Microsoft Wants To Make It Illegal To Buy From An Overseas Company That Uses Unauthorized Software
from the overreach-much dept
Microsoft’s latest strategy against overseas infringement (something the company used to admit helped its bottom line in the long run) is to run around lobbying various state governments to pass ridiculous and likely unconstitutional laws that put liability on the buyers of any products from an overseas company that uses unauthorized software.
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.
You heard me right. 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.
That seems like a pretty serious case of misplaced liability. However as Groklaw notes, Louisiana has already passed such a law, and it looks like Microsoft’s home state (of course) of Washington is passing a similar law.
Thankfully, many businesses are realizing the incredible liability this could put on them, and are speaking out against the bill:
Regardless, piracy is Microsoft?s problem to solve as it has been trying to do for several years. It is a problem akin to what retailers call “shrink,” or the loss of income from merchandise stolen either by outsiders or employees. Unfortunately, shrink is a painful cost of doing business. But retailers no more would seek Microsoft?s help with this problem than Microsoft should be asking retailers to help pay for solving its challenges with software piracy….
The bills under consideration are so sweeping in their scope they represent an invitation to a legal challenge on their constitutionality in light of federal copyright and trade authority. Even if this never became a U.S. constitutional debate, retailers are hardly capable of finding the means to assist Microsoft in becoming a worldwide police force to protect against software piracy.
This seems like a massive overreach by Microsoft, going even further than the entertainment industry’s attempts to get ISPs to act as their copyright cops. In this case, Microsoft is trying to get any US company to be required to act as copyright cops for overseas suppliers, or face huge fines.