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Justice: Microsoft Violating Order

December 29, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department pressed its bid for a contempt citation against Microsoft on Monday, saying the software giant ``is in clear violation″ of a court order in a lawsuit involving Windows computer software.

Government lawyers accused Microsoft of ``jerry-rigging its own products″ to get around an order that it quit requiring computer makers to distribute the Internet Explorer browser program as a condition of installing the popular Windows 95 operation system software.

``Microsoft is in clear violation of both the injunction’s letter and spirit,″ Justice Department lawyers said in court papers.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued the order Dec. 11. A week later, the Justice Department asked him to rule Microsoft in contempt. Government lawyers also asked Jackson to impose $1 million a day in fines if the company refuses to obey a contempt finding.

Microsoft denied it was violating Jackson’s order, saying in court papers last week that the Justice Department’s proposals showed that ``poorly informed lawyers have no vocation for software design.″

Jackson has scheduled a Jan. 13 hearing for arguments in the case.

Microsoft argues that the latest version of Windows 95 that includes the web browser is one product. The Justice Department accuses Microsoft of illegally tying two separate products together.

Government lawyers said Microsoft misinterpreted Jackson’s Dec. 11 order.

``Under Microsoft’s reading of the injunction, it is entitled to offer as the only alternative to its conditioned license a version of Windows 95 that simply will not work,″ Justice Department lawyers said.

That, in effect, would require computer makers to continue using Internet Explorer if they install Windows 95, the government brief said.

Microsoft also offered computer makers a second software alternative that government lawyers said was ``commercially worthless″ to computer makers.

But government lawyers said Microsoft itself has advertised that Internet Explorer can be easily uninstalled.

``The point ... is not to hinder Microsoft’s efforts to create improved products, but rather to prevent Microsoft from using its Windows monopoly to place a thumb on the scale in browser competition,″ Justice Department lawyers said.

Microsoft contends it is impossible to strip out Internet Explorer from the latest version of Windows 95 without harming the operating system.

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