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Microsoft

France To Investigate Microsoft's Business Practices 70

Renaud writes "The French Ministry of Economy and Finances today announced it would launch an investigation on Microsoft's alleged "dominant position abuse". Another article talks about the forced bundling of Windows 98 with new PCs. Interestingly enough, a Microsoft France spokesman is quoted as saying : "If someone doesn't want to use Windows 98, he can bring his computer back to his reseller, who will fill a coupon and refund him"." Yes, it's true; the article are in French - so head over to The Fish and try to make heads or tails of the translation.
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France To Investigate Microsoft's Business Practices

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wasn't there an article a few months back about a French Microsoft Spokesperson saying that windows was an 'integral' part of a PC? And now they are giving money back? Maybe Im wrong.. but if thats the case thats one hell of a turnaround.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, MS business practices here in EU are pretty bad. I know from a first-hand source that a large computer manufacturer here in Europe was forced by MS to not put a Netscape logo alongside the Internet Explorer logo.

    Sorry for being an AC but I don't feel like losing my job.
  • I think that was translated wrong:

    "We do not mislead anybody, moderates it. When you have a baby, you do not ask the doctor to give the baby your own Appendix. Windows 98, it is similar, the Appendix of each computer."

  • INQUIRE. [tri.gif] The complaints of constrained consumers to buy the software Windows 98 with their new computer accumulate. The ministry for Finances could put fine at this monopoly of the firm of Bill Gates.

    France attacks Microsoft

    [870779.gif] DOMENICA STRAUSS-KAHN attacks Bill Gates! The Minister for the Economy and Finances has just ordered with his Fraud Squads to inquire into Microsoft, the firm of the American billionaire. As to the United States, where a lawsuit river opposes Microsoft to the American government, France thus will examine the situation of the multinational on its territory. The detractors of the firm of Bill Gates show it to have padlocked the market in order to oblige the consumers to buy its software. The customer does not have any more the choice , summarizes Vincent Balat, a researcher in data processing, which estimates that Windows 98, the product headlight of Microsoft, is even less effective than its competitor, Linux, a software however available free on Internet.

    Constrained to buy the software in double

    Vis-a-vis with these criticisms, the specialized services of Bercy must thus gather the procedures already initiated in certain departments in order to peel the various litigations. If this investigation shows abnormal situations or obstacles with the rules of the market, the consulting of competition will be received , explains one in Bercy. With the key, Microsoft would risk continuations and fines. One of the first to have addressed a file of complaint to the repression of the frauds is a professor of data processing of the higher Teacher training school of Paris, Roberto Di Cosmo. Impassioned of data processing, and author of a book to vitriol against Microsoft (1), Roberto Di Cosmo thinks that the multinational misuses its position of leader. When one buys a computer today, explains it, one buys the apparatus and also the software which goes with. And even if the latter represent approximately 20 % of the price, that is not never detailed , regrets it. On a computer bought 5 000 F, 1 000 F approximately would go to the manufacturers of programs. Among this software, Windows 98, the operating system of Microsoft, is essential to the operation of the apparatus. How the computers are sold already equipped with Windows, as soon as apparatus is changed, one thus buys again Windows! explain Roberto Di Cosmo. Since months, this data processing specialist in vain claims with his retailer the refunding of several software which it has from now on in double, since it did not sell his worn computers.

    Promise of compensation

    Indeed, this situation can appear abnormal , comments on Jerome Franck, a lawyer specialized in right of consumption. But to date, only one purchaser in France, a teacher of Montpellier (to read below), was refunded by his retailer. On this ground, the position of Microsoft seems to evolve/move. We are ready to refund , us indicated yesterday Vahé Torossian, director at Microsoft France of divisions manufacturer and general public and, for this reason, specialist in the questions of licence. We do not mislead anybody, moderates it. When you buy a new car, you do not ask your manufacturer to install the engine of your old there. Windows 98, it is similar, it is the engine of each computer. That known as, Vahé Torossian ensures that its firm is ready with possible refundings. If somebody does not wish to use Windows 98, it can bring back its computer to its retailer, who will fill a form then will compensate it , announces it. A good news for the opponents at Microsoft, even if the amount of these compensations remains still unknown. (1) the planetary Holdup, the hidden face of Microsoft , with the Calmann-Lévy Editions.

    Laurent Valdiguié

    --
    rickf@transpect.SPAM-B-GONE.net (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • scenario you mentioned (you will not be able to buy windoze along with your computer, it will have to be purchased separately and installed by the user) sounds sweet to me.

    mostly because i think that buying PC with preinstaled OS is like buying car with driver bundled.
    so than you are maybe not content with bundled one, but while you alredy have OS/driver, you are lazy to purchase new and better one.

    it also forces reselers to reconsider bundling practises (maybe they will bundle after such action but you will have more than one item long list to choose from).

    in general, such move would greatly speed up healing proces of IT industry.

  • i compared (in another post) the duo of PC+Windows to car+driver (driver as live person which drives the car :) . while i'm aware it's not perfec comparison i think the one used by FrM$ (you cited) is flawed:
    when talking about car+engine then in comparison to PC better equivalent of engine is CPU!

    but anyway ... such equivalents/comparisons are never very exact.
    people often forget that equivalents/comparisons are used for making something more clear. not to exactly defines the actual thing.

  • Not the perfect comparison?!?

    This analogy is not drawn to try to make the role of Windows in your PC any clear - rather the opposite. MassacrE parodied it perfectly with his appendix quip:

    "When you have a baby, you do not ask the doctor to give the baby your own Appendix."

    If Microsoft had wanted to make the situation clearer, they would have stated:

    "When you buy a new house, you do not ask the removal company to take your old furniture there."

    Hamish
  • "We do not mislead anybody, moderates it. When you buy a new car, you do not ask your manufacturer to install the engine of your old there. Windows 98, it is similar, it is the engine of each computer."

    I can't remember Micros~1 ever having sunk this low before.
  • I think, what is the 'rest of the story' is that M$, created with much experience w/ software piracy (I can post the Gate's ancient '76 'open letter to hobbyists' if necessary) simply expects people to steal copies of anything if at all possible - therefore offering refunds for software is strongly discouraged, because they expect folks to simply keep win9x installed, make a dup of the cd, and try to get some money back for free!

    Of course the real issue is that their marketing has vendors locked into a knee-jerk "of course you'll want Win & M$Office w/ that PC" - sorta like McDonalds giving and billing you for fries w/ every Hamburger, because their potatoe supplier has a monopoly on potatoes and McD or BurgerClown can't buy 'em from anybody else so they have to cave in to whatever M$ demands.

    That's why I keep saying, it's an illegal/unethical company with illegal/unethical customers and I'd just as soon avoid the whole mess of 'em, the whole sleezy unprofessional lot.

    Chuck
  • I think that buying a PC with an OS preinstalled is more like buying an automobile with the engine preinstalled.
    ...
    The large majority of the public tends to agree with my opinion, though.

    Hey, look everybody, it's Anonymous Microzombie again.

    Microzombie, if I take Windows out of my computer, it will still run, since it has a CPU. If I take tyhe CPU out, it will not help that the hard disk has Windows installed. Verstehst du?

    The one major effect of not shipping Windows pre-installed is that the myth that Windows is user-friendly gets shot at the bow, as the poor customers futively try to get it installed.

  • I wonder if, some day, we will see a pro-MS article from someone mature enough to identify themselves.

    But then, I also wonder if we some day will have anti-gravity-equipped spaceships travelling in hyperspace.

  • Actually, I should count myself as well: I do occasionally defend some of their products, for instance their JVM is better than Sun's 1.1.8 on Windows.
  • But if the comp's obsolete, you're not going to use that copy of windows anyway. Look, I too object to the M$ tax, but this is actually something everybody does. You buy a copy of |insert random software package here| for every machine you're using it on. If we fight that, the whole industry will turn over and squash us.
  • Did anyone notice that one of the main arguments in both articles is that computer owners are forced to buy a licence for each computer they own, even if they already own a copy of windows on an older machine?

    This is standard licensing practice, and while I'm as glad to see M$ get knocked as the rest of you, there's no lack of real, cogent arguments for doing away with them, without warping tha facts. If I use Photoshop on two computers, that's two copies (licences) of Photoshop. Come to that, if I use n of almost any commercial software I am required to have n licences!

    The Windows Tax argument is valid, but this is not it. What I (and many others) object to is that it is very difficult to buy a PC without a pre-installed (and paid-for) copy of Windows on it, and next to impossible to get a refund after the fact.

    BTW 'fish mangled that pretty badly - even after reading the French some parts were obscure.
  • That's still pretty stupid. If I return the unopened package and registration number that came with my PC, that should do the trick, how else am I ever going to buy a PC?

    Case in Point: My ~DM700 Celeron based PC came with a ~DM800 license of Windows NT Workstation included..... You tell me if this makes sense.

    (No, for DM700 I could never have built it from parts - which I usually prefer doing.)
  • Why would you want to get a refund for your computer? It's Windows that these people didn't want.... the computers were fine. Big difference.
  • How much did the distributor pay for the license of Windows he was selling to the customer? Probably not the full retail price of Windows that a consumer would pay off the shelf. Not being in the OEM business, I don't know what these prices are myself, but I imagine they're much less than the retail price. Like it or not, PC prices would NOT go down that much (they'd go down some, though) without all the bundled software (there are of course exceptions like bundling Office).

  • All I can say is lots of luck trying to extradite them.
  • Between this, and the govt. adopting debian linux, (and my inability to speak French) all I can say is `Yay France!'
  • A number of European states have been paying attention to the anti-trust case in the United States and quietly investigating Microsoft's business practices this side of the pond - and slowly coming to much the same conclusions as those who filed the US antitrust suit. The European Commission, certainly, has been observing developments with interest. So it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

    I'd have thought they'd have waited until the conclusion of the current trial though, as that would give a clearer indication of what to expect. This could get messier for Microsoft. They could be forgiven for thinking everyone really is out to get them, I think.

    --
    This isn't the post you're looking for. Move along.

  • >If this case is won by the government, they will probably request prison sentences for the senior M$ employees who signed the contracts with the PC distributors in France.


    No way. Penal law is only applied if a crime was commited. Selling windows with a computer cannot be described as a crime. (or can it ? ;))


    >I would expect 5 to 7 people to get ~1 year sentences, and another 20 to 50 to get suspended (avec surcis, similar to american parole) sentences.


    Again, no way. You are making us look like a very repressive country. In France you have to be a recidivist or have commited a "real" crime to effectively go to prison.

    Even if penal law was applied - wich I repeat, is not the case - they would only get "sursi".


    So don't you all start dreaming of seeing M$ execs in prison. It won't happen. Not in France at least... ;)

  • From a french point of vue...

    This morning I was very surprised to discover in my local newspaper, the Parisien (I live near Creil, 50 km north of Paris), that "L'instituteur qui fait plier Microsoft" (the teacher that wins over M$) was on the headlines...

    I did not understand WHY would government take M$ to courts; last year, DSK (Dominique Strauss Kahn), our financial secretary, was on a photo with Bill Gates and his partners : Michel Bon, of France Telecom etc...
    We use to say that France is late concerning new technologies... I thought at these times that we were REALLY late: Bill was the #1 ennemy in the States, with the DOJ case, and we were hosting him...

    Now it seems that we are opening our eyes, and that (our greatly monopolistic!!!) France Telecom is going the Linux way, just take a look at their latest search engine, voila [voila.fr] (there is a Linux logo on the bottom of the page)...
    The consumers have just began to think of the forced selling of Windows with your PC... and so the Microsoft case is going to courts.

    BUT, there are some things that you american geeks have not understood in the article (was it altavista's fault?)

    1/ the french teacher who got its win98 refunded was not refunded by M$ : he just was lucky enough to buy a PC at the supermarket, and the representative was so dumm that the Win licence was refunded at a price of 649F (just the price of the upgrade in the shops).
    Microsoft has never refunded anyone in France, and I bet that the supermarket lost 649F this day...

    2/ France Telecom went partialy public (we say 'privatized' :) ) 4 years ago, not in the beggining 90s... It is very little time so they are still monopolistic : do you know that we pay for local calls, that we will only get DSL in november with severe limitations... cause of the monopole??? FT has competitors but we will never get flat local rates before the FT monopoly stops...

    I hate monopolies....
  • That's a picture of Bill the Borg. Seen any Star Trek lately? If not... it might not make much sense.
  • As a Frenchman, I've been very amused by the comments on the line of "France's gummint is after Gates, the poor bastard is doomed." Riiight.

    Really check time. Let's take a look at a few past cases that were much, MUCH worse than MS's mere competition infringement. For instance, the contaminated blood affair. In a nutshell, France's official Blood Transfusion organization has collected blood in prisons (with a high percentage of seropositive and hepatitis-carrying drug addicts among donors), then batched the blood and extracted anticoagulant factors that were then transfused to haemophilic patients. The alarms from doctors were ignored, and the French gummint refused to authorize the American HIV test methods and waited almost a year for a French test to be perfected.

    Result: France has now the lower percentage of haemophilia cases in the Western world, due to half of the patients dying from AIDS. This is the most efficient DNA-screening plan the world has ever seen.

    The investigation revealed it all. The High Special Court was assembled for the first time ever to try the ministers and officials who covered this massive killing. The court sanction was severe: a blame for the culprits. I kid you not.

    And that was for killing 1200 people. Of course, the perpetrators had the right connections, and they deposited some money into the adequate Socialist political funds.

    So I'm sure that Bill Gates is very frightened of being blamed. If he's clever, he will make a fat campaign contribution for Jospin, the Socialist prime minister, and the whole affair will be forgotten.

    Quit dreaming, people, if my country had some remnant of decency among its officials, I'd know it. Microsoft will certainly bribe its way out of this minor problem, with little or no damage. I'm not suggesting this is a planned extorsion setup, but you get the idea.

    Reread Ayn Rand for a detailed description of said extorsion mechanism. And sorry for raining on your parade, kids.

    --SysKoll

  • >Bring his computer back?

    >So basically if you don't want to use Windows, you have to bring back your entire computer for a refund?

    They just want to make sure you're holding up your end of the agreement. The only way they have to give you a refund on your OS is if Win(x) hasn't gotten past the legal agreement.

    BTW: All large organizations are out of wack with reality.
  • On the contray, CmdrTaco just posted the press release, explaining that he has to keep his trap shut about it now. Go refresh your main /. page.

    So I suggest that this thread not be continued here.
  • I've been intending to ask this for ages, but just
    what is that red thing in orbit to the left of
    Bill G's head?
  • Copyright laws were devised with protecting the weak and the poor in mind, that is, the writers.

    Isn't it striking that the richest man in the world has made a habit of it of bullying every one around and abuse and re-abuse the law?

    We must therefore add clauses to the copyright laws that prevent their abuse.

    The law needs to state clearly that the author seeking protection under the copyright law, may never issue a license to a copy, but only the copy itself. There cannot be any restriction on selling or transferring the copy otherwise. The author is entitled to the proceeds of the first sale only en has no rights whatsoever to claim in subsequent sales; just like a house owner has no rights in subsequent sales of his house.

    It is clear that the law must also state clearly that there can be no patents for software, but only copyrights.
  • You write :
    No one held a gun to these idiots heads and said, buy store bought pre built pcs. You could very easily order the parts, build your own pc

    Yeeeaah ! This is exactly what Microsoft relies on ! All the pre-manufactured PCs with WinXX inside, locking Linux into the tiny niche of those who know enough about computers to build up one. Great !

    Besides, the question is not here. The question is precisely to know whether or not Microsoft used illegal tactics to impose its OS on PC manufacturers, thus cheating the market (that is me and you, dear [whatever]fscker). In other words, you're blaming a "socialist" government because he wants to enforce what you're asking for : letting the market decide !

    Thomas Miconi
    PS : Please do not think I'm saying you're stupid. Ireally don't need to. The title of your original post is enough to establish the negativity of your IQ beyond reasonable doubt.
  • 't was more kind of the opposite; I read "socialist suck". Probably didn't understand well. Sounded a little too much like the man-without-a-clue who equates anything labelled "socialist" with collectivization and gulags. Knee jerk reaction : flame. A bit excessive, probably.


    For the rest, I maintain.
  • Actually, if you are a small retailer you pay the same. I have a very close friend which runs a small local computer store. They sell around 40 units a month. They pay $75 a copy for Win98 from their distributor. It gets even worse when it comes to MS Office. They are unable to buy the version of Office that Gateway and Dell bundle and the price for the full version is more then you can buy it for at Best Buy or CompuUSA! MS will give them all the copies of Works they want though!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well with all this "moderation", I'd already say we're under a kind of media blackout.

    This thing where /. posters compare apples (community-centered moderation) with oranges ("blackouts" imposed by outside authorities) is REALLY beginning to get me down. They are a) different, b) different, c) different.

    Your eyes should have passed over the following before you clicked on that button marked "submit."

    Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (
    You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

    Wow, even moderated posts? You mean they don't get sent to the bit bucket?

    How does this compare with Iran circa 1989's policy toward, oh, say, Salman Rushdie novels?

    A short list of related thoughts:

    • No single controlling authority moderates posts up or down in the moderation system used here (compare to moderated usenet groups)
    • Your "right" to to say what you want is not compromised in the sense that a legal penalty applies if you say something unpopular.
    • There are social penalties for doing unpopular things here, but that's going to be true in any gathering of hominids, so get used to it.
    • Even those who say something unpopular can get heard here, if they are civil and treat those with whom they disagree with respect and as deserving of reasons for thinking the "unpopular" views might be true.

    My sincere apologies to you if you weren't defending this idea that strikes me as completely crackpot, and to anybody who has the misfortune to read this screed. I guess it was the "post too far".

  • I tried Bablefish, and it did this, but I had to do it paragraph by paragraph so I posted it here. If you find it helpful yeah, if not oh well.

    France Telecom Paris: Intranet under Linux.

    Alcove could obtain this market as much by the quality of its technical response that by a very professional offer of services. Through this service, France Telecom Paris becomes the 500ème customer of Alcove.

    Project PHENIX (Platform of Standardized HEbergement of the Intranet under linuX) of France Telecom Paris: Each unit and the state major of France Telecom Paris (6300 people on the whole) develops their own sites Intranet, and of the possible interfaces with data bases. These sites are lodged today on heterogeneous servers (Windows NT and Linux) and mainly developed with the FrontPage software. The dynamic pages or those with access to the data bases are created using ASP/VBSript or Perl.

    France Telecom Paris wishes to make migrate the whole of these sites Intranet towards a Linux platform, supporting all the existing functionalities or to come. The objective is to improve comfort of the users, to allow a better evolutionarity, and to ensure a simplified exploitation and an administration induced by the recognized stability of the system.

    The technical proposal of Alcove: For the Linux platform, the distribution Debian GNU/Linux was retained. The Web server turns under Apache with support of Perl, PHP (more flexible and more powerful than its functional equivalent ASP/VBScript), and of the FrontPage extensions. The DBMS selected is PostgreSQL (software free in conformity with standard SQL 92), whose driver ODBC allows a transparent use of the DBMS from stations customers under Windows. For the updates of documents, Alcôve chose to implement software ftp ProFTPD, at the same time powerful and made safe.

    An offer of services complete and very professional: The contract signed by France Telecom Paris and Alcôve is an annual engagement. It integrates the follow-up of the whole of the project by an officer project, consulting in Free Data processing, of the days of consulting, the interventions on site for and the configuration installation of the servers, the days of formation and a contract of technical aid.

    For Small Lucien, chairman of Alcove: " This very beautiful project at France Telecom as well as the strategic partnership tied lately with SGI confirm our place of leader of the services in Free Data processing. Our positioning, with the interface of the community of the free developers of software and the world of the company, enables us to fully satisfy waitings of our customers large accounts and our partners. It is besides to meet more precisely still their needs than we currently work with the proposal for contracts of assistance 24/7. "

  • If someone doesn't want to use Windows 98, he can bring his computer back to his reseller, who will fill a coupon and refund him.

    Bring his computer back?

    So basically if you don't want to use Windows, you have to bring back your entire computer for a refund?

    if this was truely a Microsoft statement, then it's time to outlaw the company. I think they are getting too dangerous for our good.. Let the Americans have Microsoft if they desire product slavery, but I think they should not be allowed to trade in Europe anymore. Other monopolies got shut down, even in the overly capitalistic USA, why not Microsoft? Who did they bribe?

    The only sensible way to deal with Microsoft these days seems to be to either sell your soul to them, or to hate them. A compromise seems no longer possible.

    Yes, this might seem a little radical, but please - even a three year old should be able to see that MS has gotten way out of whack with reality.

  • When refunding pc's with windows was tried in the US it failed miserably. Even though Microsoft said that it would allow customer's to bring thier PC's back, I doubt many people will take advantage of that offer. If people should, and an actual Refund Windows movement get started in France, I think Microsoft will quickly change its position on that offer. Microsoft Press People say anything to make the company look goo.
  • I'm pretty sure the large majority of the population don't have an opinion, since they don't all buy computers on a regular basis.

    The analogy of buying a car without an engine is wrong. I would consider the CPU to be the engine, and the OS to be petrol.

    In M$ case, you are being forced to buy a 5 year supply of petrol from only one supplier at a fixed price way above the price of petrol at other suppliers. If you don't want to buy the petrol, don't buy the car, is their rationale. Sure, you can buy the car, and then put any other petrol into it, and it will run, but you still have to pay for theirs even if you don't use it.

    Thats a better analogy, but I think reducing a complex problem to an analogy doesn't work very well.

    the AC
  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@freds h o m e.org> on Thursday September 16, 1999 @11:51PM (#1677595) Homepage
    The MS people in France have so far been doing what they've always done worldwide, that is resist to any attempt to dissociate theyr software fropm PCs that were sold. However the EULA is pretty much the same as elsewhere and does state that "you can bring this software back to your reseller for a full refund if you don't want it". That and the fact that "forced selling" (that is subjecting the sale of one good to the acquisition of another, as it is with PCs and Windows software) is illegal in France. Thanks to that someone actually has taken their reseller to court and won (this isn't expensive in france).

    OTOH however, I have asked dozends of resellers how much they discounted if I didn't take Windows or the bundled software that came with their machine and none of them agreed to a refund despite the EULA. I pointed out that this was illegal for the above reasons and that the case has already been made in court but they didn't seem to care.

    I suppose that as usual, when I guet a new intel bow, I'll have to assemble it myself.

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Friday September 17, 1999 @12:02AM (#1677596)
    In most countries, there are certain laws to protect consumers such as trade practices acts. While commonly used for goods and services, I have not heard of any widely-publicised cases for software. Some specific business conducts which tend to be frowned upon are:

    a) refusal to supply - in vertically integrated businesses, refusing to supply an intermediate product in order to damage a competitor. This is a particular worry in the fast pace IT industry as rapid obsolescence can lead to a permanent loss of competitiveness.

    b) third line forcing - making acceptance of goods from another party a condition of supply Apart from the obvious one of hardware/OS, this is a rather subtle act for pure software as it is not always clear who owns shares in what company and thus manipulate the consumer into buying closely held products.

    c) limitations on resale - intrinsic value of a product (e.g. car) is often determined by the resale value but licenses tying software to particular CPUs or sites make it difficult to transfer software easily.

    d) failure of implied warrenties - fair trading acts usually specify minimum rights such as clear title, merchantable quality, and fitness for specified purpose. If anyone has read the end-user licenses recently, they might get a shock as to what they are really buying.

    What is surprising is the relative placidity of consumers when it comes to software quality. If cars break down as often as hardware/software, there would be mass class action lawsuits. The question should be why are we so gullible and how long will people put up with it?

    LL
  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Friday September 17, 1999 @12:29AM (#1677597) Homepage
    Ouch. Poor micro~1. They have the "La Service de la Répression des Frauds" unleashed on them. In the international tax-dodging world, these guys are known as the pitbulls. If you ever try to claim you work for a company in the British Virgin Islands, or any other tax haven, you can be sure your dossier will end up on their desk. Then you can be sure of paying up or going to jail.

    The SRF is known for creating teams of elite investigators to research the toughest white collar criminal cases in France. They are well funded, probably they have a budget bigger than the tax revenue they recover (but they make up for it by scaring all the little fry into being more honest).

    M$ was put on notice last year of a preliminary investigation. That is two steps away from being charged with a crime. Today the morning radio had lots of commentary on this, with speculation that criminal charges would not be far behind. Fraud cases don't get this far without solid evidence and a guaranteed win in the courts.

    The one nice/scary thing about France is that corporations don't shield individuals from criminal charges. If this case is won by the government, they will probably request prison sentences for the senior M$ employees who signed the contracts with the PC distributors in France. I would expect 5 to 7 people to get ~1 year sentences, and another 20 to 50 to get suspended (avec surcis, similar to american parole) sentences.

    Watch this one carefully, the EC in Brussels (whom we all love to hate), is watching as well. Talk is that if the EC moves against M$ after a French win, you will not be able to buy windoze along with your computer, it will have to be purchased separately and installed by the user. This is where cool looking installation scripts like Caldera/TrollTech [troll.no] will help Linux get used by the masses.

    the AC
  • by Oniros ( 53181 ) on Friday September 17, 1999 @12:10AM (#1677598)
    It's not the first time MS is having problem with the French governement. In answer to some query of the French governement about some Y2K issue, MS told them they should upgrade their software (that they just bought one year ago); the Frencg gov was not so pleased about being taxed an upgrade just so their brand new windows boxes could work past Dec 99. They started some ivestigations earlier this year.

    On another note, the professor has a very good, if you have a windows box and you buy a new one, you pay for Windows twice. France has some good consumers protections organizations, tho I don't know how effective they are.

    Janus
  • by Tom Christiansen ( 54829 ) <tchrist@perl.com> on Friday September 17, 1999 @01:42AM (#1677599) Homepage
    [Begin Translation]
    Complaints are piling up from consumers forced to buy Windows 98 with their new computers. The Finance Ministry might put an end to this monopoly from Bill Gates's company.
    DOMENICA STRAUSS-KAHN attacks Bill Gates! The Economy and Finance Minister has just ordered his "Fraud Squads" to check up on Microsoft, the company of the American billionaire. As in the States, where a lawsuit pits Microsoft against the American government, France will examine the situation of the multinational on its territory. Detractors of Bill Gates's company claim that it has "locked up" the market, thus "forcing" consumers to buy its software. "The customer no longer has any choice in this", summarizes Vincent Balat, a compsci researcher, who judges that Windows 98, the flagship product from Microsoft, is less efficient than its competitor, Linux, a program nevertheless available for free on Internet.

    Forced to Buy Software in Duplicate

    To confront these criticisms, the specialized services of Bercy must put gather up the procedures already begun across various departments in order to closely examine the various lawsuits. "If this investigation shows abnormal situations or obstacles with market rules, we'll be checking with the competition," Bercy was told. The essential point is that Microsoft would risk legal action and fines. One of the first to address the complaint folder on fraud control is a compsci teacher at some school in Paris, Roberto Di Cosmo. A computer enthusiast and the author of a vitriolic book against Microsoft, Roberto Di Cosmo thinks the multinational abuses its position as leader.

    "When you buy a computer today," he explains, "you buy the box and the software accompanying it. And even if the latter represents some 20% of the price, this is never spelled out," he laments. On a computer costing five thousand francs, some one thousand francs would go toward software. One of these programs is Windows 98, Microsoft's operating system, which is essential for running the machine. "Because computers are sold already equipped with Windows, as soon as you change computers, you end up buying Windows again!" explains Roberto Di Cosmo. For months now, this computer expert has in vain demanded from his retailer refunds for several programs that he now has duplicates of, since he hasn't sold his used computers.

    Promise of Compensation

    "Indeed, this situation can appear abnormal ", comments Jérôme Franck, a lawyer specializing in consumer law. But to date, only one purchaser in France, a teacher from Montpellier, has been reimbursed by his retailer. On this matter, the Microsoft position seems to evolve. "We are ready to refund," we were told yesterday by Vahé Torossian, director at Microsoft France of divisions manufacturer and general public and therefore specialist in licensing questions. "We mislead no one," he adds. "When you buy a new car, you don't ask your manufacturer to install your old car's engine in the new car. Similarly, Windows 98 is the engine of each computer". That said, Vahé Torossian assures that his firm is ready with possible refunds. "If someone doesn't care to use Windows 98, they can bring back their computer to thier retailer, who will fill out a slip, then refund it", he states. That's good news for Microsoft's opponents, even if the amount of these "redunds" is still unknown.

    [End Translation]

  • by brad.hill ( 21936 ) on Friday September 17, 1999 @02:20AM (#1677600)
    I can't speak to the laws in France, but I can say that software licensing agreements in the US turn standard copyright practice on its head.

    (In the US) If I buy a book, it is treated as a hybrid of physical and intellectual property in which I as a consumer get the best sides of both.

    To the extent that it is treated as a physical object, I *own* it. I can sell it, read it backwards, cut it apart and glue the pages back together in a wrong order (and then sell it!) analyze the grammatical structure, the plot progression, etc. That copy of the work becomes my property.

    To the extent that it is intellectual property, I own rights to fair personal use. I can make a photocopy of the book and take it to work to read at my leisure. If it's a CD, I can copy it to a tape to listen to in my car. Nothing bars me from having two copies open simultaneously. (if I do sell the book or CD, I do have to destroy my copies, though)

    Software licenses take the opposite stance. It is regarded as physical property, in that you need a license for each and every copy, not merely for the content of the software. It is intellectual property in that you don't own it, can't transfer it or resell it, or even look at it the wrong way.

    Whether software companies have a natural right to do business in this way is another debate, but it is unarguable that this agreement is quite contrary to people's expected view of what they're getting when they "buy" Windows or Office at the store, boxed as a consumer product, given normal practices regarding copyrighted work. If countries wish to make laws enforcing these standard practices in the name of 'fairness', I'm all for it. It's worked this long for all other copyrighted properties.

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein

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