Microsoft was found guilty of software piracy last year by a French court, according to facts unearthed today by the geek community.
But the Redmond giant's conviction and three million franc (£285,000) fine somehow managed to escape the headlines. In fact, until today the only place the story has appeared is in French newspaper Le Monde Informatique.
And the only person who noticed the irony of the world's most aggressive anti-piracy firm being fined for piracy was Peruvian congressman Edgar David Villanueva Nunez.
Nunez inadvertently became a hero of the open source movement last month when he penned a letter to Juan Alberto Gonzalez, general manager of Microsoft Peru, arguing that the free software model does not break any intellectual property laws.
His letter was in reply to a complaint by Gonzalez over the proposal of a bill that would require the Peruvian government to only use free software.
In his argument, Gonzalez had claimed that the Peruvian bill "imposes the use of open source software without considering the dangers that this can bring from the point of view of security, guarantee, and possible violation of the intellectual property rights of third parties".
But Nunez retaliated: "The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one's own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietary software.
"[An example is] the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27 September 2001 of Microsoft to a penalty of three million francs in damages and interest for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity)."
This snippet of information instantly made Nunez a hero of the free software movement and prompted open source development organisation Newsforge to dig up the original Le Monde Informatique story.
According to the article, the Commercial Court of Nanterre fined Microsoft because it had illegally included another company's proprietary source code in SoftImage 3D, a top-level animation package that it acquired from SoftImage in 1994.
During the six-year court wrangle that followed, the French company which originally owned the code used in SoftImage, Syn'X Relief, ran out of cash and went bankrupt.
The fight was then taken up by the original individual authors of the code in question and, in September last year, Microsoft was found guilty and fined.
The software giant said that it would appeal against the decision, but the strange thing is why the story remained in obscurity until now.
One school of thought is that because the court decision followed so close behind the 11 September attacks, the world simply missed the 'Microsoft in piracy shock' story.
However, the recent missives between Nunez and Microsoft have now reawakened the facts in a hot bed of discussion in the geek community.
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