Eric Lundgren, who has spent his life working on e-waste recycling programs, was arrested and charged with "counterfeiting" Microsoft
restore discs earlier this week, part of a controversial, years-long legal fight that ended when an appeals court declined to overturn a lower court's decision. Lundgren argued that what he was offering is only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. In an interview with The Verge, he said, "Look, these are restore CDs, there's no licenses, you can download them for free online, they're given to you for free with your computer. The only way that you can use them is [if] you have a license, and Microsoft has to validate it.?" Lundgren was going to sell them to repair shops for a quarter each so they could hand them out to people who needed them. Shortly after the Lundgren's was arrested, Microsoft published a blog post which stridently disagrees with Lundgren's characterization of the case
. From a report: "We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft's role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented," the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court. That misconception, which vastly overstated Lundgren's crime and led to the sentence he received, is simply to conflate software with a license to operate that software. [...] Hardly anyone even makes these discs any more, certainly not Microsoft, and they're pretty much worthless without a licensed copy of the OS in the first place. But Microsoft convinced the judges that a piece of software with no license or product key -- meaning it won't work properly, if at all -- is worth the same as one with a license.
[...] Anyway, the company isn't happy with the look it has of sending a guy to prison for stealing something with no value to anyone but someone with a bum computer and no backup. It summarizes what it thinks are the most important points as follows, with my commentary following the bullets. Microsoft did not bring this case: U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren. This is perfectly true, however Microsoft has continually misrepresented the nature and value of the discs, falsely claiming that they led to lost sales. That's not possible, of course, since Microsoft gives the contents of these discs away for free. It sells licenses to operate Windows, something you'd have to have already if you wanted to use the discs in the first place.
Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people: His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits. Printing an accurate copy of a label for a disc isn't exactly "great lengths." Early on the company in China printed "Made in USA" on the disc and "Made in Canada" on the sleeve, and had a yellow background when it should have been green -- that's the kind of thing he was fixing.