Microsoft is investigating how two internal training videos created by UK comedy duo Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have surfaced on the Internet.
The humorous videos are titled "The Office Values" and were made three years ago for Microsoft for training purposes. The pair agreed to write and appear in them, on the condition that they were never made public. Although Microsoft did confirm their existence in 2004, it refused at the time to release any details.
But earlier this month, the two videos appeared on the Internet. Although some sites appear to have removed them after encountering pressure from Microsoft or Gervais's representatives, they can now be seen on Google Video and YouTube as well as some blogs.
In the videos, Gervais plays the role of David Brent, the anti-hero star of The Office, the critically acclaimed television show written by Gervais and Merchant. Brent visits Microsoft UK's offices as a management consultant, to advise and educate its staff.
During the videos, Brent suggests that he would make an excellent managing director for Microsoft UK, as long as he could be awarded a salary and company car commensurate with the importance of the role — namely £40,000 per year and a new Mondeo.
He also warns computer "boffins" of the dangers of hard work, as "too much thinking makes Jack a mental case".
Speaking to ZDNet UK on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Gervais explained that the comedian was concerned that the appearance of the videos could make fans think he had reversed his decision to retire the Brent character for good.
"Microsoft is looking into how and why these videos have appeared on the Internet," she said, adding that Gervais will not be seeking damages from the software giant.
"Unfortunately these things happen, but it's Microsoft's responsibility to let us know how it got out."
Microsoft's UK press office declined to say how the videos had reached the public domain, or whether it had forced any Web sites to stop hosting them.