Commonsense Law

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - Keeping an eye on the courtroom is almost as important as watching Internet developments these days. Sometimes it's frustrating when the courts make idiotic decisions, such as when a judge last year decided that Amazon.com "owned" the one-click checkout procedure for online commerce. We can only hope that this kind of foolishness will be overturned through appeal.

But sometimes, we can find examples of legal minds making sense instead of trouble for our industry.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte ruled in favor of Sun Microsystems' request for an injunction against Microsoft's purported violation of its license of Sun's Java technology. For all of Microsoft's protestations to the contrary, this is a fairly straightforward contract dispute. Sun licensed Java to Microsoft with certain restrictions. Microsoft ignored the restrictions. Sun sued. Settlement to come. Case closed.

Then there's Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. She has said that the Department of Justice "built a convincing case that supports our arguments that Microsoft has engaged in illegal and anticompetitive behavior." She also joined with the attorneys general of 19 other states last spring to sue Microsoft as a monopoly. But despite her view that Microsoft's actions need curbing, last week she told the Los Angeles Times that she doesn't believe the U.S. government's recourse should be to carve up the software giant. Neither do I.

Microsoft is a powerful, arrogant and often reckless company. But its strong monopolistic power is receding because technology is moving faster than it can head it off. Look at Linux server growth. Look at Palm Computing's growth. And even look at the newly resurgent Apple. To break up Microsoft today would be an unnecessary, reckless and arrogant abuse of government power.

Believe me, I have no love for Microsoft. Its products put out of business two magazines where I once served as editor in chief (MacWeek and Unix Review). My personal feelings aside, breaking up Microsoft would cause unnecessary turmoil in the industry and with IT planners. It makes no sense to me. And I'm glad that at least one attorney general is admitting it makes no sense to her.

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