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Microsoft pushes laws to punish US firms for foreign piracy

updated 01:05 pm EDT, Sun March 27, 2011

Microsoft gets bills that hit supplier piracy

Microsoft has stirred controversy in the past week by passing a bill (PDF) in its main state of Washington, as well as proposals in Oregon (PDF), New York, and several other states, that could make firms liable for pirated software use by their suppliers. The move would let Microsoft or anyone else sue a US company if one of its contractors uses pirated content to make, market, or ship a product. In Washington, Microsoft could seek triple damages or a ban on a company's products if the case went to trial.

The law has drawn controversy since it could have repercussions both for US laws but also for fair competition. At a minimum, Microsoft's enacted and proposed measures may conflict directly with federal-level copyright laws. Companies may also be prone to lawsuits even despite their best efforts, since they may be unable to monitor the software use in factories and offices in China or other countries where piracy is common. Dell, GM, HP, IBM, and Walmart all objected to the Washington bill but were largely ignored.

It's suspected that Microsoft also had the law shaped primarily to hurt device makers who back away from either Windows or Windows Phone in favor of Android, Chrome OS, or another Linux-related OS. Having the power to sue because of contractors could let Microsoft punish a company for using an alternative by using pirated Windows or Office installs at a contractor as a pretext.

The Washington and Oregon bills conveniently exclude open-source licenses, where users can freely modify the software, from having similar claims. As such, neither Google nor Linux distribution providers like Red Hat could make claims for damages in the same situation, putting all the power in Microsoft's hands. Hardware manufacturers using Android or Linux would also be locked out.

Ever since Linux became a significant competitive threat in servers, Microsoft has tried to argue it has inherent ownership of technology in Linux-related platforms and has tried to extract royalty deals to either discourage use or profit even as competitors move away; most of these have focused on patents. It's known to have used SCO's Unix ownership lawsuits as proxies to close down competition and has used a patent licensing deal with Novell as a way of pushing other companies into making cross-licensing patent agreements, such as Amazon's Kindle licensing. To date, the patent assertions have faced few significant challenges, although Motorola has fought back. [via Groklaw]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Blairmc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No surprise

    This is what happens when the "sales guy" runs the company instead of the creative people

  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969


    didn't realize Microsoft was the government

    "Microsoft has stirred controversy in the past week by passing a bill"

    When did Microsoft become the legislature???? Little better proofreading might help.

  1. SierraDragon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Typical MS

    MS has never been capable of true innovation (except perhaps Visual Basic) but they have been very skilled at using huge size to unethically and illegally dominate markets. When you buy enough pols you can lose all the way to the Supreme Court and still get a pass from the US Justice Department under a president like Bush.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Clarence

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Mar 2011



    Stop your bootlegging and check your product labels to make sure you're genuine.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Welcome to the Corporate-States of America

    Of course, 60 years ago we called it fascism when governments took on protecting and deciding which corporations in the market would be the winners and losers. So much for the idea that a governments first and foremost purpose is to protect the people from which it derives its power.

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Great will be the fall!

    Wow! While I am very much against piracy, this is just plain idiotic. It is going to be interesting to see all the wild grasping moves M$ makes as it falls.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    RE: Piracy

    "Stop your bootlegging and check your product labels to make sure you're genuine."
    Or do what I do: Don't use MS products.
    This thing could be beaten by simply getting more and more people to stop using MS. Alternatives are out there. An added benefit is by not paying the MS tax you'r comp[any will become more profitable. If you run a completely non-MS shop you can insist that your suppliers run the same.

    F*** Microsoft.


    Joined: Dec 1969


    WOW~ MS is now a royalty troll

    Oh Boy! Time to sell MS stock. At least I am glad I voted against all of the current directors of MS.

    Since MS has now proven incapable of competing in the real world and has become a royalty troll, its days are numbered.

    Sigh. I "almost" feel sorry for Bill Gates.

  1. daqman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Could have been

    Microsoft could have been so great but they have failed in every area recently. Always one step behind in most new technologies. Their way forward always seems to be to coerce, blame, sue. They could have priced Windows, Office and their other products at a level where they were affordable but instead they pushed to make themselves a business standard with the big guys who could afford their software. Now they complain about the little guys who can't afford their products but have to use them to survive.

    Now all they seem to do is follow the path of maximum evil. Sad.

  1. pairof9s

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Microsoft is an anagram...

    ...for a******.


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