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[vox] [Fwd: Michael's Minute: Can I Answer My Phone Without Paying $124,000?]
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[vox] [Fwd: Michael's Minute: Can I Answer My Phone Without Paying $124,000?]

I've always been behind Lindows--I really hope the company takes off if not for any other reason than to give M$ some much needed competition on the desktop.

In that light, the article below is a bit sobering. It goes to show how M$ will stop at nothing to eliminate competition. I guess the only thing really innovative about M$ is the approach they take to the legal system--foreign or domestic.

====== Forwarded Message ======

Michael's Minute: Can I Answer My Phone Without Paying $124,000?

After the revelation last week that Microsoft seems to be playing a role in funneling cash to SCO to attack Linux, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that Microsoft will do anything to try to halt Linux. This shouldn't surprise anyone, given Microsoft executives' track record of breaking the law, and the many books chronicling their unethical behavior over the last two decades. Routinely we see Microsoft threatening companies that we interact with in the computer business who want to support desktop Linux by withholding technical support, withdrawing market development funds, threatening lawsuits, and more.

In our own battles, Microsoft is trying to shut us down using any tactic, and since our web site is our outlet to the world, they have attacked us there. Two years ago they asked a US court to shut down our website, and they were denied. They tried again in the US and again they were denied. More than a year later, they snuck off to Finland and with no notice to us, and asked the courts there to block the Lindows website. (They did not reference the US actions.) At this point, Lindows did not know that Microsoft had filed papers in Finland, so we were not able to oppose them. The Judge blocked sales of Lindows to their citizens, but refused to block the web site. Microsoft did not let us know about this ruling. They then took this ruling to Sweden and asked the courts there to block our web site and sales. Again the Judge refused to block web site, but did block sales. Once again, Lindows was not given any notice and was not able to oppose their actions. (When the rulings are made absent of the other party to oppose, this is called an ex-parte ruling.) Once we discovered the courts' rulings we went to both of those courts asking them to reconsider. These appeals are under way.

>From there, Microsoft went to the Netherlands. Ironically, in the land where heroin and prostitution are legal, they found a jurisdiction to rule that simply viewing the Lindows.com website is forbidden and demanded that we block it. Microsoft knows there is no way to effectively block only residents of the Netherlands, short of shutting down our website to all visitors worldwide. They are asking the court to fine us $124,000 per day for every day that Dutch citizens can view our website, which a small company like Lindows can obviously not pay. (For the record, our total sales in the Netherlands are a small fraction of that $124,000.) Microsoft's $60 Billion in the bank provides them with a virtually unlimited legal budget, they can simply sue and sue again until they win.

This conflict has now morphed into something much larger than a trademark squabble and may determine who decides what consumers can see on the Internet. You are witnessing how an established company can simply sue another company that threatens it in country after country until they achieve the outcome they desire. Since web sites are globally reachable, companies have 191 countries, or 191 attempts, to get the outcome they desire. After 5 tries, Microsoft located a court which would give them what they want. Now Lindows.com is forced to not-comply and risk massive financial penalties or shutdown our entire website.

I want to be clear about our position. We are not disputing the jurisdiction of the Netherlands. I believe it's important to honor the rule of law. After the ruling against us, we put up a notice on every page of our web site. We halted both digital and physical sales from Lindows to the affected countries. We removed links on our website to our resellers in those countries. We sent out notices to our resellers. But the bigger question is this: just because our servers are connected to the Internet, does that mean that anyone else connected to the same wires can dictate what we do with our servers in the US?

Would it be OK for a foreign Judge to rule that if someone calls my U.S. office from another country that I cannot utter the word 'Lindows' when I answer the phone, simply because our phone lines were connected, making such a call possible? Worse yet, if I answered the phone would I incur a fine of $124,000 per day? Our phones may be connected to some of the same wires that a web visitor would travel when connecting to the Lindows.com web site. If they can insist a web site be shutdown so their residents cannot access it, why not the phone system as well? It sounds preposterous, but it is what seems to be unfolding in the Netherlands, and every Net citizen should be worried. We may be headed to a world where rich companies can shop around, looking for a friendly court and use that to ban content, ideas, products and choices which they may disagree with.

-- Michael

R. Douglas Barbieri

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