Massachusetts Appeals Microsoft Decision, W. Virginia Might Join

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly announced late Friday that his state will probably stand alone when it appeals the recent federal ruling in the Microsoft antitrust case and asks for stricter remedies against the company. Seven other nonsettling states and the District of Columbia have declined to appeal mainly because of the expense and difficulty involved. But West Virginia, the remaining holdout, will decide sometime today whether it will join Massachusetts or bow out for financial reasons.

"We are going to appeal \[the Microsoft decision\], and we are going it alone if need be," Reilly said Friday. "This appeal is necessary to protect consumers." Also on Friday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who represents most of the other nonsettling states, said, "Seven states and the District of Columbia will not appeal Judge Kollar-Kotelly's decree in the Microsoft antitrust case. We will move on to enforcing the decree on behalf of consumers and fair competition. For most of our states, it is time to dedicate our resources to enforcement of the decree and the law."

For Reilly, continuing the pursuit of Microsoft was a no-brainer because he believes that the Microsoft decision, which is based almost solely on a proposed settlement the company reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) a year ago, is full of loopholes. "We need to send the message that breaking the law does not pay," Reilly said. "Microsoft is crushing innovation. Without competition, our economy has no future. Competition is the key to this case."

Bluster aside, Massachusetts faces a tough road in its fight against Microsoft. First, the once rock-solid case against the company has been watered down significantly, thanks to the corporate-friendly Bush administration's new DOJ regime and various appellate court rulings. Second, several years have passed since the federal government filed the original charges--an epoch in the fast-changing technology world. Originally, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the US government stood allied together against the recalcitrant monopolist. Over time, however, those numbers have diminished, leaving only Massachusetts and, perhaps, the cash-starved West Virginia, to carry on the fight. And any states that choose not to appeal won't share in the roughly $30 million payout Microsoft will provide to cover the states' legal expenses during the case. "We want to appeal with Massachusetts," West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. said this weekend. "\[But\] we do have money issues. We're rolling it around. Everyone was anticipating a more substantial remedy. I hate to leave \[Reilly\] twisting in the wind when I agree with him."

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