CRIME AND RECYCLING don't usually go hand in hand, but an e-waste recycler is to be locked up for 15 months for flogging Windows restore discs.
Californian Eric Lundgren received the prison sentence alongside a $50,000 fine after he produced 28,000 of Windows restore disks then sold them on to computer refurbishes for some 25 cents a pop, reported The Washington Post.
Lundgren claimed he was making restore discs to prolong the lives of computers that have no value and help save buyers of refurbished PCs the hassle of making their own restore disc.
Microsoft took a dim view of this, noting Lundgren infringed Redmond's copyright and Windows license and cost the company $700,000.
While computer sellers will normally ship a Windows restore disc with their machines, they can only be used with machines running licensed copies of Windows.
Lundgren said many people tend to throw out the discs or don't have the technical nous to make one, which resulted in them throwing out their PC and contributing to electronic waste. So he claims he was supplying a service for them and sellers of refurbished PCs as a way to prevent such wastage.
Licenses of Windows operating systems don't transfer, people without restore discs can obtain new ones at a discounted price of $25. As such, Microsoft said Lundgren was selling counterfeit software as legitimate.
"Unlike most e-recyclers, Mr Lundgren sought out counterfeit software which he disguised as legitimate and sold to other refurbishers. This counterfeit software exposes people who purchase recycled PCs to malware and other forms of cybercrime, which puts their security at risk and ultimately hurts the market for recycled products," Redmond told The Washington Post.
At US federal judge agreed with Microsoft's viewpoint and found Lundgren guilty of infringing copyright. Lundgren then challenged the verdict at the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, but the court decided to uphold the judge's decision.
Lundgren had begun his scheme some years ago, having created thousands or restore discs and having them shipped to a Robert Wolff, a Floridian broker he was dealing with. But US customs officers seized the shipment in 2012 and prompted an investigation into Lundgren.
While the discs were never sold, as part of a government sting operation, according to Lungden, Wolff called Lundgren to buy the discs thereby cementing a conspiracy to infringe copyright and traffic counterfeit goods.
While Wolff made a deal to get out of a prison sentence, Lundgren pleaded guilty, though said the discs were basically worthless as they had no license attached to them and were designed for machines with existing licenses.
Microsoft didn't agree And nor did the courts, which declared that the value of the discs were $25, not 25 cents apiece and that Redmond was out of pocket to the tune of around three-quarters of a million dollars. The discs were originally valued at the cost of a new Windows OS, some $299, which during Lundgren's indictment was claimed to have cost Microsoft $8.3m.
"I don't think anybody in that courtroom understood what a restore disk was," said Lundgren.
"I am going to prison, and I've accepted it," Lundgren told The Washington Post, seemingly OK with the sentence but not the crux of the issue.
"What I'm not okay with is people not understanding why I'm going to prison. Hopefully my story can shine some light on the e-waste epidemic we have in the United States, how wasteful we are. At what point do people stand up and say something? I didn't say something, I just did it."
Lundgren has been given a few weeks to get his affairs in order before he's bunged off to prison; he noted that an appeal to the Supreme Court would be too expensive and a long-shot, so seems to have accepted his fate.
Now copyright infringement is... well... copyright infringement; it's illegal. But e-waste is not something to be brushed off lightly either. So there's an argument that while what Lundgren did was against copyright law, it was done with good intentions and not motivated by profits.
However, Lundgren also raised a point that the courts had set a precedent that it's now fine for big tech companies to use criminal cases to target people looking at running e-waste schemes and get more life out of old computers.
We're not lawyers, copyright experts or indeed eco-warriors, but we reckon there must be a more harmonious middle-ground, where there's flexibility in copyright if replicating licensed software is done in a fashion that doesn't generate a profit and is totally focussed on a green agenda. µ
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