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Can I Answer My Phone Without Paying 100,000 Euro?

After the revelation last week that Microsoft seems to be playing a role in funneling cash to SCO to attack Linux, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that Microsoft will do anything to try to halt Linux. This shouldn't surprise anyone, given Microsoft executives' prior conduct track record of breaking the law, and the many books chronicling their unethical behavior over the last two decades. Routinely, we see Microsoft intimidating companies that we interact with in the computer business who want to support desktop Linux. These partners and potential partners face Microsoft's threats to withhold technical support, to withdraw market development funds, to file lawsuits, and more.

In our own battles, Microsoft is trying to shut us down using any tac

Click here to read about our legal battles with Microsoft
tic possible. Because our website is our outlet to the world, Microsoft has focused their attack there. Two years ago, Microsoft asked a US court to shut down our website and, after a lengthy investigation and hearing, the court refused. Microsoft tried again in the US, and again they were denied. More than a year later, Microsoft snuck off to Finland and, with no notice to us, asked the Helsinki District Court to block the Lindows website. (While mentioning the US lawsuit, Microsoft conveniently left out the two US Court orders denying the same request for an injunction.) The Helsinki court said sales should be halted in Finland, but refused to block the website. At this point, Lindows did not know that they had filed papers in Finland so we were not able to oppose them. Microsoft then took this ruling to Sweden and asked the Stockholm City Court to block our website and sales. Again, the Judge refused to block website, but did block sales in Sweden. Once again, Lindows was not given any notice, and was not able to oppose their actions. (This is called an ex-parte ruling, when the court decides a request without the defendant being informed or given an opportunity to respond.) Once we heard about the orders in Sweden and Finland, we went to both of those courts asking them to reconsider. These appeals are under way.

From there, Microsoft went to the Netherlands, and found a court willing to rule that simply viewing the Lindows.com website is forbidden. The District Court in Amsterdam issued an order that www.lindows.com must be made inaccessible to visitors from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Microsoft knows that there is no way to effectively block only browsers from those three countries--short of shutting down our web site to all visitors worldwide. They are now asking the court to fine us 100,000 Euro per day, for every day that the website is accessible, a sum which a small company like Lindows obviously cannot not pay. (For the record our total sales over the last two years in all three affected countries combined represent a small fraction of one day's 100,000 Euro penalty.) With Microsoft's $60 Billion in the bank, they have a virtually unlimited legal budget with which they can simply sue, and sue again, until they win.

This conflict has now morphed into somethi

If you don't live in Belgium, Luxembourg,The Netherlands, or Sweden, click here to buy LindowsOS
ng much larger than a trademark squabble and may determine who decides what consumers around the world can see on the Internet. You are witnessing how an established company can simply sue a tiny new competitor in country after country until they achieve the outcome they desire. Because websites are reachable from virtually every one of the 191 countries around the world, companies following Microsoft's path have 191 attempts to get the outcome they desire, even after they are flatly rejected by a United States Federal Court. After five tries over two years, Microsoft finally located a court that would give them what they want. Now, Lindows.com is forced to either shut down its entire website or risk massive financial penalties.

I want to be clear about our position. We are not disputing the jurisdiction of the Netherlands. We believe it's important to honor the rule of law, and we have in good faith been fighting Microsoft in courts around the world for over two years. After the Dutch court's ruling against us, we put up a notice on every page of our website. We halted both digital and physical sales from Lindows to the affected countries. We removed links on our website to our resellers in those countries. We sent out notices to our resellers. We regret the court's decision to bar sales of LindowsOS in those countries, but we fully intend to honor the court's order. The only outstanding question is: just because our servers are connected to the Internet, does that mean than anyone else connected to the same wires can dictate what we do with our servers in the US?

Would it be OK for a foreign Judge to rule that if someone calls my US office from another country that I cannot utter the word 'Lindows' when I answer the phone, simply because our phone lines were connected? And worse, if I answered the phone, should I incur a fine of 100,000 Euro per day? Our phones may be connected to some of the same wires that a web visitor would travel when connecting to the Lindows.com website. If they can insist a website be shut down so their residents cannot access it, why not the phone system as well? It sounds preposterous, but this appears to be what is unfolding in the Netherlands, and every Net citizen should be worried. We may be headed toward a world in which rich companies can shop around, repeatedly searching for a friendly court that is willing to ban content, ideas, products and choices with which they may disagree.

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