By Richard Menta 4/4/05
Court is expensive. Lawyers are expensive. Both of them are prohibitively so. This is why it has become the bludgeon of well-financed bullies who find it an ample tool to manipulate the weak.
In the wake of all of the lawsuits the media industries have filed en masse against file sharers it is good to see someone stand up to them, use a little initiative and, most important of all, win. In this case it was not the media industries, but Microsoft, a company that has the right to protect its copyrights on the software it produces. Like the media industries though, they went to far.
Or more important, their lawyers did.
The Microsoft lawyers got used to everyone they sued just giving up and settling. This included the innocent who frequently could not finance their defense.
The Microsoft lawyers were never challenged by individuals whom they targeted and so they became complacent and sloppy. They started suing any perceived misuse, even uses that should be obviously legal, but hey they are Microsoft. They knew no individual would take them on.
So these exercises of taking consumers to court became the equivalent of printing free money. Just send a little piece of paper through the mail and watch the cash roll in. Cash to hire more lawyers and garner more billable hours.
Microsoft's lawyers became so complacent they sued on flimsiest grounds. That was what they did to David Zamos.
Zamos is a University of Akron student who at the university book store purchased discounted educational editions of Microsoft Windows and Office XP Pro for $60. He later found out he could not use them and so attempted to return the unopened packages to the book store. The store refused to take it back claiming it violated their agreement with Microsoft that such versions were not returnable.
Zamos tried to get his money back from Microsoft directly, but was again refused.
What did he do? He put the unopened items on sale on eBay and sold them.
Microsoft sued Zamos, claiming that the sale violated the end user agreement. The agreement that David Zamos could not read or agree to unless he opened the package and loaded the software.
David tried to find a lawyer to defend himself, but found no one he could afford to take his case. The cheapest lawyer he could find wanted more for a single hour than what Zamos spent on the software.
So what did David Zamos do? He went into his university's law library and did research. He found that the Microsoft lawyers did such a poor and sloppy job that he decided to represent himself in court. Do you know what happened?
He won as the mighty Microsoft lawyers caved in before it went to trial.
The full glory of David Zamos' efforts can be read in detail in this March 30 article in the Cleveland Scene.
Maybe some students will take this as inspiraton to do the same to the record industry lawyers and the movie industry lawyers who likewise have become complacent and sloppy. Lawyers who sue the elderly who own no computers. Lawyers who have even sued the dead.
Or maybe, just maybe, some judges will stop this dubious practice and put and end to these corporations blatent abuse of the courts.
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Other MP3 stories:
Pew Internet Study on File Sharing and the Press
What Makes a Journalist? Thoughts on Apple and Think Secret
Can Free Broadcast TV Really Be Napsterized?