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Microsoft Businesses Piracy Software Your Rights Online

MS Wants Laws To Block Products Made By Software Pirates 617

Posted by Soulskill
from the grasping-at-imported-straws dept.
kaptink writes with this quote from Groklaw: "Microsoft seems to be trying to get its own personal unfair competition laws passed state by state, so it can sue US companies who get parts from overseas companies who used pirated Microsoft software anywhere in their business. The laws allow Microsoft to block the US company from selling the finished product in the state and compel them to pay damages for what the overseas supplier did. So if a company overseas uses a pirated version of Excel, let's say, keeping track of how many parts it has shipped or whatever, and then sends some parts to General Motors or any large company to incorporate into the finished product, Microsoft can sue not the overseas supplier but General Motors, for unfair competition. So can the state's Attorney General. I kid you not. For piracy that was done by someone else, overseas. The product could be T shirts. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as it's manufactured with contributions from an overseas supplier, like in China, who didn't pay Microsoft for software that it uses somewhere in the business. It's the US company that has to pay damages, not the overseas supplier."
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MS Wants Laws To Block Products Made By Software Pirates

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  • OK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:57AM (#35610126) Homepage

    I'm cool with that. Let's add a law that says that if your company steals the source code from a partner's product that as punitive restitution they get a perpetual, non-exclusive right to your entire source control for the product which bundled the stolen goods.

    Fair is fair, Microsoft.

  • by wisty (1335733) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:58AM (#35610134)

    If Microsoft China employs engineers who wear pirated Nike t-shirts, can Nike sue Microsoft?

  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:58AM (#35610142)

    Microsoft buys new laws to make it criminal to import parts from most of Asia, news at 11.

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:00AM (#35610158) Journal

    ...and it's not as insane as it seems. Regulation is usually to protect the small guy while the big guys have the lawyer power to avoid it. By phrasing regulation in terms on unfair competition laws, you end up with big businesses paying to enforce regulation. Which do you prefer:
    (i) One big business forcing another business to abide by some law;
    (ii) That same big business also ignoring the law.

    Perhaps the underlying law is unjust. But then you tackle the underlying law - you don't tackle some principle which makes it harder to enforce a law. Let us have more rule of law and less rule of men, yes?

    • by Draek (916851)

      Perhaps the underlying law is unjust. But then you tackle the underlying law - you don't tackle some principle which makes it harder to enforce a law. Let us have more rule of law and less rule of men, yes?

      We've been trying for decades to no avail. The big guys simply have too much money and can easily bribe their way through any representative democracy, while we don't.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Let us have more rule of law and less rule of men, yes?

      Laws are written by men. Rule of law is just rule of men by proxy.

      • "Rule of law" doesn't mean "laws exist". It means that laws and the legal system aren't engineered to give an advantage to particular men. But when that engineering has occurred, unfair competition regulations act as a counterbalance.

    • by trims (10010) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:51AM (#35610776) Homepage

      Normally, I'm pretty OK with a lot of EU regulatory concepts (their banking rules a notable exception). But, if this is a common idea of EU regulators, I'm going to have to rethink my support of them...

      This "principle" breaks one of the foundations of modern law - that you should be held responsible for you own actions, and not actions of others which you neither had controller over, nor knowledge of (which is one of the big reasons I hate the "felony murder" laws here in the US). The "principle" of which you speak isn't a good one, and I'm fine with being rabidly opposed to it. Just because it may be bad for Big Business, doesn't make it right, or even good for anyone else.

      I'm not excessively worried, though. The laws don't fit the "consumer protection" mold, and pretty obviously overstep Constitutionally-set boundaries - they regulate interstate commerce (which is a federal area), and also likely are to be looked at as attempting to set Copyright and national import standards, neither which are allowable by states. That is, these type of laws most likely would have to be passed at the Federal level to be Constitutional. Given the potential enormous impact on large manufacturers, you can be sure that if they actually get passed, they'll be some Big Corp with Deep Pockets funding a challenge in US Federal courts.

  • Fair enough... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:03AM (#35610186)

    ...then U.S. companies should also be prohibited from selling goods manufactured or obtained from companies overseas who don't follow all the other U.S. laws, not just copyright laws. This would include all U.S. laws regarding the environment, labor, accounting, etc. Why pick and choose?

    What could go wrong?

    • by qbast (1265706)
      Oh just seal your damn borders and be done with it.
      • by Draek (916851)

        There's not a single person supporting this bill that wouldn't like that to happen. In fact, I'm pretty sure Microsoft is making a blantant power grab by betting on the isolationist crowd to get this bill passed without anyone looking too hard at it.

        The saddest thing is that there's enough people in the US to give their plan a decent chance of success.

  • ...Microsoft SUES ITSELF and bites its own tail CLEAN OFF.

  • by Gubbe (705219) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:04AM (#35610194)

    I'm sure Sound Forge authors are just waiting for this law to pass.
    Seeing as under this law they could sue Microsoft for big bucks! [techpavan.com]

    • Actually, it looks like the proposed law covers customers downstream from the company that uses pirated software.

      In this case, it seems like Soundforge would be able to seek damages from any company that licenses Windows XP.

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      If the summary is correct then no, this only comes into play if an overseas company has violated copyright. Actually it isn't correct, but you have to bounce on to Seattle Times [nwsource.com] to find out that it doesn't just affect overseas companies.

  • Perhaps this should be a model for how to get at companies that are otherwise out of US jurisdiction. It would only be reasonable to discourage them from conducting business with those entities.

    How about expanding this a bit more to include other practices, such that it makes a de facto offshoring ban?

  • Just silly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goodgod43 (1993368) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:05AM (#35610206)
    How are they going to prove that the foreign company used Excel instead of Open Office? Or is the idea to force the entire world have to purchase Microsoft licenses just to do business in America?
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:06AM (#35610212)

    This is a good way for companies with large law departments to cudgel smaller businesses. Just like how the endangered species act is misused sometimes, find some product, no matter how esoteric, that a company used that might be called into question, then threaten to sue that company out of existence unless they take an offer to be bought out.

    This would be a field day for law departments. If one thought the patent lawsuits flying back and fourth with the phone company makers is insane, wait until the lawsuits because a bolt made from an offshore company just might be considered being made with a bogus copy of XP Embedded on the CNC mill.

    For those not of the bar association, it means higher prices for everything (since companies have to pay bucks to CYA, and create additional internal auditing divisions, or fight these claims.) It also raises the barrier for entry for small businesses.

    It will be interesting to see who will end up the lawmakers' master on this one. Companies who don't want the trouble of additional IP regulation, versus the usual people who keep fighting for more Draconian IP laws to protect their tired old stuff. This might get interesting because it may pit well-heeled lobbyists against other lobbyists of companies who just don't want the legal liability if this law passes.

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:10AM (#35610238) Homepage Journal

      IANAL, but as I see it basically Microsoft could sue ANYONE. I doubt that there is any business in the United States that doesn't have some part somewhere that was made by a Chinese company that didn't pirate something Microsoft along the way. If the burden is on the company to prove they didn't do anything wrong then you've got a great formula for putting small businesses into bankruptcy.

      We don't only have a class war in the U.S., we have a war between big and small businesses.

      • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:15AM (#35610294)

        Nail, head hit.

        This proposed law would instantly make Microsoft billions. If done right, companies would have to prove their supplies didn't use pirated products in order to not get sued.

        It also will force companies to buy Microsoft products for CYA reasons. This happened with Sarbanes-Oxley and the fact that operating systems on up had to have some sort of compliance (FIPS, Common Criteria) in order for IT departments to show due diligence. This caused wholesale migrations to Windows just for this reasons.

        I can see companies not just moving to MS, but demanding their supplies be Microsoft based, so they can show that they are compliant.

        Big win for MS, big win for businesses with lots of lawyers, small businesses now are easily destroyed should they show some innovation that can't be bought up easily.

        Plus, if one of the copyright lawsuits for an insane amount does go through, a company can easily owe Microsoft trillions, especially with the precedents seen with LimeWire and other cases.

        • This proposed law would instantly make Microsoft billions. If done right, companies would have to prove their supplies didn't use pirated products in order to not get sued.

          And this right here is the problem. The burden of proof should not be on the company...the burden of proof should be on Microsoft.

          • by mlts (1038732) *

            Very true. However, since MS wants to buy the law, they want the burden of proof not with them. It is a lot easier to prove piracy did take place due to someone ratting a company out, as opposed to proving that no one company, from the guys who mined the ore, to the smelter, to the metal shop, to the CAD place, to the assembly plant didn't use an unlicensed copy of Windows someplace.

            This might backfire on MS though. If a commercial product goes out of licensing spec, it may mean millions of fines. F/OSS

  • Since I pay taxes for my properties (house, car, ...) would be nice if copyright owners pay taxes for they intelectual 'properties' every single year. ;)
  • I'm for ANY law which punishes unfair competition by liars, thieves and cheats overseas. As it were, the mainland Chinese in particular have shown themselves incapable of playing by the rules, and since the Chinese government are so hell bent on shielding their people from the consequences of their actions (under the aegis of "non interference" and "sovereignty"), I think it's completely reasonable to, as a second choice, to penalize businesses who benefit from unfair and dishonest Third World business pra

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I'm for ANY law which punishes unfair competition by liars, thieves and cheats overseas.

      Except, this is punishing a company for the actions of its suppliers ... actions which the company at risk of being sued has no control or influence over (and quite possibly no knowledge).

      This is not "if you steal our stuff and sell a product in our country we sue you" ... this is "if you buy from someone who steals our stuff, you are liable for it". This is 3rd party liability.

      So, if I hire you to paint my house, and y

  • Just wait till this logic gets applied to labor laws.
  • Lawyers already have enough work to keep them in practice for the next ten years even if no new cases are filed. Stop with this madness already.
  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:19AM (#35610342)

    This is absolutely brilliant, a stroke of genius. With a large part of everything being made in China, and piracy absolutely rampant in China this could an incredible effect on restoring jobs to this country. Microsoft has also just figured out how to resolve the outsourcing problem (that they greatly contributed to making) that has wrecked this countries economy and sold out it's future. This may be the best jobs program this country has ever seen, we should spread this idea around.

    Just as many republicans contributed to Nader in 2000 to defeat Gore, we should contribute financially to seeing this law successfully implemented. Now we just need to get the AFL-CIO and similar organizations to back this.

    • by Sique (173459)

      You know that Microsoft is actually and legally convicted because of software piracy? This could backfire. I wouldn't buy from any shop that uses Microsoft software because SoftImage could sue me for triple damages.

  • If Microsoft knows a company is using a pirate copy of their software, I have no responsability for A) tracking another entities software use or B) their licensing status. I find this not just rediculous. It is placing Microsoft's burden on companies that may not even be Microsoft's customers. But I can tell you this. Im a Global Architect at a huge US car company. If this passes, I will be making it known on a daily basis that my employer should explore alternative solutions to Microsoft products. Now the

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:24AM (#35610394)

    So, if one of Microsoft's Optical media replicators shipping company(based in China) uses pirated software to ship the media from China to Microsoft, where Microsoft sells this media in US, who would MS sue?

  • by durrr (1316311)
    So if whoever in asia that assembles Xboxes uses a pirated version of my naked-ladies calendar to know what day it is. I can sue microsoft in the US for unfair competition?

    Makes perfect sense.
  • by X.25 (255792) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:24AM (#35610400)

    But importing Nike shoes made by 14 years old kid is perfectly fine, I guess. Or importing Uranium mined in Namibia or Nigeria, where workers are pretty much guaranteed to die. Or iPhones made by modern slaves in factories.

    Good to see that America, the land of the free, has their priorities straight.

  • I'm not sure what the purpose of this law is other than to act as a rather larger stick to beat companies with.

    Consider this: the legalese for most software licenses is borderline incomprehensible at the best of times. It's not simply a matter of "one license per PC", you've got Client Access Licenses, you've got products which are essentially the same but the difference lies in the licensing, you've got products which explicitly allow you to install them on more than one PC in certain circumstances (hell

  • Well I vana toilet made out of solid gold, but it's just not in the cards now is it?

  • Those companies willing to hire illegal aliens has the same cost advantage, even if those companies are just contractors for 'responsible' employers. Perhaps we should fine the companies (or jail the actionable people) who hire a 'temp agency' or 'cleaning service' in an effort to skirt employment laws? How it's not already considered a RICO violation, I have no idea. Oh, btw, I'm all for immigration reform, of nearly any sort.
  • My best guess is, that this will trigger contracts that say: "supplier vows to abide by IP laws". The vendor that buys products from the supplier then just claims they didn't know about it (they really don't care). Then they testify (truthfully) that they did their due diligence and acted in good faith.

    How do you want to sue someone when they act in good faith and have no knowings of what the supplier on the other half of the word is breaking the contract? Do you want to make supplier audits mandatory? Don'

  • Simple fact is Microsoft does have some outside software.

    I would like to see some company buying a Microsoft product ask Microsoft to do a full audit of all their software for licenses under this requirement.
    I want every desktop and corporate mobile device in Microsoft reported and individually inspected for what software is installed. Then I want information on the license status of all software on that device. Also as they continually buy Microsoft products Microsoft is going to have to repeat the audit e

  • I'd like to propose a more equitable law. When a big company screws enough people with crap like this we take the corporate officers and the board of directors out into the street and bludgeon them.

    Step right up Ballmer, you're first.

  • Excellent. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:34AM (#35611342) Homepage

    If this passes, people relying on proprietary software will get a rude awakening.

    If your suppliers are using Windows or Photoshop, how can you verify that they're all using licensed copies? Either you call the BSA in to kick their office's doors down and ransack it on your behalf, which is going to get you some "special" customer service once they find out you did it, or someone else will after you've bought from them in which case you'll be screwed when they get caught.

    The only way you'll be safe under this regime is to require everyone in the supply chain uses FOSS.

    • The only way you'll be safe under this regime is to require everyone in the supply chain uses FOSS.

      Unfortunately, this could, and likely would, go the other way. Having valid Microsoft licenses would likely become a standard contract term for doing business with certain large companies, so the overseas company likely would have to use MS products even if they otherwise would have just avoided them and used FOSS in compliance with the relevant license terms.

  • WTF (Score:5, Informative)

    by sorak (246725) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:34AM (#35611344)

    (Admit: Did not fully RTFA)

    TFA and TFS keep focusing it on MS, as if they are the only people who can sue, but from the excerpts quoted, it sounds like any closed software can. Here's the kicker that should have been in the summary:

    Exceptions. A person may not sue under this cause of action when:

    1. the end product sold or offered for sale in Washington is:

            a. a copyrightable work under the United States Copyright Act;

            b. merchandise manufactured by or on behalf of a copyright owner and that displays a component or copyrightable element of a copyrighted work;

            c. merchandise manufactured by or on behalf of a copyright owner or trademark owner and that displays a component or copyrightable elements relating to a theme park or theme park attraction; or

            d. packaging or promotional material for such copyrightable works or merchandise.

    2. the allegation that the IT is stolen is based on a claim that the IT infringes on patents or trade secrets;

    3. the allegation that the IT is stolen is based on a claim that the use of the IT violates the terms of an open source software license; or

    4. the allegation that a person aided, facilitated, or otherwise assisted someone else to acquire or use stolen IT.

    So, you can sue someone for infringing upon someone's rights, as long as you aren't violating an FOSS agreement?

    There are some odd ideas in there (like the exclusion for theme park operators), but I'm surprised that one flew under the slashdot radar.

    • Re:WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

      by burnin1965 (535071) on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:50AM (#35612204) Homepage

      LOL, those guys at Microsoft are quite the jokers.

      So they cover their ass with an exception that says it is okay if their copyrighted material is packaged over seas by a company that pirates software so nobody can sue Microsoft under this law and then they block open source software from the same protection under the law even though the most popular open source software in use is protected by copyright.

      Yep, scum bags will be scum bags, never fails.

  • by formfeed (703859) on Friday March 25, 2011 @12:25PM (#35612608)
    Not just piracy, any invalid license could trigger this law: Not updated your business license? Moved it to another computer? Worked in a virtual environment without MS permission? Built a backup server by mirroring drive (and license number)? ...

    This would make the use of any MS product a huge possible legal liability. Why not minimize the risk and go opensource? Companies that strive to sell complete workflow & service packages or servers might use that argument in the future. Good for Redhat, Oracle, IBM.

  • by Stregano (1285764) on Friday March 25, 2011 @12:49PM (#35612894)
    M$ has been under scrutiny themselves for using other people's software without their permission. If I pirate something, I am using a chunk of code without the consent or sending money to that company. Microsoft has been under lawsuits and LOST multiple times for them using pirated software. Who the hell are they to up and try to stop everybody else when they do it themselves. Law is not a "Do as I say, not as I do" type thing.
  • by businessnerd (1009815) on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:29PM (#35613386)
    If they are trying to pass this state by state, they won't get much headway. While MS may be big, they are not the most influential corp in most states. Do you think most other big corporations would like this law? Almost every big corp in the US has some manufacturing in China, therefore, almost every big corp in the US could be sued by Microsoft. So do we really think that Michigan, home of GM, Ford and Chrysler will want this to pass? Who do you think has more pull in Michigan, the auto companies or MS? Sure MS might have pretty good pull in the state of Washington, and probably some good connections in California, but beyond that, there are companies in every state that have much more influence in the state government than MS that would be negatively affected by the law.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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