Vol. 1, Issue 20, September 30, 2003
Microsoft Takes Cue From RIAA, Sues 6,300 Satirists
Taking a cue from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Microsoft has announced that it will be filing thousands of lawsuits against individuals whose actions are allegedly harming the company.
"Our principal difficulty today is one of public perception," said Microsoft legal counsel Jonathan Milton. "As our sales figures show, we produce the most popular system, word processing, email, and spreadsheet software in the world. However distribution of our products in the U.S. and abroad has been negatively, if marginally, affected by consistent, widespread slander.
"It's time to put a stop to this," Milton added.
The principal culprits, according to Microsoft, are mostly individuals spreading satirical or biased stories about Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Microsoft software via blogs, email, usenet groups, and - "most perniciously" - satirical websites. Microsoft has filed 6,324 lawsuits in hundreds of courts around the country targeting anyone who has published what Microsoft considers to be "defamatory material."
"This is absurd," complained Brian White, director of the Internet Satirical Newspaper Association, whose member sites have produced scores of Microsoft-bashing parodies in the past few months alone. "Parody is protected free speech. Plus, Microsoft is only getting what's coming to them." White spoke on condition of anonymity, because he is based in the Seattle area within "striking distance of the Microsoft special-ops guys."
Other webmasters are not worried about the Microsoft suits.
"I don't see how it's going to affect me," said Brian Briggs, owner of BBspot.com, best known for its famous "Microsoft Purchases Evil From Satan" article. "RIAA has been forced to back down on a lot of the lawsuits where children were involved; I'm sure the same will be true for Microsoft. So I've taken the precaution of transferring ownership of the site to my kids."
"I'm safe because I'm overseas," said Gregory T. Mullet of the British site Deadbrain. "You Yanks may be in trouble, but far as I know Gates hasn't got a leg to stand on over here." When informed that Bill Gates had in fact purchased enough titles to gain a majority in the British House of Lords, Mullet merely said "Oh bugger."
The online satire community has long been wary of Microsoft ever since of the best-known sites, Satirewire.com, mysteriously stopped production shortly after a particularly stinging article alleging that foot-and-mouth disease was the only virus incapable of infecting Microsoft Outlook. The webmaster, Andrew Marlatt, subsequently disappeared without a trace.
"I guess being sued is preferable to being disappeared," said White. "Marginally. You're not going to use my name, right?"