European “Justice” For Microsoft
When Microsoft’s conflict with the European Union began, the Trumpet warned that Microsoft would lose. Why? EU courts operate on the old Roman premise that the accused is guilty until proven innocent. Under that system, EU victory was assured from the outset.
In March 2004, the European Commission (EC) found Microsoft guilty of abusing its market position in violation of EU competition law. Since that time, the EC has ordered Microsoft to pay a gargantuan fine ($613 million), to provide documentation for its competitors to achieve interoperability with its products, and to provide a version of Windows without a media player included.
In December 2005, the EC kicked it up another notch: Microsoft was given until January 25 this year to comply to the ruling or else be fined $2.37 million dollars a day until it does, retroactive to December 15 last year. (The day before the deadline, the EC pushed it back by three weeks.)
Microsoft legal chief Brad Smith was nonplussed, responding, “We’ve shipped a new version of Windows, we’ve paid a historic fine, and we’ve provided unprecedented access to Microsoft technology to promote interoperability with other industry players. In total, we have now responded to more than 100 requests from the Commission” (bbc News, Dec. 22, 2005).
Not enough, apparently. Additionally, on January 25, Mr. Smith announced that Microsoft would license the source code for its Windows operating system to its competitors _—a serious step, but one that still might not prevent millions of dollars in fines.
Microsoft has already lost the battle. The question now is, how much worse can it get? How much more money will the EU take before it either accepts Microsoft’s efforts or kicks the giant American software company out of Europe altogether?
The EC wields tremendous power, even in the U.S. This is the same body that blocked a $42 billion acquisition of Honeywell International by General Electric in 2001, stopping dead a Washington-approved merger.
If Microsoft wanted justice, this particular institution of unelected officials was an unfortunate venue in which to try to find it dispensed.