Bandits Give Microsoft a Lesson on Copying, Stealing

Unarmed bandits stole a "Microsoft Security" sign from one of the company's security vehicles in Mountain View, California Tuesday night. In an interview, one of the bandits called the action a response to Microsoft's controversial plan to "close the PC" by getting manufacturers to modify hardware to restrict copying.

the451.com reported last week that Brad Smith, deputy general counsel for the company, asked at a meeting, "How can you steal something if the original is still there after you've made the copy?"

The answer to Smith's question is that copying and stealing are different, the bandit argued. "Any corporate counsel who didn't get his law degree out of the back of a comic book should know the difference between copying, which is often legal, and stealing, which is a crime", the bandit said. Customers have the right to make some copies, such as quotations, backups and personal copies on portable devices, and Microsoft's so-called "Digital Rights Management" attacks legitimate copying along with copyright infringement, he added.

Although Microsoft is free to disable copying functionality in its own software products, the bandit said, even people who don't use Microsoft's software should be concerned by the company's "close the PC" plan, described at http://research.microsoft.com/crypto/openbox.asp. The plan "involves making minor modifications to the PC's hardware to allow Microsoft to make a secure version of the Windows Media Player", and, according to the site, some hardware vendors are already close to signing on.

Will Microsoft be able to use the "minor modifications" to lock out non-Microsoft software? Will Microsoft's hardware-based attack on free speech and fair use succeed where software alone has failed? Nobody knows. And will Microsoft ever learn the difference between copying and stealing? "I'll keep stealing until they do", the bandit said.

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