RealTime IT News

Timing on Microsoft E-mail 'Happy Coincidence'

Microsoft Corp. executives sent an internal e-mail to 50,000 employees Thursday evening, reminding them that file swapping on company property is prohibited.

According to officials at the Redmond, Wash.-based giant, the policy had nothing to do with the non-stop pressure exerted by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or the recent bill introduced to the House of Representatives Thursday.

While peer-to-peer networking is a topic that's fresh on everybody's minds, said Jon Murchinson, a Microsoft spokesperson, "we thought it was an opportune to remind our employees what our view is on all copyrighted material.

"Microsoft has its own history of people illegally downloading our software, so we understand why others want to protect their copyrighted material," he added.

A corporate policy regarding illegal downloads has been in the employee handbook for several years, Murchinson said, and everyone is aware of the consequences of violating corporate policy.

He calls the timing on the memo a "happy coincidence," though the very public events surrounding illegal file sharing using peer-to-peer networking software like Morpheus, various flavors of Gnutella and KaZaa certainly had something to do with the timing.

Thursday, Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Howard Coble (R-NC), introduced a bill to the House of Representatives that has RIAA officials more than pleased. If passed, the bill would allow recording industry officials to hack into a user's computer if they had a "reasonable basis" to think someone was harboring and distributing digital music files.

Though the bill doesn't give copyright owners the authority to remove any data from a user's computer, or cause any damage, critics are nervous about the bipartison makeup of supporters and the very broad interpretation the bill's statements make, leaving the door open for abuse.