Copyright Infringement Isnt the
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.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."
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.