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Microsoft Enlisting Clueless States Attorneys General To Shake Down Foreign Companies For 'Piracy'

from the not-this-again dept

Almost exactly three years ago, we wrote about an effort by Microsoft to try to get various states to pass laws that would make it illegal to buy from a foreign company that uses unauthorized software. The goal was, basically, an incredibly cynical way for Microsoft to abuse overeager, grandstanding Attorneys General who want to pretend they're "helping local businesses" by blocking every other company from doing business with whoever might be the best supplier... unless they suddenly became licensed Microsoft customers. There were all sorts of problems with that idea, but over the past three years, Microsoft has apparently continued to push forward with variations on that concept -- and are now successfully getting states Attorneys' General (who have no authority over copyright issues) to shake down foreign companies with claims that they're "pirates."

In short, states Attorneys General are suing foreign companies, claiming that they're using infringing software, and claiming that this unfairly "harms" local competitors. Often, the "local" competitors have absolutely no clue this is being done in their name, or that they've even been "harmed" by a competitor they've never heard of:
The Oklahoma suit, filed in a state district court, alleges that Neway Valve Co. and affiliates, based in China, where they make valves and other equipment for oil companies, illegally obtained "copyrighted software that is crucial to the production and sale of their products," gaining an advantage over Oklahoma-based rivals.

[....]

Valve manufacturer Balon Corp., of Oklahoma City, was named by the attorney general as an injured party. That came as news to Phil Scaramucci, co-president of Balon, who said that he didn't know much about Neway and wasn't aware of the suit until he read about it in the newspaper.
In other words, this has absolutely nothing to do with protecting those local companies. They're being named in lawsuits that they don't even know about it and don't feel harmed by competitors they've never even heard of. This is all about Microsoft, yet again, abusing the legal system for its own benefit. It makes you wonder how much taxpayer money is being used to support these lawsuits.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 7:29am

    Hmm...

    Isn't this prejury or liable on the parts of the State Attorneys?

    I mean, I'm pretty sure that cases have been thrown out for less than simply, oh, you know, completely misrepresenting the clients you claim to represent?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    the proper reaction for any country that has companies affected by this would be to outlaw the use of microsoft products outside of private use.

    There are enough reasons to do this, starting with the elephant in the room that microsoft is a risk for national security and industry espionage, because they cooperated with american intelligence agencies and likely still do.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 9:48am

    And how is Microsoft going to sue/serve this Chinese company if it doesn't have an office ior a mailing address in the US. Surely any ruling/judgement on this Chinese company will be invalid if the company cannot be served.

     

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

  4.  
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    ECA (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    So..

    Sueing another company that PROBABLY sells hardware in other countries, because they are encroaching on a USA company..

    Because 1 of them had SOFTWARE??

    OK..
    WHO here has made a spread sheet for home billing?
    I WANT TO SUE you, because I MADe the first one with Multiplan on my C64 YEARS ago..

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Re: Hmm...

    State Attorneys rarely prosecute themselves.

     

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

  6.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:09am

    Re: So..

    "I MADe the first one with Multiplan on my C64 YEARS ago.."

    Well then I should sue you because I was making such spreadsheets well before the C64 even existed. But I'll give you a license for an amount somewhat lower than it would cost to defend yourself in court, so you're OK.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:09am

    "pass laws that would make it illegal to buy from a foreign company that uses unauthorized software."

    So if I shop in a foreign owned retail store that uses unauthorized software in their stores overseas, I'm now the criminal for buying legal stuff from them?

    And how exactly would one determine that they aren't breaking this law short of requiring a full audit of all their software every time they go to buy something?

     

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

  8.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Re:

    "And how exactly would one determine that they aren't breaking this law"

    They would determine it based on Microsoft's say-so.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:18am

    it also shows how far the big names and big bank balances go to try to achieve what they want. it also shows how terrible they are when abusing the legal system, but how readily the legal section jumps in to help. the corporate world is only a click away, people! be ready to lose everything you've got and pay for everything else!

     

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

  10.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:19am

    I'm hoping that with enough blunders and time open source will drop a decisive bomb into the operating system environment and M$ will actually have to compete... Should both improve the quality of their products and lower the price to reasonable levels...

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:26am

    Use Linux

    The Microsoft licensing terms are so confusing that the only risk-free way to be in compliance is to completely avoid their software.

    For instance: you might think that buying computers without any operating system and using a volume license is a valid way of putting Windows on a company's computers. To my surprise, I recently found out that's not the case: a volume license can only be used if the computer already has a Windows license, either OEM or retail. The WTF is: if you already have a Windows license for all your computers, what's the point of a volume license then? It makes no sense, you are just paying twice for the same software.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Re: Hmm...

    Isn't this prejury or liable on the parts of the State Attorneys?

    Do you mean libel? And no, it is not. But at least you know how to spell it. And no, it's not perjury either. Perjury is lying under oath.

    I mean, I'm pretty sure that cases have been thrown out for less than simply, oh, you know, completely misrepresenting the clients you claim to represent?

    I'm pretty sure you have no idea what you're babbling about. State Attorneys General do not have private clients. They represent the State. Be it the public or agencies.

    God, you're a dolt.

     

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

  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Re: Use Linux

    "The Microsoft licensing terms are so confusing that the only risk-free way to be in compliance is to completely avoid their software."

    A thousand times this. Microsoft licensing is a true nightmare -- such that even Microsoft can have a very hard time determining if you are properly licensed.

    It's because of this alone that I don't recommend using Microsoft software in business environments.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Re: Use Linux

    They have argued before that using linux is using "unauthorized" software. I know of small companies who have been sued over this, but I don't know the outcome.

    this was not in the US btw. They use the BSA to "audit" software licenses and they used to count every PC without a windows license as an instance of piracy even if they ran on linux.

    I haven't heard anything in recent years, but yes, they have gone there before.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Use Linux

    One way out then would be... to pay for Linux. If you can show that every desktop or server has a RedHat or SuSe license, there is no way they can say it's "unauthorized software", or "since you have a computer and did not pay for an OS for it you must be using a pirated OS".

    As a bonus, you are giving money to companies which do a lot of work enhancing Linux (for instance, RedHat is always near the top in the amount of changes to the Linux kernel). And their licensing is AFAIK quite simple and easy to understand.

     

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

  16.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Hmm...

    I'm sorry for asking an obvious FUCKING QUESTION.

    I mean, sheesh, the State Attorneys General are claiming to represent businesses who, by their own admission, say that it's the first time they've heard of it.

    So, EXCUSE ME for asking an obvious question.

    God, it's people like you that proves the American Education system is all fucked up. Instead of answering questions properly, you use scorn and ridicule, thus causing people, who want to ask questions for answers to not ask in the future, thus making it HARDER for those same people to freaking LEARN!

    Do yourself a favor next time and SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!

     

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

  17.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Hmm...

    Please don't feed the troll, it wants you to get angry, just have a chuckle at it's attempts to do so, and move on.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    mcinsand, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Use Linux

    Familiar with Ernie Ball guitar strings?

    http://myitforum.com/myitforumwp/2012/11/12/ernie-ball-inc-still-rockin-11-years-without-microsoft/

    W hen Microsoft's terrorist arm, the Business Software Alliance, went after the company with US Marshalls. They responded by declaring Microsoft software to be unauthorized within their business. Thus, they only used authorized (and properly-licensed) software, in addition to software that is not promoted with a protection racket; 'nice business you have here, it would be a shame for the wrong suggestion to trigger a US Marshall cavity search.'

     

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

  19.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: So..

    Man, how did you manage the cell limit when you were using the walls of caves?

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    madasahatter (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    Outlaw MS sales as fraud/spyware period.

     

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

  21.  
    icon
    madasahatter (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:13pm

    Re:

    Remember Megaupload, they had no offices or employees in the US.

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    madasahatter (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Use Linux

    Depending oh the distro, just burn an official install disk for each computer with an inhouse serial number tied to the computer. Then display the base license of the distro in very, very large letters and very prominently for the goons to see and presumably read.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Tim walker, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:24pm

    Clueless state attorneys general

    Redundant

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re:

    And Megaupload still hasn't been served to this day despite having their company shutdown and assets seized and frozen all based on what someone alledgely claims without being served at all. So much for due process. Why bother with the law that states that you have to serve notice to the companies US based office or last known US mail address when you can violate due process in serving a foreign company and get away with violating due process.

     

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

  25. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    oh some here LOVE if it is enforced. Enforce it as hard as you can and the quicker we get rid of it.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    It's the old adage about rules; he who has the gold makes...you know the rest.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    tracyanne, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Use Linux

    I was about to post something similar, but I've already been beaten to it several times.

    Using Linux based Operating Systems, such as Ubuntu, Red Hat, SuSE or LinuX Mint, with other Free Software such as LibreOffice, SugarCRM and MySQL, for example with or without support contracts is all they need do. Microsoft can't accuse them of using unauthorised software.

    Not only will they save money, even with support contracts, but system reliability will improve.

    Maintence costs, performance and security were cited by the New Zealand company Turners and Growers as the primary reasons for their switch from Microsoft Windows to SuSE Linux http://www.computerworld.co.nz/article/540412/case_study_nz_fruit_distributor_freshens_up_linux/

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

    Legal extortion, its our new economic driver.
    something something shoot all the lawyers...

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 5:24pm

    Re:

    what are 500 lawyers on the bottom of the sea?

    A good start...

     

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

  31. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hmm...

    I'm sorry for asking an obvious FUCKING QUESTION.

    Do you really expect me to believe you're that stupid?

    I mean, sheesh, the State Attorneys General are claiming to represent businesses who, by their own admission, say that it's the first time they've heard of it.

    No they're not. They identified the company as a victim. Just like they'd identify Dick's Sporting Goods as a victim if they sued a seller of counterfeit NFL jerseys.

    So, EXCUSE ME for asking an obvious question.

    See reply to #1, above.

    God, it's people like you that proves the American Education system is all fucked up. Instead of answering questions properly, you use scorn and ridicule, thus causing people, who want to ask questions for answers to not ask in the future, thus making it HARDER for those same people to freaking LEARN!

    My, aren't you a thin-skinned, little pantywaist? I don't know why you think I am part of the American Education system. I'm not. Or perhaps it's just part of (another) poorly thought out rant of yours. In any event, it appears that your years in the
    special education system lead you to think can act like an imbecile and still be rewarded.

    Do yourself a favor next time and SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!

    Do yourself a favor , go back to discussing the virtues of various fantasy games with the other losers.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 8:09pm

    "Microsoft Enlisting Clueless States Attorneys General To Shake Down Foreign Companies For 'Piracy'"

    At first, I was going to say that everyone SHOULD pirate micro$0ft's products. But then I thought, why promote a low quality insecure product with backdoors for the NSA. Hell, M$ was happy to bend over for the NSA. All for those government contracts and licensing deals. Why worry about the quality of your product when the legal and marketing departments are the best that blood money can buy. Bill gates' end result products are nothing more than the eyes and ears of the NSA.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 8:39pm

    Re: Re: Use Linux

    Yes. There are too many "RE:s" in this thread. However, M$ and even the BSA has made fruadulent claims over many years about GNU/Linux. They have never produced ANY credible evidence inside or outside of court in any country of the world. Linux began in 1991, and is under the protection of the GPL2 and GPL3 opensource licenses. The BSA can make all the noise they want. They'll never win in any legal standing when threatening GNU/linux. "https://gnu.org""www.linuxfoundation.org/""distrowatch.com"
    Been in the thick of it for 15 years. Using, coding, and administrating it.

     

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

  34. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2014 @ 12:37am

    Re:

    average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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

  35.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 5:41am

    Re: Re: Re: So..

    Large limestone caves. When you need more space, you redirect the river to dissolve some more.

     

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

  36.  
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    Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    Use ISDS against the USA, since they hurt future profits etc etc.. would be ironic to a ridiculous level

     

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

  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Use Linux

    The BSA is a pure extortion racket, but it's possible to use open source OSes and still be able to defend yourself.

    Technically, what the BSA demands is not that you produce Windows licenses (except for those machines that run Windows), but that you can document that all your software is legal. Keeping meticulous records of what you installed, where you got it, and on what machines, will shield you totally (in the US).

    But the real thing the BSA accomplishes is not really about suing companies -- that's just icing on the cake for them. The real harm is during the investigation. They come in with cops and shut you down completely while they conduct their "investigation". Even when they find nothing, you've been seriously damaged through the inability to conduct business. That's why many business simply pay the extortionists their fee.

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    They could just deliver it to a Walmart store.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2014 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: So..

    No, we're talking Middle Ages here... he just had a dungeon full of mathematicians, one per cell (thus also being a pioneer of parallel processing!)...

     

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

  40.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: So..

    I would have given my eyeteeth for a dungeon full of mathematicians! I had to use an abacus and pebbles in a grid drawn in the dirt. The "room full of people each calculating a cell" method wasn't invented until the '40s, so that's awfully newfangled.

    Fun fact: "computer" used to be a job title, not the name of a kind of machine.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Mark, Aug 7th, 2014 @ 11:34am

    Catch on...

    This is interesting post, and obviously not right. Any chance or thoughts of this catching on and happening in other places, or industries?

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2015 @ 8:02am

    Re the insinuation that a plurality of companies have unknowingly been mentioned in these suits, naming in this article only one company does not support anything broader than just that one company. Also, as to that one named company, full and accurate reporting would have noted that the person from that company went on to state support for proceeding against wrongdoers.

    Incomplete recitals of facts detract from the persuasive force articles here could otherwise have.

     

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


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