweighed the commercial speech rights of the individuals in question," said Michael Stanton, a Blackboard spokesman.

The company claims that the speech being blocked is commercial speech because the students were a "small competitor" to Blackboard. One of the students, Georgia Institute of Technology's Billy Hoffman, had threatened to give away code allowing any computer to emulate Blackboard's technology, the company claims.

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