Microsoft in dispute with children's charity for dodging Windows fees

The software giant backs away from legal action against a charity that refurbushed PCs but didn't pay a Windows 'licence transfer fee'

In the midst of an impending antitrust trial, Microsoft is anxiously trying to solve a licensing dispute with a children's charity, which it last week threatened with legal action for distributing recycled computers to disadvantaged communities without paying the Windows licence fee.

The Australian charity "PCs for Kids" received threatening late night telephone calls from Microsoft's Australian legal counsel, according to reports on the technology mailing list Polytechbot. The charity -- which was set up in Victoria to refurbish old computers for the benefit of disadvantaged children and non-profit organisations -- was in trouble for distributing PCs without paying Microsoft about £60 per machine for the use of its Windows operating system.

But the software giant -- currently facing 118 separate outstanding antitrust lawsuits according to the New York Times -- now feels compelled to resolve the issue outside of the courts. Microsoft told ZDNet that it would no longer be pursing legal action against PCs for Kids. Over the past few days it has been holding meetings with the charity to decide on a one-off settlement amount to be paid for the outanding Windows licence fees.

"Microsoft cannot condone the disregard of Australian Copyright laws but acknowledges the important work that non-profit organisations such as PC's for Kids undertake to bridge the digital divide within Australia," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

Within the UK, the software licence agreement is automatically attached to computers by the PC builder or supplier, and licensed in the name of the customer.

"When a PC is resold, it is often rebuilt, and the charity involved maybe didn't realise that a transfer of the licence was needed," said a Microsoft UK spokeswoman.

Most PC distribution charities use Linux and open source software to bypass the licensing problem. Microsoft however claims that it does make allowances for charities in its licence scheme, and also has an authorised refurbishment scheme in place, which claims to offer "heavily discounted licences".

PCs for Kids was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

See also: ZDNet UK's Windows News Section.

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