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posted by martyb on Monday August 05 2019, @10:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the evil-is-as-evil-does dept.

[Editor's note: We generally try to provide balanced coverage of a story. This interview is "straight from the horse's mouth" and is, therefore, going to contain the biases of the interviewee. Nonetheless, we thought the story interesting enough that we wanted to put it out to the community to discuss. --martyb]

Roy Schestowitz over at Techrights has an informal, follow-up interview with e-waste recycler Eric Lundgren about his ordeal with Microsoft. Lundgren spent time incarcerated as a result of his efforts to re-use old Wintel computers and keep them out of the landfill. He is now finally out of prison.

"The judge didn't understand the difference between a "Restore CD" and a "License"," he complained, "and Microsoft convinced the judge that the "Restore CD" was of equal value and functionality to a new MSFT OS w. new license! I was honestly dumbfounded.. I kept waiting for someone to get it in court .. Instead – The judge threw out all of my expert witness' testimony and only kept Microsoft's testimony.."

[...] Lundgren was sort of tricked if not blackmailed. It was the old trick of plea 'bargain' that was leveraged against him. "They threatened me with 47 Years in Prison," he told us. "So my only choice was to plea-bargain.. I told them I would ONLY plead guilty to "Restore CD Without License" but then Microsoft convinced the judge to value a Restore CD at the SAME VALUE as a Full Microsoft OS w. License!"

Earlier on SN:
Microsoft's Full Response to the Lundgren Counterfeiting Conviction (2018)
California Man Loses Appeal in Copyright Infringement Case (2018)
'E-Waste' Recycling Innovator Faces Prison for Trying to Extend Life Span of PCs (2018)


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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by hemocyanin on Monday August 05 2019, @06:01PM (10 children)

    by hemocyanin (186) on Monday August 05 2019, @06:01PM (#876105) Journal

    She makes a good point, don't harsh on her like that. MS' licensing practices suck to be sure and the rules about who can and who cannot use the downloaded ISO free are completely arbitrary, but if MS wants to be that way it can.

    As for first sale doctrine, surely that applies when you actually have the thing first sold. If I buy a book, lose the last chapter somehow, and sell the book, the next owner can't go down to a bookstore and photocopy the last chapter, reinsert into the book, and then sell it again. You sell what'cha got. With these computers, the original restore discs that were first sold with the machines are gone for whatever reason. When he went to China and made exacting duplicates, he was trying to help people get something they never bought.

    Secondly, I would guess that in the wholesale market for refurbishers, the lack of a restore disc and the $25 hit that entails would be well known and that computers without restore discs cost less. By counterfeiting restore discs, he's hurting linux users by artificially increasing the public retail value of these old computers. A person like me would actually prefer one that has no MS license because presumably, I should get at least a $25 break on the hardware.

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by sjames on Monday August 05 2019, @07:52PM (4 children)

    by sjames (2882) on Monday August 05 2019, @07:52PM (#876154) Journal

    Except what they bought included the original license. The same MAY actually apply to that damaged book as well. Perhaps it's time to revisit the whole wave/particle duality that publishers want us to believe. It's either a physical medium OR it's a license. No more picking whichever one brings in the most money on a per-incident basis.

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Monday August 05 2019, @08:48PM (3 children)

      by hemocyanin (186) on Monday August 05 2019, @08:48PM (#876181) Journal

      If it is a physical product then the answer is easy: the discs are lost and Eric was counterfeiting.

      If it is a license, then we need to know what the license says about transferability. It appears that there is a license that follows the physical discs as opposed to the purchaser, so that is at least somewhat lenient -- MS could if it wanted to, make the license follow a person/computer combo if it wanted to be the most draconian.

      Anyway, the issues people have is that MS is greedy. That's a surprise. /s The problem in this case is that Eric and his partner were looking to profit from MS' greed through counterfeiting Dell discs. That's not so laudable and contributes nothing to the world at all. In contrast, look at all the people who have worked on free software over the years -- they're heros for doing it and have made the world a better place.

      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday August 05 2019, @11:05PM (2 children)

        by sjames (2882) on Monday August 05 2019, @11:05PM (#876227) Journal

        I agree that Free Software and the people working on it are making the world a better place.

        $4 is not actually a huge ask for saving the trouble of downloading, burning, and labeling a disk. It seems the profit is coming from actual work done rather than from unjust copying. Back when burners were less common and most people were stuck with dial-up, that was about the going rate for a Linux CD and most considered it fair enough.

        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Monday August 05 2019, @11:55PM (1 child)

          by hemocyanin (186) on Monday August 05 2019, @11:55PM (#876237) Journal

          It does seem to be a lot of effort for a low margin product, but Eric's situation is arguably different than burning and mailing a linux distro in two ways:

          1: He didn't do the work, he contracted the work to Chinese (likely near-slave labor) companies. His job was essentially quality control and arranging bulk shipping.
          2: A linux distro comes with a license that expressly permits -- perhaps even encourages -- people to share the work. MS' products aren't distributed that way.

          • (Score: 2) by sjames on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:23AM

            by sjames (2882) on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:23AM (#876245) Journal

            Most of the Linux CDs were contracted out for production as well. Very few were some guy in his basement (or an office) burning disks all day.

            MS has the same damned ISO on their site free to download. Their license enforcement is in entering the license key when you boot the disk. Eric made no effort to alter that enforcement.

            This is more like the guy offering free water suing the guy that sets up next to him offering paper cups for $0.05

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday August 05 2019, @09:51PM (4 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 05 2019, @09:51PM (#876198) Journal

    As for first sale doctrine, surely that applies when you actually have the thing first sold. If I buy a book, lose the last chapter somehow, and sell the book, the next owner can't go down to a bookstore and photocopy the last chapter, reinsert into the book, and then sell it again.

    Hang on a minute. The publisher allows downloading the last chapter for anyone to print, except not for second-hand book sellers, for which entire books are sold.
    Yes, legally the publisher is entitled to do so, but.. this doesn't mean a book without that chapter is not trashed if the book seller doesn't want to pay?

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:02AM (3 children)

      by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:02AM (#876238) Journal

      The double negative in the last sentence makes it hard to understand, but I'm thinking you are saying that without the last chapter, the book would be trashed because it couldn't be sold.

      Anyway, it appears that a consumer can download an ISO and install windows him/herself. A refurbisher without the original disc, must pay $25 for a new one so the refurbisher can install Windows. What is stopping a refurbisher with a machine that came without discs, from saying to customers: here's a computer with windows installed for $185. If you buy it with a blank HD and download and install windows yourself, you can have the machine for $150 (I built in $10 for the time required to install Windows).

      So back to your book analogy, the book with the chapter torn out could be sold. A bookseller might sell a complete non-damaged version for $3, but also put out the damaged one and say "this one is $2 but you have to go [here] and download the last chapter. It's stupid but I'm not allowed." What the book seller can't do, is download and print the last chapter and essentially charge $1 for the service by gluing it back into the binding of the damaged book.

      Is that stupid? yeah. But such is the law.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:38AM (2 children)

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 06 2019, @12:38AM (#876247) Journal

        The double negative in the last sentence makes it hard to understand, but I'm thinking you are saying that without the last chapter, the book would be trashed because it couldn't be sold.

        Yes, posting before morning coffee tends to have this effect.

        A refurbisher without the original disc, must pay $25 for a new one so the refurbisher can install Windows. What is stopping a refurbisher with a machine that came without discs, from saying to customers: here's a computer with windows installed for $185. If you buy it with a blank HD and download and install windows yourself, you can have the machine for $150 (I built in $10 for the time required to install Windows).

        Nothing stops him doing so, but delivering a machine that:
        1. has a blank HD and has not been tested doesn't seem in line with "selling a refurbished but working computer". If you test it installing form a recovery disk only to wipe the HD clean afterwards... what's the point?
        2. as a buyer, when your money and available time is tight, you may postpone indefinitely buying a tool which can help you get out the shit (sending job applications left and right), because you can't afford $35 and the time to get that ISO from MS and burn it on a computer you can't use because, well, has a clean HD**

        ** I had a couple of hardship periods when $120 meant my food for 2 weeks - didn't do my heath any service eating that cheap shit, but I wasn't willing to waste my time I dedicated to looking for a job in software to get a "shelf stacking" type of job, I simply couldn't afford the time/energy budget to do it. Fortunately, I didn't miss a computer in those periods and didn't need to rely on social security.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday August 06 2019, @03:00AM (1 child)

          by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday August 06 2019, @03:00AM (#876298) Journal

          I went through a time right out of school where I was couch surfing and eating wild blackberries because that is all I could afford. I do know what it is like to be poor even if I'm comfortable now. As I mentioned elsewhere, he'd be doing poor people a true favor by demoing how they can write resumes on linux just fine, plus check their facebook and twitter. It could even serve as gateway for some users toward server admin type careers. He didn't do that though -- he just counterfeited discs for personal profit.

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday August 06 2019, @03:52AM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 06 2019, @03:52AM (#876315) Journal

            he just counterfeited discs for personal profit.

            I get that he was to generate income from that, yes. I admit he could turn a profit, yes.
            Do you care to demonstrate he intended to do this purely for personal profit reasons? (many intention are possible, including getting funds to support his recycling operations).

            I love better these guys [computerbank.org.au]: based on volunteering, selling second-hands with Ubuntu installed. I donated twice when I refreshed my computers, I even pre-installed Ubuntu myself on the donated computers.
            However, I'm not gonna dismiss Eric's actions as useless only because he chose to do worse then computerbank guys; and my opinion is based on the ground that stopping him is a loss for the society (less computers being reused, less people benefiting from a computer), with nobody being better.

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0