Microsoft sends recycler to jail for reinstalling obsolete, licensed copies of Windows on refurbished PCs

Eric Lundgren is an environmental hero, whose California business diverts literal tons of e-waste from landfills, refurbishes it, and puts it in the hands of people who can make good use of it.

Part of his business is downloading free restore disks from PC manufacturers' websites and bundling them with refurbed PCs, each of which has a valid license to install that version of Windows, along with a valid license key.

When a shipment of Lundgren's restore disks was intercepted on its way into the USA from China, he was brought up on trial. Lundgren pleaded guilty, but argued that since the disks' contents could lawfully be downloaded for free, and since the disks wouldn't work without valid license keys, the disks themselves had a value of $0.

That's where Microsoft comes in: they strenuously argued that each of these restore disks was worth $25 (down from the government's estimated value of $299 each!). In court, Microsoft lawyer Bonnie MacNaughton called these "counterfeit operating systems" that "displaced Microsoft's potential sales of genuine operating systems" — even though Lundgren's PCs had valid Windows licenses and Microsoft made the disks' contents available for free.

The judge, feeling he had no choice, found that the restore disks were worth $700K and sentenced Lundgren to 15 months in prison. The 11 Circuit appeals court upheld the sentence.

After doing everything in its power to put this amazing, brilliant, principled man in jail, Microsoft issued a statement smearing him and calling him a "counterfeiter."

As JWZ puts it: "In case you've forgotten: Microsoft is still a vile garbage fire of a company."

But he said the court had set a precedent for Microsoft and other software-makers to pursue criminal cases against those seeking to extend the life span of computers. "I got in the way of their agenda," Lundgren said, "this profit model that's way more profitable than I could ever be."

Microsoft issued a statement Wednesday explaining why they participated in the prosecution of Lundgren, which was to discourage both counterfeiting and the spread of malware within counterfeit software: "Microsoft actively supports efforts to address e-waste and has worked with responsible e-recyclers to recycle more than 11 million kilograms of e-waste since 2006," the statement said. "Unlike most e-recyclers, Mr. Lundgren sought out counterfeit software which he disguised as legitimate and sold to other refurbishers. This counterfeit software exposes people who purchase recycled PCs to malware and other forms of cybercrime, which puts their security at risk and ultimately hurts the market for recycled products."

E-waste recycler Eric Lundgren loses appeal on computer restore disks, must serve 15-month prison term [Tom Jackman/Washington Post]