Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's War on the Right to Repair (One's Own Computers) Makes Lundgren an 'Enemy' to Microsoft

Overview



Microsoft's Declaration of War on Recyclers



The Legal Aftermath



Pending review and research

Microsoft killed RightToRepair



Summary: Microsoft killed legislation that allows people to repair their own computers and gadgets (that they paid full price for), so why not also destroy the life of a prominent recycler who helps hardware repairs at a vast scale (reducing demand for new electronics with new Microsoft Windows licences)?

TECHRIGHTS recently embarked on this series which may seem like old news even though some of the material is new. There's new information and all material has rock-solid sources. We'll also be posting proof, evidence, court material etc. There's no lack of it. The Washington Post's coverage of the Eric Lundgren case dealt with what happened last year and the year before that (see "Eric Lundgren, ‘e-waste’ recycling innovator, faces prison for trying to extend life span of PCs" and "How did this advocate of e-waste reuse end up behind bars?"). The Verge explained that by attacking Eric Lundgren Microsoft very well knew that it attacked everyone who recycled old PCs ("E-waste guru going to prison says cracking down on refurbishers is ‘harmful to society’"). The Verge, formerly edited by Bill Gates, unfortunately ended up amplifying Microsoft. On the same day it published a headline that contained Microsoft's deliberate lie (‘he was counterfeiting Windows software’). Even Microsoft knew this was false, but again, this is Microsoft. Facts don't matter. Only profits matter. As we shall explain in a moment, Microsoft's attack on Lundgren was very much consistent with the company's disdain if not sheer hatred of recycling in general. Lundgren and Microsoft are philosophically and ethically opposed.

"I currently support #RightToRepair," Eric Lundgren told me after I had asked him about Software Freedom, e.g. use of GNU/Linux on recycled machines. "I currently support PIRG." To quote the site: "Most of us have dozens of electronic devices in our lives, from smart phones and home computers, to inkjet printers and flat screen TVs. Things don’t last like they used to—a tiny broken part or outdated software can mean the end of the road, and the life spans seem to get shorter and shorter. This endless cycle of make, use, replace, and throw away may be good for the electronics companies’ bottom line, but when we stop and consider the impacts on the environment, and the threat to our health, it just makes no sense."

Scroll down a just a little bit to find "TELL MICROSOFT: DON'T PUNISH RECYCLERS" (PIRG supports Lundgren in return, sending the love back). Lundgren is extremely popular among recyclers, but Microsoft defamed him to that effect (trying to portray him as a foe or a threat to the recyclers' world). We'll come to that later in this series. The demonisations were rather outlandish and way beyond insulting. Lundgren still thinks about suing over it. These psychological attacks (fabricating things and making up stuff to dehumanise the victim) have long-lasting effects.

To quote that page (the relavent part): "Microsoft pressed criminal charges against Eric Lundgren for making restore disks that allow people to fix old computers—even though the software on those disks is available online for free. We need to stand up for repair—or risk a chilling effect on repair and refurbishing, a key strategy to reducing electronic waste."

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that recyclers support Lundgren; Microsoft tried driving a wedge between him and other recyclers. Did that work? Not exactly, but it served to show just how evil Microsoft still is. The only lesson here is that Microsoft would do anything to destroy critics. Last month we presented many other examples (Microsoft phoning people's bosses, trying to get these people fired because of their stance on Microsoft). Microsoft is a bully incorporated into company form. It acts like a violent cult.

Further down PIRG tell "Eric Lundgren's Story":

Eric Lundgren is a recycling entrepreneur, and has made it his mission to extend the life cycle of used electronics. At age 19, he started a company that takes discarded electronics and rebuilds them into new, functional devices, thereby diverting working electronics from landfills. He even built the world’s longest-range electric car out of electronic waste, or e-waste, and set the world record for distance on a single charge.

Lundgren developed a strong passion for this cause in his twenties when he decided to follow America’s exported e-waste. He witnessed the harmful and toxic effects e-waste landfills had on people living in China, India and Africa at that time. It was clear that we needed to do more to keep toxic e-waste to a minimum.

But, Lundgren is heading to prison for providing restore disks that allow people to fix their old computers. Even though this software is given to everyone who buys a computer with a licensed operating system and can be downloaded for free, Microsoft decided to press criminal charges against Lundgren for planning distributing the disks to help people keep their own computers running longer. Eric did put the Microsoft logo on the disk, which is a copyright violation, but since the software is available for free, it’s not clear how Microsoft could claim this is criminal violation. Why not just ask that he take their logo off the disks, which he would surely have agreed to do?

While this is an extreme example, it could set a dangerous precedent and result in a chilling effect on electronic refurbishing across the globe. We’re standing up for repair by calling on Microsoft to work with people who recycle—not criminalize them.

Together, we can make sure Eric is last person who faces prison for doing what we all need to do more of—repair and reuse.


"Best to be guided by your heart's conviction," Lundgren told me. He wants justice. He also wants to recycle. Both things can take a lot of time and effort, endless energy, leading to fatigue. Mental exhaustion may seem inevitable, but Lundgren is surrounded by a lot of supportive people, who love him and want to help him. They give him hope and motivation. Microsoft was unable to change that (it tried hard). Worse -- Microsoft is just making more enemies. Its attacks on Lundgren will backfire in a very big way.

"Microsoft fights the right to repair," I told Lundgren. "The site Motherboard [among others] covered how Microsoft fought this legislation..."

"That is true," he responded. "The founder of #RightToRepair told me all about it."

And "that was months ago," I continued, so "you probably could not read that at the time" (Lundgren was still in prison).

A lot of the media focused on Apple's role (fighting the ‘Right to Repair’), e.g. [1, 2]. Lundgren heard all about it by now. He also mentioned the CEO of IFixIt.com. They have their rants about Microsoft-branded hardware (notoriously difficult to repair).

Cory Doctorow covered the issue back in April, a year after Lundgren's time behind bars had commenced ("Not just Apple: Microsoft has been quietly lobbying to kill Right to Repair bills"). "I like Cory Doctorow," Lundgren noted. "He is a smart dude!"

It's also well within his 'ballpark'. He wrote about digital obsolescence for decades. One article of interest comes from PIRG and is entitled "Microsoft named as stopping “Right to Repair” in Washington". We linked to it at the time (when it was new). Here are some key passages:

In an interview on iFixit’s Repair Radio, Morris, who was the original sponsor of the bill last year, claimed that “word on the street” was that big tech companies, specifically Microsoft, “marshaled forces to keep the bill from moving out of the House Rules committee.” Rep. Morris further claimed that, while he didn’t see the “smoking gun,” “there was a tax proposal here…to pay for STEM education.” Furthermore, “in exchange for Microsoft support[ing that tax,] having Right to Repair die…” was a condition, as well as another privacy policy Microsoft wanted to advance. He shed some light on the kinds of things Microsoft lobbyists were doing, saying that last year, “Microsoft was going around telling our members that they wouldn’t sell Surface Tablets in Washington any longer if we passed the bill.” In our own conversations about the opposition to Right to Repair in Olympia, Microsoft’s full-throated opposition was often brought up by legislators, and it was to clear to us that the company was lobbying extensively against the bill, and was the most high-profile opponent. Across the country, large manufacturers like Microsoft and Apple tend to do much of their public opposition to Right to Repair through trade associations. Microsoft is among the manufacturers represented by trade groups like CompTIA, Consumer Technology Association, Information Technology Industry Council and the Entertainment Software Association, which are all active opponents to Right to Repair reforms. These trade associations can mask the role of an individual company, but are one of the key ways the opposition works to defeat pro-consumer Right to Repair legislation. But the behind-the-scenes targeting of Right to Repair by Microsoft seemed to play a more significant role in the bill’s demise.

Microsoft has a complicated recent history on repair

Last year, electronics recycler Eric Lundgren went to prison for duplicating Dell restore discs, software meant to help fix old computers and that is free to download. Microsoft faced intense scrutiny for their actions in that case. In response, U.S. PIRG delivered more than 11,000 petitions to Microsoft offices, calling for greater accountability for electronic waste disposal and easier access to the tools and information needed to repair products. The case also brought attention to several other ways Microsoft makes it difficult for people to reuse its products: lobbying against Right to Repair laws, violating warranty regulations by attempting to forbid independent repair in warranty clauses and “void warranty if removed” stickers, and making several products which are notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to repair. On the other hand, Microsoft has taken steps to help computer recycling and reduce waste, making a new operating system that runs smoothly on older devices, reducing the need for new upgrades. That’s no small step, and iFixit praised it at the time.


"According to State Rep. Jeff Morris, Microsoft played a leading role," PIRG said (a role in killing the bill). Here's the video in which it's covered:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i51YOXCAXJ0

On occasions I asked Lundgren about rejecting Windows and just putting GNU/Linux on computers instead. "I'm all hardware via Recycling," he emphasised. "Don't really know too much about software."

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