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PCs for Kids demands free MS OSes

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The charity behind a Microsoft software licensing argument in Australia, PCs for Kids, seems determined to continue with its fight by seeking publicity and hoping the Beast of Redmond will back down.

It probably doesn't realise it but it is playing a very dangerous game. Bolstered by public pronouncements of support, the charity - which hands out second-hand PCs to poor and disadvantaged people - has been arguing with Microsoft since July over whether it should pay a software licence on the Windows OS it puts on each machine.

Recently, it has become cocky and started producing press releases criticising Microsoft. It has even got the satirist Michael Moore, who fronts a TV show in the US called Awful Truth which seeks to embarrass bullying and corrupt companies, on the case.

However Microsoft is perfectly entitled to the licence fee. PCs for Kids gets its computers from companies which have site licences. But by keeping the Windows OS on the machine and not paying an individual licence fee, it infringes Microsoft's copyright.

Mr Moore is unimpressed by this thinking and had created several pages on his Web site to make his feelings known and more information on the case. Look here. PCs for Kids is also drawing attention to the support it has had. In its latest press release, it listed the number of responses it has had (8,281 from July to August) and what they had to say. Apparently, 81 per cent are supportive of PCs for Kids and the remainder either for Microsoft or think both are wrong. It goes on to have a dig at Microsoft and bigs up its charitable deeds.

The problem is that it is perfectly legal for M$ to demand it. Following the publicity in July, Microsoft said it would not charge the usual £200 or so for the licence per PC; instead it would ask for £60 per PC due to its charitable status.

There are four main charities in Australia that hand out second-hand PCs. PCs for Kids is the smallest and the only one that loads Windows onto its PCs. The others use Linux - which doesn't require a licence fee to be paid.

PCs for Kids is obviously hoping to shame the Beast into making an exception in its case, but the likelihood of this happening is very slim. If the charity is then left unprotected to MS' lawyers, it will regret ever trying to bully the bully. Equally, if Microsoft does go in for the kill, the charity will find that all the brave supporters will turn to dust.

Microsoft can't really afford to start making any exceptions with its licence approach. This is exactly what has made Microsoft so rich and powerful. It has gone so ballistic with its pirate software crusade that some people are even beginning to care about it. It can't afford to lose face and it is not scared of bad publicity when its mind is made up. ®

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