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FROM THE ARCHIVES: February 15, 2002

Few Public Comments Released By US Back Microsoft Deal


DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

WASHINGTON (AP)--The U.S. Justice Department on Friday released 47 public comments on the Microsoft (MSFT ) anti-trust case and only five of them supported the government's settlement with the software giant.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is due to hold a trial next month to decide whether to approve the settlement, said she planned to read the comments before deciding.

Reached last year, the settlement would prevent Microsoft from retaliating against partners for using non-Microsoft products, require the company to disclose some of its software blueprints so software developers can make compatible products and make it easier to remove extra Windows features.

The Justice Department, complying with a judge's request, only released those comments on the settlement that it described as "major" -those with long, detailed arguments -on the department's Web site.

The department has said it received about 30,000 comments, mostly via e-mail. The rest of the letters will be published on the Internet and on CD-ROMs.

After reviewing all the comments, Justice had said they were 2-to-1 against the settlement.

But among those messages released Friday, sentiment was definitely against Microsoft.

"The computer industry, especially the software industry, used to be a very vibrant exciting space with a large number of competing technologies and solutions," wrote Mark Alexander, a technology professional in Scarsdale, N.Y. "The fact that Microsoft believes that to compete it needs to 'cut off the air supply' of potential competitors is a method that should be eliminated."

Representatives of the Justice Department and Microsoft didn't immediately return calls seeking reaction to the tally.

Companies, interest groups, academics, current and former senators as well as the public at large were represented in the comments.

"The precise terms of the settlement create a series of artful technical loopholes vitiating the primary intention" of repairing competition in the industry, wrote Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University.

The five comments in favor of the settlement were from: New York University economist Nicholas Economides; the Washington Legal Foundation; Joseph L. Bast of the libertarian Heartland Institute; and pro-Microsoft groups Association for Competitive Technology and the Computing Technology Industry Association.

Several Microsoft rivals sounded off against the settlement, including AOL Time Warner, Sun Microsystems, Sony, RealNetworks and SBC Communications.

Advocates of the "open-source" software movement, frequently lambasted by Microsoft as being a danger to intellectual property, sent several comments released Friday. Consumer activists like the Consumer Federation of America and Ralph Nader also wrote to criticize the settlement.

Web sites:

Read the comments at: http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms-major.htm

On the Net: Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com

Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov

Updated February 15, 2002 12:59 p.m. EST



     

 
 
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