Microsoft staffers have been auctioning off copies of Windows 2000 software on eBay, a practice the company frowns on but has had only mixed success reining in.
Senior management has cautioned employees and contractors that the private resale of company software is against Microsoft policy. Yet in the past week 23 copies of Windows 2000 have been put up for auction on the eBay Web site from people living within a 25 mile radius of Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus.
It was unclear how many of those listings were put up by people working at Microsoft, and many of those auctions were pulled by Monday afternoon.
While the full, shrink-wrapped version of Windows 2000 Advanced Server sells for about $3,400 (£2,151) in retail stores, the copies put up for auction have been listed for more than half that price.
A spokeswoman for Microsoft declined comment, saying the company does not comment on internal policy.
In return for their participation in development projects, software engineers often receive trophy copies. The products are usually stamped with "Not for resale" stickers. Microsoft employees can also buy software at the company store for substantial discounts off the list price.
Microsoft employee Song Tae Yoo said he decided to sell his personal copy of Windows 2000 because he didn't need it. Song, who acknowledged receiving the product for free from the company, ultimately closed the bidding at $1,300.
Doug Chandler, a contractor for Microsoft, said he purchased his copy at a discount from someone else. "I'm just trying to make a profit," he replied to a question why he was selling a personal copy of the software. Chandler's auction ended last week without a sale.
Another Microsoft employee, Eric Watson, said his wife received a free copy by mistake from the company. "We tried to return it a couple of times, but they didn't want it back," said Watson, whose copy was bid up from $500 to $1,335. "We're selling it because we don't need it."
A report issued last week by the Software Information Industry Association indicated that most of the software found on auction sites was pirated. Coincidentally, Microsoft has waged one of the more vigorous anti-piracy campaigns of any company in the industry.
"I don't think there are many software titles that sell well enough to become collectibles," said Jeffrey Tarter, who publishes Softletter, an industry newsletter.
"Having tried to sell old software at yard sales, I can assure you that the market opportunity is about on a par with selling second-hand ties from the '60s."