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EU Fines for Microsoft Approved, Off the Record 692

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the whatever-that-means dept.
mattaw writes "The Register is carrying a report that all 25 member states of the EU have found Microsoft guilty of non-compliance, off the record. Microsoft is in line for a fine of $2.51 million per day backdated to December 15th 2004 for failing to meet the terms of the EU commission's ruling."
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EU Fines for Microsoft Approved, Off the Record

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  • so? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekylinuxkid (831805) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:42PM (#15658412) Journal
    It doesn't really mean all that much. Microsoft will do some kind of wheeling and dealing efforts to 1) lower the fine and 2) establish an even stronger marketshare in the EU such as giving away windows/office/etc to schools, businesses, etc. Sadly, in the end it all works out for redmond.
    • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NevDull (170554) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:46PM (#15658427) Homepage Journal
      Is there something that you'd prefer?

      While I find some of Microsoft's business practices to be anticompetitive, handing over monies to governments isn't really going to do anything. Giving money to competitors won't help anything, since they won't learn to be competitive with handouts...

      Honest question, not trolling... I'm wondering what they should really be doing, besides forcing Microsoft to stop doing business in member states as long as they remain noncompliant, perhaps.

      -Nev
      • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:54PM (#15658448) Journal
        Honest question, not trolling... I'm wondering what they should really be doing, besides forcing Microsoft to stop doing business in member states as long as they remain noncompliant, perhaps.

        What's wrong with forcing non-compliant businesses from operating?

        We should be wondering what Microsoft should really be doing, besides non-complying with anti-trust, anti-competitive laws, and stonewalling progress and crippling the competition. What'd be your honest answer to this question?
      • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:00AM (#15658463)
        I'm wondering what they should really be doing, besides forcing Microsoft to stop doing business in member states as long as they remain noncompliant, perhaps.

        To my mind: enforcing their judgement. MS, along with most American corps basically get to play Cartman in real life. They break every moral, ethical and legal code but when it comes time to pay the piper, a few well placed bribes or a just suggestion that perhaps at some point in the future they might throw a few jobs into someone's constituency and they get off with a pat on the head and a lollipop.

        The EU thing has been going on a really long time. I believe that even after they were found to be in violation, they continued with business as usual for over a year while the EU postured with a bunch of empty threats culminating in the "daily fine" threat. Since then, MS has been given ANOTHER eight months or so to get their house in order. If they had done so at any point during that time (eg: after continuing their predatory and arrogant behaviour for an additional two years AFTER being found guilty) they would have STILL gotten their lollipop.

        I think that fines are the only stick you've got to use on a corporation. What else would you suggest: throw all the employees and shareholders in jail or just give them a lollipop and ask them to play nice?
        • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rogerbo (74443) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:32AM (#15659206)
          jail terms for directors. It's the only way corporations will change their ways. Why should a corporation as a whole be held to a lesser moral standard than an individual is?
          • Re:so? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JesseMcDonald (536341)
            jail terms for directors. It's the only way corporations will change their ways. Why should a corporation as a whole be held to a lesser moral standard than an individual is?

            Better: jail terms for shareholders. Why should the owners of the corporation (who choose the directors) be held to a lesser moral standard than other individuals?

      • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:00AM (#15658466) Journal
        I'm wondering what they should really be doing, besides forcing Microsoft to stop doing business in member states as long as they remain noncompliant, perhaps.

        Use the fine money to fund a public reverse-engineering project for all the APIs and communications protocols. Nullify any patents held by Microsoft which would prevent competitors from re-implimenting the OS and/or bundled software.

        • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:17AM (#15658514) Journal
          Use the fine money to fund a public reverse-engineering project for all the APIs and communications protocols. Nullify any patents held by Microsoft which would prevent competitors from re-implimenting the OS and/or bundled software.

          I thought the EU does not permit software patents, as on date. Any MS patents are null and void in the EU as it is.
          • Re:so? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Raphael (18701) <quinet@nospAm.gamers.org> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:13AM (#15658934) Homepage Journal
            I thought the EU does not permit software patents, as on date. Any MS patents are null and void in the EU as it is.

            Except that the European Patent Office (EPO) claims that they are not regulated by the EU. They say that they were formed before the EU (as we know it today) and therefore they only have to report to individual countries instead of reporting to the EU. And since these countries cannot agree on a common action against the EPO, then the EPO can keep on using their weird interpretation of the patent treaty: according to the EPO, software as such cannot be patented but it can be patented if that software is running on a computer.

      • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Meltir (891449) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:06AM (#15658483) Homepage
        I'm wondering what they should really be doing, besides forcing Microsoft to stop doing business in member states as long as they remain noncompliant, perhaps.

        And thats exactly what this is all about.

        They cant really force anybody to stop using microsofts products, and they cant force microsoft to completly stop selling their products.

        So they gave microsoft some time to prepare documentation that would be available to competitors. For a fee. With no recommendation to give it away, or how much to charge for it. And to this today - microsoft has not yet complied, and are still working on documentation for an OS that was written a couple of years ago.

        Every developer worth their money has pre-project documentation, code documentation, end user documentation (for things such as api's and libraries). This has been a standard in the industry for decades. And - most of windows is documented in such a way if said libraries and api's were ever intended to be used by someone out of microsoft. And yet - the others werent, as i seems.

        The inner workings of windows and their internall protocols are a mystery even to them.

        Thats the only thing that could justify getting a 300 person team for over a year of time.

        AND NOT COMPLETING THE TASK!

        This only says about the quality of the code - or the obfuscation that they used to actually throw competitors off track.

        I remember when the ruling became a very public thing over here at slashdot. Everyone agreed that it was the only thing that the EC could do, and that decision was just.

        And now that the fines accumulated to a spectacular (even for microsoft this is a big bag of money which they will have to explain to their shareholders) 1 billion USD, everyone is beggining to feel sorry for them ?!


        Sorry - as far as i know they didnt comply, had well over a years time and are still arguing about their case.

        I have no sympathy for them. Not that i ever did - but feel free to point out the weeks spots in my understanding of this case.

        Disclamer: i am a linux user.
        • Re:so? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bobscealy (830639)
          Another possibility is the team was assembled to give the impression that they were trying to comply without the intent to comply. Perhaps they just underestimated the probability that they would be fined.
    • Re:so? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moochfish (822730)
      let's not jump to conclusions about how successful MS will be here. There seems to be enough political steam for this fine to actually happen. I'd say it's too early to say the EU will cave like the US did. MS is an American company, and as such, an American monopoly. The EU has a lot to gain by sending a clear message to MS and all future US monopolies who try to take economic advantage of the EU.
  • So that's... (Score:3, Informative)

    by CtrlPhreak (226872) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:44PM (#15658419) Homepage
    So roughly that's a year plus 7 months is ~575 days * 2.51 million, that's ONE BILLION DOLLARS! (1,443,250,000) Who let Dr. Evil run Europe?
    • Re:So that's... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:35AM (#15658573) Journal
      So roughly that's a year plus 7 months is ~575 days * 2.51 million, that's ONE BILLION DOLLARS! (1,443,250,000) Who let Dr. Evil run Europe?

      1. Maybe the judges reckon that MS made much more than ONE BILLION DOLLARS with their anti-competitive practices...

      2. Maybe they felt that the fine should be high enough to deter continued violation, but lower than MS's profits in the EU... thus MS would consider compliance the better policy?

      3. Maybe the judges aren't so happy to let the Corporate Mr. Evil run unchecked in Europe?
  • Thats A LOT of money (Score:3, Informative)

    by bombboyer (948246) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:44PM (#15658423) Homepage Journal
    As of July 5th, 2006: 567 days * 2.51 million per day = $1.423 BILLION Is there any way to avoid this fine?
  • by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:45PM (#15658426) Journal
    From TFA: "I can assure you that we are continuing to work day and night with our 300 dedicated engineers to create documentation which is complete and accurate to satisfy the European Commission."

    No wonder then! If it takes 300 engineers, several nights and days to document the protocols of an obsolete OS..... we should be surprised if Vista ships before 2010!
  • darn (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheKeeper (212278) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:48PM (#15658430) Homepage Journal
    hmm, ~1.4 billion...
    guess bill can only buy 2 small countrys this year,
  • Is it really fair? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zaydana (729943) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:49PM (#15658435)
    My first reaction was "w00t, MS is being fined > 1 billion". But, then I thought about it for a bit. Does even microsoft deserve that kind of ruling? They actually have made some changes, like the windows version without windows media player. And > 1 billion hardly seems to be a fair amount to charge for not documenting your software properly, even if you are a monopoly. It just somehow feels like theres something not right about it, even if it does give me the "eat that microsoft" feelings... call me strange if you want.
    • by tehwebguy (860335) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:52PM (#15658446) Homepage
      not to mention, like anyone would even opt to buy the "special" versions they forced to make
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:59PM (#15658461)
      1. The fine has to be big enough to sway the company receiving it. A billion dollar fine would be overkill for most companies, but MS isn't most companies. Consider that they made much more than this from the European Market in the meantime.

      2. And also to be fair, from what I have seen, MS has been bobbing and weaving like an aging boxer to avoid most of the spirit of the rulings. The commission gave them, up to now, 1.5 years to comply. And the company has been dragging its feet in every direction. This didn't come out of the blue.

      3. If you think this is harsh, consider that an American judge had ordered to split the company up completely.

      BTW, I am not for the commission completely (as I am not pro-EU, the EU tries to get into every aspect of European life which I abhor) but MS doesn't have to do business in Europe. I don't know if this will finally pass but it just has the balls to do what the US Justice Department was too corrupt (from up top) to finish.
    • by babbling (952366) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:08AM (#15658491)
      They don't deserve it for bundling a media player with their OS, but they do deserve it for using their monopoly to push proprietary file formats and protocols (eg. Office file formats) so that it is extremely difficult for people to switch away.
    • by Alsee (515537) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:17AM (#15658799) Homepage
      And > 1 billion hardly seems to be a fair amount to charge for not documenting your software properly

      Because that is NOT what they are being fined for.

      Microsoft was convicted of breaking the law, and the court levied NO punishment - I repeat *NO* punishment for that crinimal behaviour. The court merely ordered that they stop engaging in that criminal behavior, and ordered a remedy merely to stop the damage to the market from continuing. The remedy specifically being an order to permit a version of Windows with Media Player unbundled, and to document the protocols to permit competition in other software markets on an even footing. (Note that the US anti-trust conviction of Microsoft was purely remedy and carried no punative component either.)

      So why is Microsoft being fined well over a billion dollars? Because they did something else illegal!

      Microsoft is being fined for willful contempt of a lawful court order! The conviction and cort order was long ago. Microsoft deadline for compliance with the court order was over a year and a half ago! And like an overdue library book, Microsoft has been racking up a daily fine for their willfull disreguard with a lawful court order.

      Microsoft has drawn out this battle for so long that Microsoft gets to reap the rewards of their illegal behavior, and any remedy to terminate that particular illegal behavior becomes null and void. By the time this fight ends, Windows Vista will be just about to hit the market. Any documentation for working with previous operating systems becomes pretty well moot. Microsoft is using an illegal delying tactic to defeat the court order - to defeat the court itself. And delaying and refusing to comply with a court order carries a very specific penalty at law. That illegal behavior carries a signifigant $ daily fine. And that fine is entirely under Microsoft's control. Microsoft has chosen day after day to continue violating the law. Microsoft has chosen day after day to increase the fine they have to pay. Microsoft could have gotten off with $ZERO fine had they complied a year and a half ago.

      -
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:49PM (#15658439)
    An EC spokesman was unwilling to comment.

    Seconds earlier that night, said EC spokesman was was overheard in an Amsterdam cafe, "Dude! Can you believe it? $1.4 Billion. Pass that shit over here, some jackass American reporter is ringing my mobile."
  • 300 engineers (Score:4, Informative)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:55PM (#15658455)
    from TFA "I can assure you that we are continuing to work day and night with our 300 dedicated engineers to create documentation which is complete and accurate to satisfy the European Commission."

    300 engineers to document some protocols? I could believe 10, maybe 20 could get the job done in a few weeks. How on earth could 300 engineers work together on such a (excuse my ignorance/naivete) trivial job for two years? Hasn't this guy heard of The Mythical Man Month? MS aren't idiots; they've designed the process to fail. They deserve every cent of the fines.

    • Re:300 engineers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by convolvatron (176505) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:04AM (#15658472)
      i actually talked to them about this work. apparently there are 150 seperate
      protocols including CIFS, and tens of thousands of pages of documentation,
      which are terribly inadequate given their culture. they were talking about
      a spec-writing team of 50 to do part of that work in a 6 month period of
      time. many of the other people involved were the engineers who did the
      original implementations and are now the only source of information.

      they dug themselves a really really big hole. getting out is basically
      impossible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:04AM (#15658477)
    Is that like double secret probation?
  • Sad day for America (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin.wick@gmai l . com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:23AM (#15658533)
    To me it's a sad day for America when we have to rely on other countries to police our corporations for us. Of course, I wonder if the EU would have been as hard on Microsoft if it were based in, say, France?
    • by rodac (580415) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:37AM (#15658586) Homepage
      Some years ago a large swedish company was fined for anti-competitive practises and price dumping on the italian market.

      that is a big no-no and they were fined the standard 10% of the annual global revenue.

      10% global annual revenue hurts big time if you are a multinational company.

      many other european companies have been fined in the same way.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What do you think happened to France over the British beef thing?

      You in Europe you adhere to Europe rules. European country do or get find.
      WHat makes an American company working in Europe think it does not have to adhere to our rules?
      they screwed up, they must pay the price
  • Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:26AM (#15658541) Homepage Journal
    Now roll that 1 billion dollars into OSS development to bring an open source OS and applications up to truly competitive levels with MS. Hell I'd even be satisfied if they paid EU software companies to port their application software to OSX. Just get some freaking competition in there already...
    • Re:Great... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tgv (254536)
      Why not give it to Oracle? Why not rolling it into cheap medicine for development countries? Or fundamental research? Or a great new weapon system?

      It's a fine. It's not meant to distribute the money in that particular market equally under all competitors. It's meant as a punishment for Microsoft.

      And the idea that the EC is going to decide what software is going to be developed and by whom and how, gives me the creepers. If you know the EC's record on scientific funding, the thought of them funding software
  • the irony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by freaker_TuC (7632) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:45AM (#15658606) Homepage Journal
    An United States flag above an European Union article ;)

    maybe time to add a template for overseas too? since /. is carrying enough european/international topics
  • lets add that up... (Score:3, Informative)

    by indy_Muad'Dib (869913) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:47AM (#15658611) Homepage
    2.51 million per day backdated to december 15th

    202 days

    $507,020,000 USD

    plus 2.51 each day til they are im compliance.

    thatsa pretty big chunk o cash.

    they expect to make 11.5 - 11.7 billion this year, losing 5% is pretty bad.
  • by valentyn (248783) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:10AM (#15658784) Homepage
    The headlines are wrong. The fine is retroactive to December 15, 2005.
  • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:12AM (#15658932)
    After seing many of the posts here on /. i don't understand this "poor Microsoft evil EU mentality".

    You see, my biguest personal grip with the law in capitalist countries at the moment is how disproportionaly harsher it is on individuals that it is on companies - for example, if an individual kills someone due to negligence he/she goes to prison, while if a company kills multiple people they get a fine.

    Even more relevant to this situation is the disparity when both the individual and the company do something for which they are fined: the issue here is that, proportionaly to the annual income of the individual and the company, a fine with the same value usually is a much higher burden for an individual than for a company. Worse still, for equally harming crimes, companies often get lower fines than individuals since they have beter lawyers, beter connections and the law is (thanks to many years of lobbying) skewed to be harsher on the types of crimes done by individuals than one those done by companies even when both crimes do the same amount of harm.

    So back to the fine on MS and to put things in perspective:
    - MS had in the year of 2005 a net (thus after taxes) income of $12254 millions, a fine of 1.400 millions is thus 11,4% of their net income.
    - For an individual making $150000 bruto per month, with a 30% flat income tax (thus $105000 net income), an equivalent fine (thus 11,4% of their yearly net income) would be $11970

    Thus, Microsoft's fine is equivalent to a $11970 (in one year) fine for an individual with an well above average income.

    • is thus 11,4% of their net income.

      Or roughtly 6 weeks pay. If you are payed by the week, it is easy to calculate. If by the month, it is 1.3 times your monthly wage. So to roughtly calculate, add one third to your monthly pay and that is the fine.

      Nothing you will go broke over, but also nothing you will want to repeat.

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