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Microsoft Pursues Canadian Teenager For Copyright Infringement

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

21 January 2004

Global software giant, Microsoft is pursuing Canadian teen, Mike Rowe for copyright infringement, as a result of his registration of the domain name as a showcase for his part-time website design business.

Following the registration of the domain in August, Mr Rowe has revealed, he received a letter from the software firm's Canadian lawyers, Smart & Biggar, alleging that he was committing copyright infringement, and advising him to transfer ownership of the domain to Microsoft.

Following a request for compensation for the time spent by Mr Rowe in development of the site, and for the likely loss of business which would result from a transfer, Microsoft offered a US$10 payment. This prompted the British Columbian teen to ask for US$10,000 because he was "sort of mad at them for only offering 10 bucks".

On his website, Mr Rowe details the chain of events which followed, explaining that:

"[On] January 14, I received a package from the lawyers' office FedEx Priority Overnight. Inside I found a book over an inch thick with a 25 page letter explaining to me that I had all along had the intention to sell my domain name to Microsoft for a large cash settlement. This is not the case, I never thought my name would cause Microsoft to take this course of action against me. I just thought it was a good name for my small part-time business."

"In this letter it explains that Microsoft's customers could get confused between my page and theirs, which doesn't make any sense since Microsoft doesn't design websites. They do, however, sell a program called Microsoft FrontPage, which they say can cause some confusion between me making websites for my customers and them selling a program to make websites to their customers."

According to reports in the international media, Mr Rowe has been offered free legal advice, and has received strong support from both the online and local communities.

"It's not their name. It's my name. I just think it's kind of funny that they'd go after a 17-year old," the part-time web designer observed.

Meanwhile, Microsoft was tight-lipped on the issue, merely announcing that:

"Microsoft has been in communication with Mr Rowe in a good faith effort to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. And we remain hopeful we can resolve this issue to everyone's satisfaction."

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