The United States Department of Justice issued a statement today saying that Microsoft Corporation has violated its 1994 consent decree by forcing PC manufacturers to bundle Internet Explorer 4.0. The DOJ is asking the federal court in Washington D.C. to hold Microsoft in civil contempt for the violation and is asking for a $1 million fine.
In the complaint, the DOJ points out that Microsoft agreed not to force PC makers to bundle software as a condition of licensing Windows 95. The forced bundling of IE 4.0 clearly violates that agreement.
"Microsoft is unlawfully taking advantage of its Windows monopoly to protect and extend that monopoly," Attorney General Janet Reno said Monday. Microsoft spokesman Mike Murray disagrees.
"We are confident that we have operated in a completely appropriate and lawful manner. The facts will show that we are in full compliance with the consent decree," he said. "The consent decree specifically says that we are able to integrate new features into the operating systems. Consumers want that, and that is how the software market has been operating for years. Consumers have always had the freedom to choose any browser. Netscape operates exactly as Netscape designed it on the Windows platform, and we have never stopped any other browser from being used on our platform."
Microsoft Corp. announced Monday that it will vigorously defend its practice of rapidly improving its Windows products with new features and functionality, and distributing updated versions of Windows through PC manufacturers.
Microsoft's point, I suppose, is that Internet Explorer is part of the operating system, not a separate product. The DOJ feels otherwise, however, and has asked the federal court to:
- stop Microsoft from forcing PC makers to ship IE 4.0.
- require Microsoft to notify consumers that IE 4.0 is not necessary for Windows 95 to operate properly and that they are not obligated to use IE 4.0.
- provide consumers with simple instructions on how to remove the IE 4.0 icon from the Windows desktop.
- impose daily fines of $1 million until Microsoft stops violating the 1994 consent decree.
- strike down portions of non-disclosure agreements Microsoft has required PC makers to sign.