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Microsoft Government The Courts News

Microsoft To Be Fined E500M By European Union? 1029

Posted by simoniker
from the loadsa-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a Reuters story, the European Commission is in the process of fining Microsoft 497 million Euros ($613 million). The most important reason for the fine was the refusal by Microsoft to share more information about its products with competitors. Mario Monti, the EU competition commissioner, decided to impose the fine after talks with Microsoft broke down last week." The last estimate was a mere 100 million Euros, and it's noted: "If the full European Commission backs the fine as expected on Wednesday it would exceed the 462 million euro penalty imposed on Hoffman-La Roche AG in 2001 for being ringleader of a vitamin cartel."
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Microsoft To Be Fined E500M By European Union?

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:33PM (#8638293) Homepage Journal

    ~ The Timeline ~

    March 25, 2004 Microsoft fined E497M by the EU.

    April 05, 2004 Microsoft files appeal.

    June 11, 2004 Verdict upheld.

    June 22, 2004 Microsoft contributes heavily to the Republican party.

    July 05, 2004 EU declared part of the "Axis of Evil"

    July 13, 2004 Colin Powell declares the EU has "Weapons of mass destruction, without a doubt."

    July 27, 2004 US troops roll into the EU to promote Bush's "World Liberation '04" re-election campaign.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:36PM (#8638337)
      My crystal ball says Bill and Steve better pay soon, before that 500 euros is worth an even Billion dollars. :)

    • by Raagshinnah (670749) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#8638423)
      so when does skynet go online? before or after microsoft contributes to the republican party?
    • AFAIK both the UK and France have nuclear weapons.
      • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:48PM (#8638539)
        Yes. I beleive that would be a first for this administration- correctly guessing who has them.
    • Now that is funny. But does invading two countries really make you conclude that Bush wants to invade the world, making it into one country, like Hitler?

      As for the verdict, having things go through courts all over the nation has good and bad consequences. Sure, the fine is a Good Thing because Microsoft deserves to be fined, since they ripped people off and have engaged in unfair, illegal competitive practices, and W's administration did not allow them to be brought to justice. But Microsoft, at the same

    • by Anonymous Coward
      July 27, 2004 France surrenders.
    • You must be the only person who thinks that the appeals process will take less than a couple of years.
  • Ominous (Score:5, Funny)

    by gid13 (620803) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:33PM (#8638294)
    Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of your enemies like being "the ringleader of a vitamin cartel." :)
    • Re:Ominous (Score:5, Funny)

      by CatPieMan (460995) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:36PM (#8638334)
      I didn't even know such things existed. It sounds comical.

      So, what does a vitamin cartel do anyway? Do they price fix Iron suppliments or something? Or do they beat up the small iron works for trademark violation?

      I'm really curious.

      -CPM
      • Re:Ominous (Score:5, Informative)

        by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:43PM (#8638467) Homepage Journal
        They hike up the price for vitamin supplements to score big profits.

        Simple as that.
      • Re:Ominous (Score:5, Informative)

        by nelsonal (549144) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:46PM (#8638506) Journal
        I think it was vitamins C and Beta Carrotine could have been A and some of the B Complex (I don't think it included any of the exotic suppliments). Anyway there were several big vitamin companies (a japanese one and ADM over here) who all conspired to keep the prices high by limiting supply. They were pretty direct about it, but thought that as long as they met in places where it was legal and were quiet about it they would get away with it. That's why the fines were so big, it was a major scandal in the mid 90s when the governments broke the cartel (and it was an open and shut case as they pretty much did it in the same style as OPEC (here's your quota etc). If you google for anti-trust and ADM you should find more than you ever wanted to read about it.
    • by John Murdoch (102085) on Monday March 22, 2004 @07:28PM (#8639809) Homepage Journal

      Nope--there was nothing funny at all about the price-fixing in vitamins led by Hoffman-LaRoche. I know a manager at a local plant of Hoffman-LaRoche, and used to work (in a different industry) with a man who at one point was HLR's general manager of animal vitamins. So I've heard about the court case (which went on for years, and included anti-trust action in the EU and in the United States, and possibly elsewhere).

      Is price-fixing in vitamins a big deal?
      First, we're not talking about somebody trying to corner the market in One-A-Day tablets. We're talking about a small group of chemical companies colluding to fix the prices of (and markets for) vitamins that are included in food products. That's things like the Vitamin D in your milk. And--more significantly in terms of market size--it is the vitamin supplements included in animal feeds.

      A brief discussion of animal feed
      I am a geek--but I am a geek who is heavily involved in 4-H (non-U.S. readers: 4-H is a program for American youth [mostly farm youth] funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.) People who are feeding animals frequently want to feed a "complete" feed--a feed that includes all of the nutrients an animal requires. Example: dog food. You don't want Bowser running down kids in the neighborhood to supplement the meager protein requirement you feed him: you want him to get all the nutrition he requires from his bowl. In the same way, most cat owners don't want little Fiona sneaking out to hunt down the local rodent population just because there isn't enough "meat, and meat byproducts" in her Fancy Feast. (In case you're curious, a "meat byproduct" is what goes crunch when little Fiona does manage to eat one of the local rodents.)

      Are you with me so far? If you live in the urban jungle you may not think of animal feeds beyond dogs and cats. And while that business is not small [purina.com], there is also a huge business in other animal feeds [basf.com]. Think of cows, horses, chickens, and turkeys. In a nutshell, "chicken feed isn't chicken feed." Animal feeds are a multi-billion dollar business--and a major cost component for a feed manufacturer is the cost of the vitamin supplements included in the feed.

      So the manufacturers get together...
      It has been illegal for many years, in the United States, for manufacturers to compare prices or sales practices for common customers. But price and/or market collusion was not illegal in many other countries--and a number of multinational companies got a bit clever. If it wasn't illegal to collude on pricing in Switzerland (and in the 1980s it was not) you simply met with your counterparts in Switzerland, agreed on your prices and markets, and shook hands. According to a friend who was involved in some of these meetings (in Switzerland) everybody benefited: the people involved made their sales quotas, kept their profits up, and were spared the headaches of having to endure real competition. Sure--the customers (and ultimately the consumer) got rooked, but that was a "political issue." My friend (a U.K. citizen) assured me that Americans were far too zealous about such things. All of that ended when the U.S. government found out about it--Hoffman LaRoche, a Swiss company, settled for $500 million; BASF ("we don't make the products you buy, we just make them cost more") agreed to a fine of $250 million; other companies involved paid lesser amounts.

      Want to know more?
      One of the really cool things about the Web in general, and SlashDot in particular, is the ability to click on a link and go off on a tangent--learning something you'd never even thought of before. This link [lieffcabraser.com] connects to a law firm involved in the matter.

  • E500M (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:33PM (#8638295)
    What is E500M in Windows 98SE licenses?
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:34PM (#8638302) Journal
    We Eurocits can get a tax rebate too! Thanks, BG!

    Hang on. This is all going to pay for around 4 days of the CAP. Big deal.
  • Drop in the bucket (Score:5, Interesting)

    by southpolesammy (150094) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:34PM (#8638304) Journal
    From the article:

    The fine amounts to slightly more than one percent of Microsoft's roughly $53 billion cash on hand and did not impress analysts and critics.

    "This is a traffic ticket for Microsoft," said Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance, who represents Microsoft critics.

    Neil Macehiter, an analyst with London-based technology research firm Ovum, said even a $3 billion fine would have been "an irritant to Microsoft but certainly wouldn't break the bank."
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:42PM (#8638452)
      It is about smacking them in the head to get their attention.

      If Microsoft doesn't change its practices, we can see more fines such as this. Eventually, Microsoft will change.
    • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@@@yahoo...com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:53PM (#8638605)
      "This is a traffic ticket for Microsoft," said Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance, who represents Microsoft critics.

      Well, yes, and it's probably intended to be. Traffic tickets are not intended to end life as you know it, nor would a regulatory fine be intended to put a company out of business. Monopoly or not, it would not be in the EU's best interests for Microsoft to suddenly go belly up, or to abandon the European market because it's become unprofitable, thereby leaving all those currently using MS software in the lurch, support-wise, and out of all their license money that's guaranteed them future upgrades.

      The "slap on the wrist" analogy is often used to show that a penalty is too light, but in fact the whole point of a slap on the wrist is to get your attention and change your way of thinking and acting. Traffic tickets do not usually bankrupt anybody but hopefully they will get you to follow the law. They are an annoyance and one that most people would rather not deal with. And the only real way you eliminate the risk of receiving one is by obeying the law.

      So if this is seen as a traffic ticket, good. The penalty will have done its job.
      • by psoriac (81188) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:14PM (#8638854)
        Traffic tickets do not usually bankrupt anybody but hopefully they will get you to follow the law.

        You must not drive around Seattle much. =)

        However, this analogy is rather apt; in (Montana I believe) the cops are allowed to collect speeding tickets on the spot in the form of cash. People have taken to keeping a fifty on the dash so that they can speed through the state, and just pay the fine if they get caught (I don't blame them).

        This settlement amounts to the same thing - as long as you have the cash, keep doing what you've been doing.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:18PM (#8638913) Journal
        True enough but this is a traffic ticket to Bill Gates. Not a traffic ticket to you and me. It always struck me as fundamentally unfair that traffic tickets are fixed and not based on income. Simply put 100 dollars is not the same to everyone. 500 million is petty cash to MS.

        A fine should at least make it unprofitable for me to commit the crime again. If I stole 1 million and was fined 1000 then that is not exactly going to stop me is it? So how much did MS make by violating the law? More then 500 million? Then they ain't gonna stop.

        • by southpolesammy (150094) on Monday March 22, 2004 @07:24PM (#8639772) Journal
          So how much did MS make by violating the law? More then 500 million? Then they ain't gonna stop.

          Yes, this is exactly the problem. Where I live, there is a suburb that has repeatedly dumped raw sewage into the river that runs through the city rather than send it to a waste processing facility because the EPA fine is less than the cost of the treatment. There is no incentive for the city to stop doing this as long as it costs less.

          The same analogy applies to Microsoft. If they make more by squeezing out the competition unfairly than they lose in fines, it's still a net gain for them overall and the next time around, there's fewer players to have to squeeze out. It's a win-win for them and a lose for everyone else (except the custodians of the fine money, it seems).
  • by dowobeha (581813) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:34PM (#8638309)
    It's nice to see that some governmental anti-trust bodies have the backbone to stand up to Microsoft. Rather than finding them guilty of anti-trust laws, then slapping them on the wrist....
    • by Strudelkugel (594414) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:50PM (#8638580)

      Seems to me Microsoft might as well start playing hardball here - Drop the price of an Xbox to $0, offer tracks on the new music service for $0.50, charge $10 or give away copies of Enterprise Architect, take a few high profile clients and offer huge discounts for OS and Office site licenses.

      If they don't, they will be accused of being monopolists anyway, leading to more and more fines, (just where does the money from fines go?) and more bad publicity. Since there is now a populist appeal to going after the company, they might as well create counter sentiment buy really becoming popular with consumers.

      Microsoft doesn't have a business problem - it has a political problem. Anti-trust cases are inherently political, so we shall see if they learn to play that game. I still don't believe Microsoft is any more of a monopoly than Intel, but Intel knows how to play the game.

      • Seems to me Microsoft might as well start playing hardball here - Drop the price of an Xbox to $0, offer tracks on the new music service for $0.50, charge $10 or give away copies of Enterprise Architect, take a few high profile clients and offer huge discounts for OS and Office site licenses.

        Priceless. I take it you don't realize selling everything other than Windows and Office at a loss (bundling Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player into the OS, making them "free") to drive competition out of busine

  • Fines are nice, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:35PM (#8638318)
    but does this hurt MicroSoft's ability (and willingness) to do the same behaviour again and again?

    Doubtful.
  • just curious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:35PM (#8638329)
    why would MS have to comply? Couldnt they just say 'okay, BYE' and not sell in Europe anymore? I know MS sells a lot in europe.... but who would be more injured by such a move, MS or the EU?

    or is there some international law that says MS MUST comply?

    not a troll, just some questions, as IANAL.
    • Re:just curious (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DR SoB (749180)
      I was thinking the same thing. I was also thinking "What if Bill Gates gave everyone the finger, and dumped all his stock?" Imagine what would happen to today's economy if Bill was pissed off enough to dump everything?
      • Re:just curious (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:45PM (#8638492) Homepage
        Heck, with Microsoft out of the way, the economy would totally boom, as companies would be free to innovate in the tech realm without the fear of Microsoft stealing their ideas then crushing them.

        • Re:just curious (Score:5, Informative)

          by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:58PM (#8638668) Homepage Journal

          You're joking, right? Could you imagine the panic that would ensue if Microsoft tanked in one night? My god, it would be like the apocalypse hit Wall Street.

          The economy is not all about good products and services being dealt at a fair price. In fact, it's 99% about confidence that that's what's happening. And an AWFUL lot of people are confident that that is what Microsoft is doing. If that confidence was suddenly undermined, the ensuing whirlpool could take an awful lot down the drain before things got back under control. Microsoft needs to be brought down to size the way IBM was - competition needs to wittle it down slowly to the point where it's size and market power reflect the quality and value of its offerings. A sudden disastrous strike taking it out could have horrible consequences.

    • Re:just curious (Score:3, Insightful)

      by olivierva (728829)
      MS would never do that, it would only help the switch to Linux of a complete continent
    • Re:just curious (Score:3, Informative)

      by KingOfBLASH (620432)

      why would MS have to comply? Couldnt they just say 'okay, BYE' and not sell in Europe anymore? I know MS sells a lot in europe.... but who would be more injured by such a move, MS or the EU?

      Microsoft would have to be run by a bunch of muppets to do that. The $600 Million fine represents 3 Million copies of Windows XP Home sold at $200 a piece that they have to sell. I'm sure there are more then 3 Million computers in Europe for them to make back their money eventually. However, if they pulled out comp

    • Re:just curious (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:43PM (#8638455) Homepage
      You have it backwards. If they don't pay up, they'll not be able to trade in the EU at all. That'd be more than an 'irritant'. They'd also face even larger fines for non-compliance and in extreme cases BG could face extradition and trial (it'll never get that far though).

      The european market is worth a hell of a lot more than they're being fined - they'll pay up, just to protect the right to sell in that market. Can you imagine the knock-on effects of not being able to sell to the EU? We'd develop our own apps and OS (or use one that someone had conveniently written and given away free...), that'd become the defacto standard in Europe, and would murder the MS monopoly elsewhere because they couldn't force Office upgrades on people any more... Aint gonna happen - BG isn't that stupid.
    • Re:just curious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by k98sven (324383) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:43PM (#8638461) Journal
      Couldnt they just say 'okay, BYE' and not sell in Europe anymore?

      Yes. And also give up what 30-40% of their bottom-line.. Which is a LOT more than that puny fee.

      but who would be more injured by such a move, MS or the EU?

      Microsoft would be killed by it. Several hundred million europeans would be forced to switch OS and application software.
      That'd get the Linux ball rolling, and how!
    • Re:just curious (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pubjames (468013)
      why would MS have to comply? Couldnt they just say 'okay, BYE' and not sell in Europe anymore?

      The European market is about the same size as the US one at least in terms of overall size. So they are not just going to say bye to that...

      but who would be more injured by such a move, MS or the EU?

      Microsoft. By a loooooong way.
  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:36PM (#8638342) Homepage
    What are the chances Bill G. & Co. will pay off the fine by buying cheap laptops in NYC [slashdot.org] and selling them in Europe while dodging the VAT?
  • No Media Player! (Score:5, Informative)

    by LilMikey (615759) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638350) Homepage
    The summary failed to mention that they will be forced to release a version of Windows without Media Player and 'encourage' the use of other media players. Good riddance to bad rubbish!
  • by Blob Pet (86206) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638353) Homepage
    Can you even say that phrase with a straight face and not think of Fred Flintstone as a Columbian drug lord?
  • Yay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by General Sherman (614373) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638355) Journal
    It's good to know that European courts aren't as flawed as our American ones.

    It almost restores your faith in humanity. Almost.
    • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034)
      It is not court. It is an administrative penalty.

      Actually some background:

      There was a string of high profile EU comission decisions to be overturned or stayed by the court.

      As a result this time the comission is doing it by the book. This is the reason why it is asking that all competition authorities in all states agree unanimously on the penalties and the penalties are OK not just per EU statutes, but per the statutes of the individual states.

      So, to summarize, they are making an example out of MSFT. Th
    • Re:Yay! (Score:5, Informative)

      by LeftOfCentre (539344) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:11PM (#8638827)
      The European Commision isn't actually a court. In fact, several of the EC's antitrust decisions have been overturned by the real courts (such as the European Court of Justice) in recent years.
  • by iiioxx (610652) <iiioxx@gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638358)
    "Cash okay..?" <while reaching for his wallet>
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06 @ e m a i l . com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638360)
    since they have they option, why aren't they imposing the maximum fine of 10 percent of annual turnover for the year before the decision, which for Microsoft would amount to $3.43 billion.

    With $53 billion in the coffers, $613 million is a big ol' slap on the wrist.

    • jeez, you're the 5000th person to say this.

      don't any of you understand that this isn't THE END.

      if MS doesn't change, they get another $600 million fine. and another. and another. and guess what, 53 billion is a lot, but it's still finite.
  • by rmohr02 (208447) * <mohr,42&osu,edu> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#8638365)
    In Microsoft's view there is no reason it should be fined at all.
    Reporters seem to get smarter every day.
  • by gid13 (620803) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:38PM (#8638372)
    The article says that the major reason for the fines is Microsoft's refusal to license information to competitors to ensure compatibility.

    In other words, the actual software that these laws protects is horrible stuff like RealOne and Quicktime. Open source projects can't afford to license things. I'll be even more impressed than I already am if Mplayer and the like can continue their higher quality in the face of such crappy capitalistic laws.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:39PM (#8638394)
    Step 1) Eliminate Competition
    Step 2) Profit! ($40 Billion in cash)
    Step 3) Get fined $0.5 Billion for being naughty
    Step 4) More profit!

    Value of fine benefits of bad behavior. Bad behavior continues...
  • Sigh.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tempest303 (259600) <[jensknutson] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#8638416) Homepage
    When are governments going to get a clue? Screw fines - almost no amount of money you can take from them will really have an effect on their behavior or the market. What the EU ought to do is to tell MS that if they want to do future business in Europe, they need to make the Office file formats an EMCA standard, and that any patents they have on the formats must be licenesed royalty-free. That would create real change and competition in the market - let them compete on implementation, as it ought to be!
  • by IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#8638417) Journal
    I did not see a mention of the removal of media player. Is a fine the only recourse the EU has? Can they not see that cash is not something that will hurt MS but stripping windows down is? *sigh* Another slap on the wrist for a company that buys their way out of any legal troubles yet never addresses the real problems.
  • by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#8638422)
    Unforunately, like all big businesses, any government fines or restrictions will inevitably be passed on down to their consumers. But I have a feeling none of this 500 million slap-on-the-wrist will go anywhere near Microsoft consumers. Expect to see price hikes in the future.
    • If they could charge more for their product, then why don't they do so now?

      Monopolies charge what the market will bear. This fine doesn't impact what the market will bear, so it shouldn't affect prices. Monopolies set prices at the level where any increase in price would decrease profits. They have no incentive to set it lower, and it would be stupid to set it higher (as it would decrease profits).

      Think of it from the other perspective. If a company received a sudden windfall of money, would you expec
  • by mah! (121197) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:46PM (#8638498) Homepage
    According to La Repubblica online [repubblica.it] (try the fish [altavista.com] if necessary), Sun, Nokia, Yahoo and Oracle are asking the EU Antitrust to intervene about Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Messanger and Windows Movie Maker 2 as well.

    The current ruling could set a useful precedent... with someone finally having the guts to intervene against illegal abuse of monopolies [com.com], Microsoft may finally have to pay for the damage it has done to the software industry [nwsource.com] and users [lugod.org]

  • The real penalty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Don Tworry (739153) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:48PM (#8638545) Homepage
    The real penalty for Microsoft is having to extract it's media player from the OS and collaborate with other software company media companies. This will increase their support costs in the long run.
  • by DrPepper (23664) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:51PM (#8638590)
    Microsoft associate general counsel for Europe Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement the fine was unjustified. "We believe it's unprecedented and inappropriate for the Commission to impose a fine on a company's U.S. operations when those operations are already regulated by the U.S. government and the conduct at issue has been permitted by both the Department of Justice and the U.S. courts," he said.

    I'm sorry, but if you trade into the EU, then you are expected to obey the laws of that market. Doesn't matter where the head office is. I'd have thought that Bill would employ lawyers with a clue - at least enough of a clue not to make a stupid statement like this.
    • It's not really stupid, it's arrogant. It's another sign of the extreme arrogance that Microsoft operates with. They think that just because the US allows them to get away with bad behavior that everyone else should too.

      In the real world, companies have to operate under the laws of every country they operate in. If you open up a Saudi Arabian branch of your company, you can't make advertisements there with scantily-clad women, and complain when the Religious Police shut down your operations there that t
  • by Luscious868 (679143) on Monday March 22, 2004 @05:53PM (#8638616)
    613 million US dollars is nothing to Microsoft! They have billions of dollars in cash. Let's hope the final verdict consists of more than that. If the fine and removal of Windows Media Player are all that the EU is going to propose then I say why even bother. It amounts to a slap on the wrist. Not that any goverment body can really do anything to Microsoft. OSS is what will contain the beast and eventually take away it's bite.
  • by weave (48069) * on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:02PM (#8638712) Journal
    Say Microsoft pays up. Where does the money go? Split between member countries? It'd be nice to see some of it invested into European high-tech firms and start ups.

    Think of it as affirmative action for European tech companies that were kept down by "the man." This could help equalize the playing field again!

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:05PM (#8638748)
    In the OS I installed,
    Lived a player,
    By Microsoft,
    And it told us what to do,
    With our music and DVDs,
    So we took it to the EC,
    And we told them what we found,
    And they gave Bill a big fine,
    And they told him to take it out,

    -Chorus-

    We don't need your stinking DRM,
    We are European,
    We are European,
    Bill can stick his codecs in the bin,
    We are European,
    We are European.

    And our friend is little Tux,
    Cos he let's us do what we please,
    Bill can go and boil his head,
    While we drink beer from Ballmer's skull

    -Chorus-

    We don't need your stinking DRM,
    We are European,
    We are European,
    Bill can stick his codecs in the bin,
    We are European,
    We are European.

    Now we live a life of ease,
    Everyone of us,
    Is European,
    We can play the tunes we like
    We can watch the films we need
    We don't pay no MS tax
    We are free from DRM

    -Chorus-

    We don't need your stinking DRM,
    We are European,
    We are European,
    Bill can stick his codecs in the bin,
    We are European,
    We are European.
  • by MolecularBear (469572) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:10PM (#8638811)
    One of the things I love about being in the field of computer science is that it is still young. Years and years from now, there will be discussions in history books about Microsoft and all the good/evil things that came about from their aggressive domination of the industry. This EU judgment may even be cited... "Microsoft began to lose power in the early 21st century as it fell victim to a barrage of heavy fines for anti-competitive behavior. In 2004, the software giant faced its stiffest fine yet from the European Union at $613 million dollars. While this was a drop in the bucket to a company with $40 billion in cash reserves, it set a precedent that other countries soon followed."
  • other options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sir_cello (634395) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:17PM (#8638894)

    Fines are a weak response, as it has been stated over again, this is piss in a pond to the likes of Microsoft.

    On the other hand, the European Commission has the power under Article 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty (which where anti-competitive behaviour is prohibited) to impose structural remedies: to insist upon corporate re-organisation or say an order to disclose information or to unbundle software. This would be a far more appropriate remedy that would actually be economically useful rather than a bit more cash in the bank for EU.

    If the commission really has spine, it will seek this type of remedy rather than the easy way out. It may in fact seek a combination of fines and structural remedy, so we'll just have to wait and see.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday March 22, 2004 @06:55PM (#8639443) Homepage Journal
    Regardess of who the company is, they broke the law.. so they have to pay the piper.

    Something tells me that the fine was worth it to them, an 'acceptable loss' to hold on to the market.
  • by bitspotter (455598) on Monday March 22, 2004 @07:04PM (#8639533) Journal
    Had the EU (such as it was) approached Microsoft ten or fiteen years ago, and said: "We'll let you engage in anti-competitve practices in operating sytems, office applications, web browsers, and media players all you like for a crisp half-billion dollars, payable on delivery", do you think they would have taken the deal?

    They have $50 Billion dollars in cash. 1% of one's cash reserves (never mind revenues) is simply not a punishment.

    Imagine being taxed one percent of your life savings for a license to break all the laws you like. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

    The problem with fines is that business already thinks in terms of money. Punishments for breaking the law are intended to deter behaviour. Fines are instead framed by the company as just the cost of doing business.
  • by cmehta1 (88375) on Monday March 22, 2004 @07:06PM (#8639562)
    Agreed that 500-600 million is nothing for Microsoft, but what IF they took the money and used it to fund FLOSS. Assume the govts weasel 50% off the top! That leaves 250-300 million for FLOSS.

    This is where the real damage to MS could occur, if the penalty cash is dished out to the right FLOSS projects that threatens MS directly.

    Proposed split based on what I think would help FLOSS and hurt MS:

    50million for the Linux Kernel to get their security certifications finished for govt usage, driver improvements to the kernel, SE-Linux integration, whatever else Linus wants

    50million for Apache Webserver, Tomcat, and other Apache-based projects that really eat into IIS market share

    25million for OpenOffice with a focus on compatibility with MS Office.

    25million for GNOME & KDE, split evenly on whatever they want, but with a preference on creating a Win2k-style desktop emulator so the riff-raff can change their screensavers like before

    10million for plug-ins/features into Eclipse IDE that help emulate the best features of Visual Studio, and better integration of non-Java languages like Perl, PHP, C#/Mono, etc

    10million on Bitkeeper replacement and/or Subversion to get great source code control mgmt, tied into Eclipse IDE enhancements above

    10million on modeling tools for code or databases like SQL Navigator, or Rational Rose

    10million for PHP on whatever they think they need

    10million for Wine to get us closer to running lots of apps on non-MS Operating systems

    10Million for ***BSD Flavors [Just because they have created so much with so little :) ]

    10million for RMS and GNU with the promise he wont complain about everyone else's cash allotment

    AND
    25million for an investment fund that donates 50% of the yearly profits as grants to future promising FLOSS projects

  • Silence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kop (122772) on Monday March 22, 2004 @07:33PM (#8639856)
    The strange thing is the eerie silence in the european media about this kind of stuff. Or is it just me? I love the americans for their angry websites and wild discussions when stuff like this happens. I have to read about this and on an americam website. Should i as a dutchmen check german websites or learn french or swedish to hear about this ?
  • by reignbow (699038) <a.m.steffen@w[ ]de ['eb.' in gap]> on Monday March 22, 2004 @08:16PM (#8640231)
    They have not yet seen the true greatness of the European Comission's plan. The true scope of this strike will unrevel over the years. It goes something like this:
    1. Fine Microsoft scary amount of cash (just for show)
    2. Have Microsoft appeal in the most painstaking, bogged-down way imaginable
    3. Watch incredible amounts of $$$ flow into the European legal business and become EUR=> Profit
    Do you now see the brilliance? All that cash being siphoned off from America's flourishing legal system, will be transferred directly to Europe. And the best thing is, Microsoft is doing all the dirty work for us!

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann

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