Microsoft Corp. is in violation of its 1995 consent decree.
In a complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, the department asked the court to hold Microsoft in civil contempt for forcing PC makers to bundle the Internet Explorer browser with PCs that come with Windows 95.
The department is asking the court to fine Microsoft $1 million for every day it is in violation.
According to the department, the consent decree stated that Microsoft was prohibited from forcing computer makers to license any other Microsoft product as a condition of licensing Windows 95.
"Microsoft is unlawfully taking advantage of its Windows monopoly to protect and extend that monopoly," Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters.
PC Week Online reported in August 1996 that several PC makers alleged that Microsoft had wielded its operating-system dominance unfairly in an attempt to push Internet Explorer to the top of the browser market.
Microsoft plans to hold a press conference today at 3:30 p.m. ET.
"We are confident that we have operated in a completely appropriate and lawful manner. The facts will show that we are in full compliance with the consent decree," said Microsoft spokesperson Mark Murray. "The consent decree specifically says that we are able to integrate new features into the operating systems.
"Consumers want that, and that is how the software market has been operating for years," Murray added. "Consumers have always had the freedom to choose any browser. Netscape [Communications Corp.'s Communicator] operates exactly as Netscape designed it on the Windows platform, and we have never stopped any other browser from being used on our platform."
Microsoft officials have long maintained that Internet Explorer is a feature of the OS rather than a separate product.
In its petition, the Justice Department asks that the court:
· stop Microsoft from requiring PC manufacturers to accept Internet Explorer as a condition of receiving Windows 95;
· require Microsoft to notify consumers of PCs with Windows 95 that they are not obligated to use IE, that they are free to use any compatible Internet browser and that the company will give consumers simple instructions about how to remove the IE icon from the PC desktop if they choose;
· impose large daily files--$1 millionon Microsoft if it continues to violate the court order;
· strike down broad portions of the nondisclosure agreement that Microsoft requires those with whom it does business to sign.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has 11 days to reply to the charges.