Eric Lundgren, an e-waste recycler and inventor, will have to serve a 15-month prison sentence for selling Microsoft restore disks. Lundgren received his sentence months ago, but a federal appeals court confirmed it earlier this month. He’ll also have to pay a $50,000 fine.
Although restore disks are given to everyone who buys a computer with a licensed version of Windows (and can be downloaded for free), Microsoft decided to press criminal charges against Lundgren for distributing the disks, which he did to help people keep their computers running longer. Microsoft argued that this free-to-download software was worth $25 per disk, which the court accepted.
Lundgren had 28,000 disks made and shipped to a broker in Florida in an effort to sell them to refurbishing shops for 25 cents each. These shops then wouldn’t have to make them, and users who don’t necessarily know they can go online to download the software could preserve their computer without needing to buy an entirely new one. The appeals court says Lundgren’s infringement of Microsoft products cost up to $700,000.
Nathan Proctor, director of US PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, issued a statement over Lundgren’s sentencing:
“Companies have gotten too aggressive in pushing us to throw things away and buy new things. What we should be doing instead is reusing more, repairing more, and recycling the rest — ideas that Eric Lundgren has been pioneering.”
The Right to Repair has been hotly debated in recent months, particularly because California proposed a law that would require electronics manufacturers to make repair information and parts available to product owners and to third-party repair shops and services. Seventeen other states have proposed similar legislation. Most major tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, are opposed to the idea of letting users fix their own devices on the grounds that it poses a security risk to users. Although as Lundgren’s case demonstrates, the companies are likely more concerned over a loss in profit than anything else.