Microsoft offer not good enough

After attracting bad press globally for its actions against local charity, PCs for Kids, Microsoft has announced that it will make a $65,000 technology donation to a number of associated community groups - but it won't be enough to save the charity.

Microsoft was lambasted by the media, both locally and internationally, after it slapped a copyright infringement notice on PCs for Kids when it discovered that the charity, which refurbishes donated computers for underprivileged kids, was loading unlicensed Microsoft software on the machines. Microsoft is now attempting to patch the damage by making a "gesture of goodwill" to a group of Geelong charities.

According to a statement, Microsoft will be providing 150 Windows 95 licences to the local Rotary "Donations in Kind" program, as well as providing ten refurbished PCs with "modern software" and net access to Geelong's YMCA. This is in contrast to the 1000-odd computers distributed by PCs for Kids since its launch in mid-1999.

Although admitting that it could not comply with PCs for Kids' request for 2300 copies of Microsoft software - which would have been valued at more than $400,000 - Microsoft hoped that it would "provide valuable assistance directly to the Geelong community" nonetheless.

However, the offer has done little to help PCs for Kids, according to founder Colin Bayes.

"This kind offer does nothing to address the copyright issue, which leaves us with hundreds of kids on our waiting list, not to mention those who will need systems in the future," he said.

"Our project of assisting less fortunate children will have to close as we do not have the funds to purchase the required software needed to refurbish the older technology kindly donated to PCs for Kids," he added.

After numerous meetings held between the two parties to nut out a solution, the tech giant decided that it would not grant any copyright exemptions. In a letter from Microsoft to the charity, Microsoft outlined that it could not provide the requested copies of software, because the cost would "represent a significant proportion of [Microsoft's] community assistance initiative budget" and would require "special authorisation". Subsequently, the concentration of funds in one area would hinder Microsoft's ability to "reach a truly broad audience across Australia" with their charitable efforts.

The letter also informs PCs for Kids that "it seems to us that what you're ultimately seeking is a refurbisher's licence" - a program that is not offered in Australia.

Bayes, who wrote an impassioned letter to Bill Gates regarding the situation, reiterated his plea to the Microsoft founder.

"We at PCs for Kids have one question for the well known philanthropist Mr Gates," he said. "Why should less fortunate kids be made to pay again for software already donated by our community?"

"As the founder of PCs for Kids I am ashamed at this half-hearted offer by Microsoft and urge all our supporters to call Microsoft and voice your concern," he added.

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Ronda Field

Computerworld
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