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Microsoft asks state lawmakers to make domestic companies pay for foreign firms' software piracy

Michael Gorman, @Numeson
March 27, 2011
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Microsoft's pirated software police have been going after companies abroad for years, but getting those far-away folks into US courtrooms isn't easy. What is easy, however, is suing the folks in your own back yard -- which is why Microsoft is lobbying to get laws passed in several states that'll put US businesses on the hook for the pirating ways of their foreign suppliers. For example, if a manufacturer uses pirated software in the "manufacture, distribution, marketing, or sales" of products sold in Washington, Microsoft could sue the vendor of those products and get an injunction to stop the goods from being sold. So Washington widget retailers would be liable for the piracy of their foreign widget manufacturers, even if the illicit act was merely creating the sales invoice on a counterfeit copy of Word.

The Washington state Senate and House have already approved different versions of the bill, and the legislature is in the process of merging the two together for final approval. Louisiana passed a similar law last year, and analogous bills have been proposed in Oregon and several other states as well. Numerous companies -- including Dell, IBM, Intel, and HP -- oppose the laws, as they see them giving Microsoft the power to not only drag them into court, but also futz with their supply chains. (There's bound to be some counterfeit software being used in Shenzhen, right?) As Microsoft's latest anti-piracy scheme unfolds, there should be plenty more legislative action to come. Evidently the crew in Redmond doesn't see piracy as a problem to be fixed by lowering prices.



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