Man faces 15-month jail sentence and $50,000 fine.
The tech industry has a two-fold problem when it comes to meeting consumers’ needs. First, the days of repairing or upgrading your own tech–at least for the moderately skilled consumer–may be on the way out. Proprietary tools and hard cases now mean that even a simple battery replacement must be left to the pros. At the same time, manufacturers are launching new products with the intention of getting shoppers to ditch their functional but outdated models for a newer, shinier version.
The end result is a stronger divide between the tech haves and have nots, and a rise in the number of pop-up shops that sell refurbished devices, repair cracked phone screens, and try to get that battery replaced.
Fighting back against this kind of throwaway consumerism has landed at least one crusader in hot water to the tune of a 15-month jail sentence and $50,000 fine. Eric Lundgren downloaded completely free system restore software from Microsoft, installed it on about 28,000 disks, and sold them to refurbish shops for 25 cents each. The point was to allow consumers who didn’t know they could access this software for themselves, or who didn’t know which version they needed, to purchase this software cheaply and make their computers last a little longer.
Of course, Microsoft released the hounds on Lundgren. A court found him guilt of counterfeiting the software, and an appeals court has upheld the ruling. A statement from Microsoft attempts to explain how this legal battle was completely about protecting consumers, and had nothing to do with someone seeming to make a profit off their free product. The statement is available from The Verge, but essentially says that allowing this kind of refurbishing tactic puts consumers at risk of faulty software.
Replace rather than repair?
It might be going out on a limb, but if someone has the wherewithal to get the disk and install it from a licensed tech repair shop, they just might have the necessary skills to scan it for a virus first. Of course, these customers need a restore disk because their computers aren’t working in the first place. It seems to many critics that this is simply an attempt to lead consumers into purchasing new computers instead of repairing what they already have.
Critics have further stated that this new device lust is the opposite of what responsible tech companies should be promoting. Rather than launching new devices on a set-your-watch-by-it timetable, companies should be fighting planned obsolescence in order to keep outdated components out of landfills and stop wasting valuable vital resources to build new ones.