Copyright Infringement Isnt the

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-02-14 Print this article Print

Only Risk"> But copyright infringement isnt the only risk. Those viewing the Windows code also could face charges that they violated trade secrets and infringed on software patents, legal experts said. Prosecuting a trade secret violation against a programmer for viewing the source code, as opposed to disclosing it, could be tough. The law is still murky in how it deals with trade secrets disclosed over the Internet, Radcliffe said, but the legal threat still is a real one for developers.
A patent infringement claim, though not necessarily triggered because of the source code disclosure, is another legal weapon Microsoft could add to its arsenal, Radcliffe said.
Radcliffe expects Microsoft to aggressively target programmers who have accessed the code, possibly similar to the way the recording industry went after individuals downloading copyrighted music. Those posting the code on their Web sites and most actively sharing it are the most likely targets. Judges also are likely to sympathize with Microsoft in such cases given their distaste for the theft of copyrighted information, Radcliffe said. "Its highly risky and youre painting a big bulls eye on your forward," Radcliffe said of developers viewing the Windows source code. "How much do you want to roll the dice?" While Microsoft would not say whether it planned any specific legal action against programmers, it appears to be taking a tough stance. A company spokesman said in a statement on Friday that the company "will take all appropriate action against anyone who violates its intellectual property." "Microsoft has not authorized the release of this code, and any use of it – including to study how it is built – is illegal," the spokesman said. Even with legal threats Microsoft faces an uphill battle in stopping the dissemination of the source code, which has been shared through peer-to-peer networks and posted on Web sites. "Its a trade secret," Albert said, "but it will be difficult for Microsoft to put the genie back in the bottle."

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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