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.

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