Joined: 18 September 2004
On January 7, Microsoft enthusiast Dave Ciccone woke up to find a surprising message in his e-mail inbox: a veiled threat from the company he has evangelized for almost 5 years.
"Microsoft has received information that the domain listed above, which appears to be on servers under your control, is offering unlicensed copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to copyrighted computer programs published by Microsoft," the legal letter said.
Ciccone runs Dave's iPaq, a popular Windows mobile technology site that has been in operation since 2000. According to Ciccone, he has "done nothing but promote Microsoft's products at my own financial expense." What caught Microsoft's attention, however, was a posting with information on Windows Mobile 2005, the upcoming version of Windows for handheld devices.
Dave's iPaq was not the only site to carry the insider information, which included screenshots of the new Windows Mobile software. The details were originally reported by Windows enthusiast site Neowin, which then in turn was picked up by technology blog Engadget and finally Ciccone's site.
Unfortunately for Ciccone, his story was mentioned in other news outlets and quickly became a target for Redmond's legal team.
The following day, the e-mail from Microsoft's Internet Antipiracy Team arrived. "Since I wasn't sure if this was a legit document I requested they call me directly," Ciccone said. "Within one hour I received a call from [Microsoft] telling me that it would be beneficial for me to pull it. After speaking with them I pulled the story from our site."
But in a twist, not all sites were required to remove the content. For unknown reasons, Engadget -- the largest of the sites -- was allowed to keep the information and screenshots it had online.
Ciccone talked to a lawyer at Microsoft who said the company felt Engadget's material, although almost exactly the same as he had posted, "was not too compelling."
"I told her that if that is the case, then Microsoft is selectively discriminating against my site since I do not have a relationship with Microsoft, and that if you enforce it for one it has to be enforced for all," Ciccone argued.
Ciccone says that fighting with Microsoft over his rights to post the information would be a losing battle "since they have deeper pockets than I." But it appears Microsoft may lose a close ally if this trend continues. "If I always have to think twice about posting information about Microsoft, that is quite scary," Ciccone said.
Microsoft hasn't been the only one to crack down on leaks of information detailing upcoming products. Apple recently filed suit against Mac rumor site Think Secret for allegedly revealing "trade secrets." Nick Ciarelli, editor of Think Secret and a student at Harvard University, has enlisted legal help in his battle.
"Apple's attempt to silence a small publication's news reporting presents a troubling affront to the protections of the First Amendment," said Ciarelli.
The Apple case could have far reaching consequences for the Windows enthusiast community as well. In a recent interview with Microsoft Watch, Neowin's Tom Warren said, "I'd expect Microsoft is looking closely at the current case with Apple and Think Secret. If Think Secret does lose the case, this could mean bad news for Neowin and blogging, in general."
Joined: 06 November 2004
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