Programmer Faces 15 Years In Jail For Planting Virus That Automatically Broke Whac-A-Mole Games

from the offense-against-intellectual-property dept

Slashdot points us to a fascinating story of a programmer named Marvin Wimberly, who is facing charges for sabotaging the famous Whac-A-Mole games with a logic bomb that would "break" the machines after a pre-determined number of times that it was turned on and off. The idea was that each time these broke, Wimberly would be called in for a repair. Of course, with each "repair," he'd install another logic bomb. Since he was the only one who knew the real "problem," he figured it was a form of job security. His company couldn't let him go, because no one else could fix the problem.

Of course, now that it's been discovered he's apparently facing 15 years in prison. What's a bit odd, though, is the statute under which he's being charged. It's a Florida state law for "offenses against intellectual property." Reading through the statute, it seems like a rather odd use of the phrase "intellectual property."
Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.
The statute definitely seems pretty broad. What's wrong with just charging the guy with garden variety fraud statutes?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:11pm

    This is from Florida, which is appears is competing to be the new Luddite capital of the world.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:21pm

    "The statute definitely seems pretty broad. What's wrong with just charging the guy with garden variety fraud statutes?"

    Well DUHHH!

    If they did that they wouldn't have great examples of how much WE NEED tough IP legislation.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:33pm

    He could sue for copyright infringement if some one was looking at his code which obviously is violating his intellectual property rights or some sort of security issue. Or at least that is the line trumpeted by closed source affectionatos.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

    Re:

    He just drmed it to make sure only an authorized person would fix the machine. What crime is there in that?

     

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  5.  
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    el_porko (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:40pm

    His biggest problem

    Alas, this guys biggest problem is he didn't work for Sony where breaking software to increase your profits is legal.

     

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  6.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 7:48pm

    You forgot section 2 of the statute:

    Section 2:
    This statute shall not apply to cases where the modification is part of a system which is called "Digital Rights Management" as long as somebody yells either:
    i) We must protect American jobs! or
    ii) Think of the children!

     

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  7.  
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    abc gum, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 8:34pm

    Fifteen years? Some have served less for murder. I'm glad we have our priorities in order.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 8:56pm

    One have to wonder who will be the first business that will implement artificial expiration dates. We see already know books are coming with it who is next?

    Your hardware in the future could come with expiration dates enforced by DRM LoL(don't laugh it is serious, seems ridiculous but people will try you know there is a stupid CEO out there somewhere)

    Cars that expire after 5 years forcing you to rebuy a license, TV's that stop working after 2 years.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:29pm

    Re: Re:

    Car companies already do that.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It just need an expiration date to force everyone to go seek a authorized mechanic now LoL

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:37pm

    Re:

    "One have to wonder who will be the first business that will implement artificial expiration dates."

    HP with their HP time bomb on ink cartridges. That was a while ago though and for some reason I can't find any Google citations of it right now. There were some lawsuits over it. They basically made their ink expire after a period of time by programming the ink cartridge to stop working.

    Also, not too long ago someone I know bought a surge protector and in the manual it said that, for your protection (since, after a period of time, the surge protector loses its ability to protect against surges), the surge protector expires after a period of time and that, after this period of time, it automatically disables its surge protection capabilities and acts as a power strip and not a surge protector.

    This sort of thing is common already, but it's mostly OK when big corporations do it to individuals. But for an individual to do it to a big corporation, 15 years in jail.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I can see in the future that cars will have network capabilities to update their software and so when car manufacturer's see the bottom line going red, they could just update the software to make people spend more :)

    Don't laugh someone will do it.

     

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  13.  
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    Miff (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:42pm

    Remember... he didn't just fraud his customers, he did so with- (insert dramatic theremin noises) a computer!

    Remember, Cyberspace is a dangerous new frontier where the normal laws of the United States and other countries do not apply. That's why we need special laws specifically detailing to crimes involving computers, vs crimes carried out without.

    Ideally, the laws would match up against our existing laws to the point where they're superfluous, but hey, we're sure taking down a major bank is exactly the same as lying about your age on Facebook, so who cares.

    (And I've got my tongue in my mouth here, people. That's a real difference between online and IRL, where if you don't state your sarcasm, people will mistake you for being sincere. Cf. Poe's Law)

     

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  14.  
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    TechnoMage (profile), Feb 28th, 2011 @ 9:47pm

    well duh...

    There is a reason why Fark.com has a "Florida" tag...

     

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  15.  
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    Noel Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:32pm

    Corporate Monopoly on a small scale

    This guy was creating a third party service monopoly on a small scale.When you compare it to some of the IT Global players, this is small fry.

    Take ASUS as an example. They have cut out third party service organizations WORLD wide. By refusing to provide spares or assistance to reseller or authorized quality assured service providers.

    So, if their customers need a custom part costing $5.
    Your at a loss to procure it.They or the customer can't do anything, but send it to ASUS's service center that charges $120 minimum plus parts. This seems criminal given the customer could have done this himself. Not to mention, if its a Net PC, costing $300-400 last thing you want to do is waste $120, so some bozo can tell you its a CMOS battery.

    This contravenes fair trading practices and anti competitive legislation by restricting competition unfairly.
    All customers are charged excessively as well as forced to upgrade unnecessarily.

    As the other poster said, his mistake was not working for a global concern.

    I'm not saying what he did was right, but 15 years for this when governments fail to enforce the laws else where is hypocritical. Given that these Global players are rorting the system wholesale, I'm surprised that his lawyer didn't take a blow torch the judges a$$.

    Just my 2 p's worth ;)

     

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  16.  
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    Ed C., Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:39pm

    Supporting documentation?

    WTF! Seriously? "Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property." So...writing notes in your f-ing user manual "without authorization" can get you jail time in Floria too? Not that anyone would push for such a thing, but having such stupid laws on the books is troublesome.

    Gee, where's the "illegal==immoral" trolls to defend this one? I mean, degrading the artistic expressions of the tireless corporate manual writers with my illegible scrawlings must be at least as abhorrent as...dealing crack to grade-schoolers, right? Or robbing a bank! We all know that you guys are really against that!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re:

    You are right HP did in fact put expiration dates already.

    HP inkjet cartridges have built-in expiry dates

    How to bypass a cartridge expiration date

    HP Expiration Dates

    GoogleFu:

    hp cartridges expiration date scandal

    Now can anybody say what is coming next?
    TV's that have their "premium" features disabled after 1 year so you need to "buy" a new license, cars that expire, sound systems that expire, fridges that disable the "some" features. DRM is beautiful isn't.

    Thank God pirates can defeat them.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 10:59pm

    On other news Sony got bitten by IP laws LoL

    European customs ordered to seize PlayStation shipments in legal dispute

    OMG that is hilarious.

     

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  19.  
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    Felix Pleșoianu, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:50pm

    Come on, don't you see what's going on? He did a booboo, so they need to put him in jail for something, but they have no law to cover what he did, because laws are decades behind the times (and in Internet years that counts tenfold). So they made up a tenuous connection with the only vaguely computer-related offense they have.

    Of course, the solution would be to fix the laws... but that would require redesigning the whole political system from scratch... and that won't happen while the same old people are still alive.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 11:56pm

    Mike you've reached a new level here. Defending a clear criminal. He is clearly committing a crime. I can't believe you think he did nothing wrong and doesn't deserve jail. He was robbing the clients of their money by intentionally sabotaging their equipment.

    And Noel Coward - If you actually ask Asus they'll ship you the part in the mail (you pay postage of course). They don't sell parts to third party ASPs because quite frankly most of the staff have no idea what they're doing and charge customers $100s worth of parts when $20 worth of parts would have done the job. By only doing repairs themselves it protects the brand name because like it or not incompetent third party repairers give Asus(and others) bad names. Of course go into an ASP they won't tell you Asus would provide you with parts as the ASP gets a commission for providing the repair to Asus.

     

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  21.  
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    Christopher (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Re:

    Agreed... way too long of a potential sentence, even for 'deterrent' purposes.

    But, the fact is that older people are stupid asshats, by and large, and think that putting people in prison for long period REALLY DOES make some people think twice about committing a crime.

    You and me know that it doesn't, especially in cases of 'heat of the moment' non-premeditated murder crimes.

     

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  22.  
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    Christopher (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:13am

    Re: Re:

    Huh? You're kidding me! Hmm..... I wonder if that is why all of those 'old' cartridges stopped working after about a year. I thought that it was just because the goddamned ink dried out. Perhaps I was wrong.

     

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  23.  
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    Christopher (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:16am

    Re:

    Yes, he is a clear criminal, but that doesn't mean that we have to create NEW laws to punish people with 'tougher' sentences when old laws with lesser sentences work just as well.

    And I fail to see where Mike is 'defending' this guy in the slightest. He is simply saying that it seems strange to stretch a law to charge him under the more punitive law, when the other law definitely encompasses what he did and just has a lesser sentence as a maximum.

     

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  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:25am

    Re:

    Mike you've reached a new level here. Defending a clear criminal. He is clearly committing a crime. I can't believe you think he did nothing wrong and doesn't deserve jail. He was robbing the clients of their money by intentionally sabotaging their equipment.

    Whoa, slow down. I said nothing of the sort. I agree that he's a criminal, and almost certainly deserves jailtime. I never said that I didn't think he did anything wrong.

    Please try reading the post before attacking me.

     

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  25.  
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    Lauriel (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:34am

    Re:

    Ah, section 2 explains Apple's mentality - they're always yelling 'Protect the Jobs!'

     

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  26.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 12:43am

    Re: Re:

    Damn Mike,

    You beat me to that reply! Take some advice Mike...

    Never argue with idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    It's clear this guy is a low level criminal, although 15 years in prison is hardly appropriate punishment. As usual, you are correct in wondering WTF this has to do with IP. Your article did leave me scratching my head and wondering why there is no mention of the anti-hacking laws, as it seems that planting a virus in the machines is more a violation of those laws than IP law.

    Maybe I'm just too dense.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 1:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    HP cartridges expire after 2.5 years or 30 months inside the printer, from what I read. Don't know if they are still doing it.

     

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  28.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 1:48am

    Re:

    Liar liar pants on fire

     

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  29.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 2:04am

    Re: Re:

    Please try reading the post before attacking me.
    Ha ha a-ha ha hahahaha! In what parallel universe is that likely? You should be on the stage with an act like that!

     

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  30.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 4:13am

    Re:

    WRONGWRONGWRONGWRONG
    WRONGWRONGWRONGWRONG
    WRONGWRONGWRONGWRONG
    WRONGWRONGWRONGWRONG
    Y'WRONG,
    Y' WRONG,
    Y'WRONG.

    Last time I tried that for my old ASUS Mobo (less than two years old, by the way) I was given a 300 service charge quote regardless of who I sent it to.

    1/10

     

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  31.  
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    abc gum, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re:

    I think the older generation is too easily swayed by the for profit prison propganda.

     

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  32.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 6:08am

    Re:

    a) Troll
    b) Idiot
    c) Asus Shill
    d) All of the above

    Honestly I'm having a tough time choosing...

     

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  33.  
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    V, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 6:26am

    Think...

    But... think of the children!

    All those children who find their Wack-A-Mole games broken!

     

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  34.  
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    Tom Landry (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 7:05am

    someone on the comments pointed out that this would be considered a "logic bomb" as opposed to a virus.

     

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  35.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 7:20am

    Re: His biggest problem

    "Sony", in this case, can be replaced with "Microsoft", "Apple", "Adobe" or practically any other big-name closed source company.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 7:24am

    Re:

    My nephew's mom was killed by her boyfriend, after SHE caught HIM with another woman. It was ruled premeditated because he went back into the house to get his gun as she was trying to drive away. She was having a hard time because she was beaten so badly.

    He got 10 years.

     

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  37.  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    And to you sir, I have an objection.

    Nice tangent btw.

     

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  38.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re:

    Jail-time? Really? Honestly, I think that guy clearly deserves some punishment, but jail-time seems a tad excessive. I would feel a fine would be more appropriate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Jesse (profile), Mar 1st, 2011 @ 9:33am

    What's wrong with making sentencing relative to other crimes. Isn't it possible to get less for rape or manslaughter? By comparison, this isn't that bad...

     

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  40.  
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    Noel Coward, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 2:49pm

    Reply to post 20

    To the poster at entry 20.

    Well your entitled to your opinion.
    Though I wouldn't talk with authority on the matter lest you do your research.

    I know of companies that are approved federal procurement and quality assured service providers, who are preferred warranty service representatives for some of the biggest name manufacturers. The fact that they facilitate service for the national telco's, banks and global financial organizations means nothing in this part of the world.
    For you to assume that they are not competent shows your bias and need to assert an opinion not worthy of this forum.

    Perhaps you should check some of the net forums and ask some of their customers who've thrown the Net PC rubbish to the landfill and offer your technical wisdom them.

    Should you be so lucky to have ASUS provide some semblance of sales and service in your part of the world. Well goody for you and your Asus fanboys.

    Personally after seeing their treatment of customers in my part of the world, I'd say good riddance to bad rubbish.
    Our organizations now refuse to endorse their products as of this year.

    I would like to state I have no vested interests in pushing or endorsing any manufacturer, lest they be worthy of praise.

    With respect to this mans obvious faux pas, I do not dispute his wrong doing, just the length of his sentence being political convenience. For you insist this is prudent justice, then I would have to assume your intent is to create mischief or play divisive strategy. Either way I couldn't careless for such folly.

     

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  41.  
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    TamTroll, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 6:23pm

    "What's wrong with just charging the guy with garden variety fraud statutes? "

    So then you're against the government punishing people who conduct crimes? Wow, I can't believe it

    /sarc

    Dang, someone already beat me to making such a ridiculous argument, only they were serious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Noel Coward, Mar 1st, 2011 @ 9:37pm

    Think of the Children & the Jobs

    Well if we Take Asus as the example.

    When thinking of the children, I can't help but be reminded of all those NET PC's making it to the dumpster. Because a lack of competition and excessive pricing on service effectively making their asset's redundant.

    With respect to jobs, all I see is less third party service agents down the food chain, who can no longer repair Asus Net PC and Laptops if hardware is needed.

    Its global corporates like these, who have no respect for the sovereign laws of the nations in question. Who enter their markets like vampires in search of blood.

    Only its the life blood of the economies they're sucking, and hurting children's feelings instead of infanticide.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2011 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What about Sony disabling their Linux feature that they promised their product would have? Where is the 15 years in jail for that?

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    YesYes, May 11th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re:

    Well said, good sir.

    Also, why isn't it a big deal when a 'respectable' company put's maleware in your computer? odd..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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