Microsoft Corp. is warning the online community to keep its hands off purloined Windows source code.
The company on Tuesday confirmed it had sent legal warnings to some persons who it said had downloaded the stolen code from the Internet.
Source code from Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 was posted on the Internet on Thursday, and Microsoft Corp. said at the time that it had initiated internal and external investigations.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft declined to specify the contents or the distribution of its warning message. But according to a report filed on Steven Binks and Ryan Hoffmans Amsterdam-based Bink.nu site, Microsoft warned at least one recipient that he was in violation of copyright laws.
"The unauthorized copying and distribution of Microsofts protected source code is a violation of both civil and criminal copyright and trade secret laws," Bink.nu quotes the notice as reading. "If you have downloaded and are making the source code available for downloading by others, you are violating Microsofts rights, and could be subject to severe civil and criminal penalties."
The letter then demands that persons in possession of the source code stop sharing the code, destroy copies and inform Microsoft of the origin of the copy.
Bink said the recipient of the letter had downloaded the leaked code through a peer-to-peer network that had automatically shared his copy. Microsoft traced him through that channel, he said. Microsoft sent the letter to his Internet Service Provider, which then forwarded the e-mail message.
The legal message continues: "Microsoft takes these issues very seriously, and will pursue legal action against individuals who take part in the proliferation of it source code. We look forward to your prompt cooperation. Should you need to contact me, I can be reached at the address above"
Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla confirmed that the company had sent out the cease-and-desist notices since the Windows code began appearing on Thursday, but he declined to provide any further details.
"We are obviously taking all appropriate legal actions to protect our intellectual property," he said.
Besides the illegal receipt of copyrighted materials, persons downloading the source code—especially developers—could face other problems,, legal experts said. Individuals examining the Windows code could face charges of trade-secret violations and infringement of software patents.
eWEEK.com reporter Matt Hicks contributed to this report.