Windows

Felon 0, Microsoft 1


It was reported here as well as a number of other sites that Scott McCausland (admin of Elite Torrents) was arrested on felony charges of uploading Star Wars Episode III to the Internet. When the verdict came down, he was told he had to install monitoring software onto his computer so the powers that be could keep track of his online comings and goings. There was a slight wrench in the works in that the monitoring software only worked with Windows. Alas, McCausland's computer was running Ubuntu, so the punishment would not stick. Or would it? Because of this, the courts ruled that the felon must install Windows on his machine so they can keep track of him.

Hmmmm - I'm not really sure how I feel about this. No wait, yes I am.

A felon is told he has to use a particular software on his computer, a software that doesn't work with his operating system. So the felon has either to comply and use Windows or never use a computer. Now I don't have a problem with the courts ruling that the man be tracked. That is a smart move. But when the court insists that he use a software that is only compatible with one operating system, well to me, that shows these systems are a bit behind the times. Monitoring Linux usage is simple. And there are plenty of monitoring systems out there...many of them open source. It wouldn't be difficult for the State (or the Federal) government to hire a programmer to create a cross-platform monitoring system to use.

Let's face it, these sorts of crimes are going to continue. But allowing Microsoft to gain when a felony is committed that really has nothing to do with Microsoft? That just wrong in so many ways. Microsoft should have, in no way, benefited from this man's crime. Yet here they are - doing so.

And I am sure that MS benefiting in such ways is not limited to this type of crime. Companies and governments need to open their eyes and join this century. There are numerous platforms out there. And it's not just browser compliance, it's everywhere. It's schools, and businesses, and governments, and churches...everywhere.

I would like to think that situations like this, in this day and age, would not be happening. I would like to think that so much has crossed over to Web-based applications, that OS-based non-compliance would no longer be an issue. But it is. Why? Because so many people out there still do not get that the computer has evolved into something much greater than Windows. And until they get it, felons are going to lose and Microsoft is going to win - even when they aren't playing the game.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

92 comments
Roscojim
Roscojim

The moron committed the crime, so he has to live with whatever the court decides. He doesn't like it? He should've thought of that earlier. I have no pity for criminals. They get what they deserve!!

XLTR
XLTR

Poor baby has to use Windows -- he's lucky he gets to use a computer at all. He's a convicted felon -- and his felony was committed with his Linux computer. The court does not have to go out of its way to accommodate him.

theillien
theillien

Point of fact, they told him he is required to use a piece of software for the purpose of monitoring. They did NOT tell him he has to use Windows. It just happens that the software he is required to use is only coded for Windows. If it were coded for Linux or BSD or OS/2 as well he could likely use either of them. Having not been told he has to use Windows, he can simply run a virtual machine on which he has install Linux if that is what he really wants to use. The only problem I see with this is that in order to use the software, he is being bound to spend money on an OS that he wouldn't normally have spent the money on. In my opinion, while I don't take issue with the ruling, I think that the state should be required to provide the OS in order for him to comply. Unless, that is, if part of the ruling is that he has to bear the financial burden.

robinsbk
robinsbk

Branding someone as a felon has an inherent meaning that they have acted violently to violate someone or thier home to steal property. Yes it's a copyright infringement which is property however it was not violently obtained. I would equate this perhaps to Careless and Imprudent if attempting to compare to a vehicular offense. 6 points as opposed to 2 for standard moving violations. It would be hard to prove that the consequences to the infringed party were catastrophic or even anything more than marginal to the producers of this 6th movie in a Saga that has made billions. If this was a first offense, I can't see how his lawyer didn't get him off without jail time and something less than a felony. He probably should have gotten about 30 days of community service and probation for 1 year along with no computer or Internet access for that same year unless required for gainful employment. And requiring a lifetime subscription to Netflix might be a nice added judicial icing on the sentencing cake. But if this kid came back to me whining about having to load windows if he wanted to use a computer and internet access I would inform him that "You will be assimilated beeeaaaccchhhh!!!"

Andy Goss
Andy Goss

Maybe I am being simplistic, but the order is only that he install the program, I see no reason why he can't dual boot. I hope, if the court gives him the program, it also gives him the OS to run it on. On the other hand, anyone who actually wants to watch Star Wars ep III deserves little sympathy. Maybe this was all a stunt by the film company to give their flick a bit of cred.

apotheon
apotheon

. . . was "Isn't Microsoft a felon, too?" Microsoft has been found guilty in felony criminal cases in several countries, after all. I guess maybe the headline should read "Felon 0, Bigger Felon 1".

retro77
retro77

What would make this story one better is if he used a copy of Windows that he downloaded over a torrent. Then Microsoft wouldn't gain anything. Then again, he might just go to real jail.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If they let him use an open source monitoring application, wouldn't that increase the chances of him hacking it to push bogus data?

QAonCall
QAonCall

Stupid writer. MS did not make anything from this guy. You drawing attention to the idiot only serves his real desire...15 minutes of fame. The guy is a loser and thief, and maybe having to pay for something will get him into a good habit. The taxpayers should not have to pay to develop software to track him. His options are simple, comply or don't. NO ONE is forcing him to buy anything. He can simply not use a computer. The truth is, he will probably get a pirated copy of windows anyways!

jimmessick
jimmessick

Punishment: 1)-A penalty imposed for wrongdoing 2)-The imposition of hardship in response to misconduct. 3)-the practice of imposing something unpleasant or aversive on a person or animal in response to an unwanted or disobedient behavior. So part of the punishment is requirement that he use MS software. "Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time"

scottyc2005
scottyc2005

Maybe the idea is to punish him by forcing him to use windows. MAybe that would fall under cruel and unusual.

Displaced IT Tech
Displaced IT Tech

I don't think that this punishment will stick. I don't believe that he can be told that he HAS to use Windows. This effectively tells him that he ISN'T allowed to use any other OS. First of all (no pun intended) I see a First Amendment issue here, which is Freedom of Speech. I don't think that his alleged violation mandates a suspension of his First Amendment rights. The Fourteenth Amendment might apply here as well. As you may or may not know, many of our current civil rights that we saw recognized in the 1960's were actually based on Free Trade and Commerce which is a Fourteenth Amendment issue. Challenges were also seen in regards to language, where Unreasonable State Acts (such as forbidding the teaching of any language besides English). Hello......not allowed to use ANYTHING other than a Microsoft product? Of course, Microsoft products are far from the English language in terms of Constitutional protections. However, courts many times will used the THINKING and INTENT when applying existing statutes and legal precedents to new situations. Just a few thoughts.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

let him sit and think about the meaning of life like buddhist monks. His brain was obviously turning to jelly anyway, this might help.

btljooz
btljooz

http://www.p2pnet.net/story/13147 I think that one of the main reasons this has been made such an issue of is because Open Source is "bad language" in the 'company' of proprietary software busine$$e$. In addition to that, there's the gross ignorance about IT of those who who are SUPPOSED to uphold the LAW instead of being bought off. Just look in any gov office you go into and if you can see the monitors IN that gov office you WILL see Windoze.

apotheon
apotheon

The problem I have with this is that it provides Microsoft with incentives to find ways to help get users of non-MS operating systems convicted of crimes. Every one of them that is convicted and sentenced to install monitoring software that only runs on MS Windows OSes becomes an MS Windows user, feeding money into the MS rainy day fund. Government is getting into bed with Microsoft more and more every day. (edit: one-letter typo)

RFink
RFink

If the court order says "his" computer, then the answer is simple. Don't own a computer, just keep borrowing them. The other trick is to write a script to upload things to random websites to flood the logs with TBytes worth of garbage and let the court chew on that. I'm a firm believer of let the idiot who made the decision live with the fallout.

apotheon
apotheon

There's some excellent open source monitoring software out there -- but it generally runs on another system, as far as I'm aware. Stand-alone desktop monitoring software is more a phenomenon of the MS Windows world. Such software [b]could[/b] be produced for an open source system, but doesn't exist to the extent it does on MS Windows. If you're asking whether open source software could [b]by definition[/b] be more easily circumvented, the answer is "no". In fact, probably the opposite is true. All that's required is to ensure he doesn't have root access to his own system, and you'd have better defenses against him being able to circumvent such software on the computer than you could achieve on MS Windows. The key would be to use the added security capabilities of Unix-like systems against him. In fact, while monitoring software of the sort that they're using on this guy doesn't really exist for Linux as far as I'm aware (it's not really an area of expertise for me), other tools [b]do[/b] exist that could be used to put together a monitoring solution without even adding any additional software. The situation here is that the court is just assigning a "fire and forget" type of application that will (hopefully) do what they want. It'll mandate the expense of a piece of commercial software and support rather than the (probably smaller) expense of putting something together that doesn't have a brand name on it.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I think that OS based monitoring is too easy to bypass for someone that knows what they are doing. This should be done by networking equipment. Bill

RDK55
RDK55

You Yanks just don't get it, do you? The guy was convicted of committing a crime. ?Rights? are sometimes taken away when you are a convicted criminal. You go to jail; you lose the ?right? to choose where you want to live. You are ordered to avoid contact with minors; you lose the ?right? to hang around schools. This guy?s sentence was handed down and that included being monitored if he still wants to use his computer. His ?right? to use whatever minor o/s he wants was taken away. Tough luck.

jlwallen
jlwallen

what says he can't get around a monitoring software when using windows? i think the judge assumes that the monitoring software is infallible. and we all know, where there is a will there is a way.

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

[i]In addition to that, there's the gross ignorance about IT of those who who are SUPPOSED to uphold the LAW[/i] Honestly what more can you expect? If you are in a specialised area why exactly should you know more than the professionals in another area? This is one thing that I have never been able to understand just because someone is in one field by no means implies that they know it all and nor should it be implied or expected. What many people who are not involved fail to understand is that many times the Courts are Hamstrung by the very laws that they work under. These Laws are written by the Legislators not the Courts and the Courts get dumped on because of Incompetence by the Legislators in failing to produce acceptable and workable Laws. A Court can only rule under the Laws that they work under and if they are faced with a set of circumstances of A then the Sentence B is applied. The Courts do not make the rules only attempt to interpret some rules and then on other occasions they are told what they can and can not impose. Anyway as the ruling only said that this Application [b]Has To Be Installed[/b] what is wrong with using a [b]Windows Emulator [/b]under Linux? The courts only insisted that the Application be installed by the Probation Officer not that it had to work. If this person wasn't such a[b]Smart A$$[/b] they could have just added something like Wine and allowed the Probation Officer to install the Desired Application then everyone would be happy even if the required application didn't work the Courts Ruling would have been applied and everyone would be happy. Here the idiot wants to make itself look bigger and more knowledgeable than the courts which is OK as the Judges in any Court are not IT Professionals so they can not expect to know better than the IT Pros who should have been consulted when the Laws where written by the Legislators. What I find amusing here is the willingness of people to blame the Courts for something that they have no control over and then blindly ignore the fact that the Politicians who write the Laws are incompetent and unable to find good Expert Advice. :D Col

theillien
theillien

I hadn't even considered that part of the issue

Displaced IT Tech
Displaced IT Tech

I am afraid that I must disagree with this definition. One must be very careful with sources, as many may be inaccurate. This is especially true with such a fluid medium such as the Internet. Black's Law Dictionary defines a crime as "A social harm that the law makes punishable; the breach of a legal duty treated as the subject matter of a criminal proceeding." Black's Law Dictionary defines a felony as "A serious crime usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death". I am afraid that the specifics of this case notwithstanding, the definition of felony as "any convicted criminal" is incorrect as there are many crimes that an individual may be convicted of that are not punishable by one year in prison.

apotheon
apotheon

A felon is someone who has been convicted of a [b]felony[/b]. Committing a misdemeanor does not make one a felon. I'm not sure whether this guy committed a felony. My memory of the legal status of the copyright infringement he committed is a touch hazy at the moment.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"All that's required is to ensure he doesn't have root access to his own system, ..." I think I'd rather have a Windows system than a Linux system with no root access. Geez, would he going to be able to add any apps or updates? That would require a major choice of distro since he'd be stuck with it for a while. I wonder if he could get a friend to crack his box from the outside and alter it. "It'll mandate the expense of a piece of commercial software and support rather than the (probably smaller) expense of putting something together that doesn't have a brand name on it." Yeah, but I expect he's paying for it, not the court, so who cares? I suspect they picked the app assuming most people they will convict have Windows systems. Say he's running with Windows. What's to keep him from booting a distro from a CD or thumb drive? I guess they could lock the boot sequence at the BIOS and put a password on it. If they really want to punish him they'll stick him with dial-up from AOHell. I still think he's lucky they let him have any access to a computer at all.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If it was being forced to move from Windows to another platform, he'd also loose all rights and ability to work with his user owned and saved files. I thought that was worth adding in though as you point out; if one commits an offense against a child they loose the right to be within so many hundred meters of a school *not* the right to visit the school playgrounds still as long as he brings a chaperone.

DadsPad
DadsPad

most of us do get it. A crime conviction and sentence must be carried out as judged or even more consequences will be given. Most of the objections here would change if they were standing in front of a judge. :)

Displaced IT Tech
Displaced IT Tech

The point is not whether or not he can get around using the monitoring software, but whether or not he thinks it is a good idea. Judges take a very dim view of people trying to disregard the court's rulings. What would undoubtedly happen is: 1. A contempt of court charge 2. An imposition of an even more strict penalty. Doesn't sound like a very bright idea to me.

kingttx
kingttx

removed double post after a site error was given

kingttx
kingttx

I believe it is implied that the monitoring software actually work, not just be installed. Since we do not have the full text of his terms, we cannot make a true observation like this. However, I agree that courts need to start digging into the new technology and look for new ways to comply without having to purchase a brand new operating system. "You must give us access to your house, so you must purchase this particular door that has this particular lock. By the way, you'll just have to accept the fact that the door is proven to be poorly made and you'll probably be robbed or invaded several times, but take heart that you are complying." Perhaps a bit of hyperbole, but you get the point. ;)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The Law.. ok.. so it may work about as well as it keeps those on bail from skipping out on the bail or crossing state lines. So, really the only thing that would keep the guy from using a second machine is being intelligent enough to realize that he's already in trouble and a second machine would only worsen it. Maybe he's actually smart enough to hack the monitor into a thumbdrive like the thumbdrive firewall you can buy these days. Then he could use any machine provided he uses the thumbdrive monitor with it.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

whats to stop him from going and using a library computer? Or someone else's comp? Or even getting a new one and keeping it 'hidden'?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I was focusing on the user's data files or result of working with those tools. The house would be the result of working with the carpenters tools where the personal resume, budget spreadsheet or any other data files are the result of working with the hardware/software tools. Perhaps a more specific example would be the hammer and nail. With closed standards, you get a house held together with BrandX nails that only work with the BrandX hammer number 7. Ban the carpenter from using BrandX tools and they can no longer work with the house they've built because they can't remove or add any more BrandX nails. No worries about the other bit as I'm sure I read it more poorly than it was intended; the ?kay? bit at the end read like Mr Garison's dismissive "n'kay".

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That was really just a tangent comment about one system providing more open standards while the other system (for business reasons) provides closed standards. There is far less chance of having files on a *nix system that can't be opened on another platform. Since this particular case results from criminal actions; all his problem, best of luck.

RDK55
RDK55

I'm unbunched now and hopefully a little more professional. I just REALLY didn't want to see this thread head down that road, that's all. Bad wording on my part, 'kay? ...No snide intended :) On the other point though, I still tend to disagree with you. The guy's computer and software ARE tools, not a house that he built. Now the courts have said that he has to use different tools if he wants to continue to be active in the technical community. Again, if his tools aren't compatible with what he was using previously, tough luck, sometimes a convicted criminal loses rights and privileges. I have no sympathy for him.

DanLM
DanLM

But if he has business files that can only be accessed on a nix computer. He can pay to have them converted. Thats his problem, not mine. He is not locked out of his work environment, he just has to adjust his work environment because he used the said environment for criminal activity. Dan

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The first comment you responded to was a little bit of humour with a technical basis. If a user was forced to mvoe away from Windows to another os, they effectively could loose there resume and all other .DOC or similar closed format documents. It's that closed standards that help keep people addicted to the Redmond crack pipe. If a user was forced to move from *nix to Windows, they don't loose there resume and whatever other files they've created over the years. This is not a carpenter loosing there hammer, this is a carpenter being locked out of there own home they built by hand through loss of access to there tools. With open standards, that carpenter can still user there home and fix it even if they are barred from using a specific brand of hammer to do it. As for the second, comment you respond too, it was purely based on the comment (now two back down the chain) I was responding too. No, in reality, a child offender is not going to be let anywhere near children. In the case which started this discussion, the courts have basically said "sure, you can continue to work on computers as long as you are monitored" or "sure, you can still have your morning coffee and self grope across the street from the local school yard as long as you have a chaperone to monitor you." Either way, there was no going down the road and yorr snide "'kay" ending added nothing to the discussion though it did devalue your comment. (Edit); the irony is that I was backing your statement with a bit of humourous support up until you decided it needed to be a semantic debate. I meant to point that out initially so I edited to add.

RDK55
RDK55

Purely semantics. If he were a carpenter and were convicted of a crime is which his tools were used , he would probably lose ?all rights and ability to work with his user owned? tools. Depending on the offence against a child, I doubt he?d be let within range of kids not matter where, guarded or not. But this is a technical forum. Let?s not go down that road, ?kay?

sonyfish
sonyfish

This is just a warning - If you need an attorney, and you live in California, DO NOT HIRE John H. Feiner! He will not defend you properly. He will lie to you. He is a great talker, but he is a snake!

sonyfish
sonyfish

There are different categories of felonies. Sadly, the only ones that use the categories either wear a badge or are in the judicial system. When a felon applies for a job a murder felony is the same as a felony for uploading a movie. It seems that many people in the legal system and government want people to be banned from certain freedoms. . . voting, leaving the country, serving on a jury, getting a decent job (any job), serving the country. . . Keep in mind that some people with felonies are innocent. Circumstances have a lot to do with some felonies. I have helped a lot of people with records. Most of them were straight up guilty and they got off with a light sentence or no sentence. A few of them were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or met the wrong people - who became vindictive and framed them. There are good people that have felonies and evil people that have felonies. There are good people that don't have felonies and evil people that don't have felonies. Just because someone has a felony it doesn't automatically make them a bad person. I think the punishment given this kid was wrong! I have to quit here or I will get myself into trouble. This is a very touchy subject for me. The judicial system is CORRUPT!

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

speaking purely theoretical about what could happen and the situations that he could be placed in. In all reality, they teach Microsoft Office in school and he would need it to complete a CPT 101 class just to begin his education. I just don't think he should be forced to purchase Windows and the theoretical other software for a crime that probably shouldn't be a felony. I believe in the second chance for those who may have just made a mistake. I know someone who robbed a store when he was 18 years old. He made a mistake and was hanging around the wrong people. Due to that mark and that mistake the rest of his life was ruined. He was forced into low paying jobs that never gave him the opportunities to do any better. He knows it is his fault, but now he is one of the best Christians I know and is a better person that probably 75% of the rest of the population, but he can never do well for himself. That was the only time he was in trouble and his life was decided for him from then on.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"He says he is trying to go to school which can't be done without a computer now so not using one would effect him for the rest of his life negatively." Then he should have thought of that before he perfomed what he knew was an illegal act. Having to use a Windows system won't hamper his education as much as if the judge had denied him all computer access or put him in jail. "Using Windows will require him to purchase any applications needed to do school work or every day activities that were free before." Free applications aren't limited to the Linux arena. OpenOffice is available in a Windows version. I don't know what other software he was using, but I'll bet the school doesn't require much besides an office suite. As to his other activities, we're back to him being lucky he's still allowed to use a system.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

without using the product at home. Using Open Office will give you the knowledge to perform task in Microsoft Office. Using Ubuntu will give you knowledge of a GUI OS that is similar enough to Windows so that he could use it in the world. I don't have Cisco routers, switches, AD domains, or 95% of the software I support at home, but I do a fine job administering it. By no means does using open source products at home limit you in what you can use. If anything, only knowing how to use Microsoft products will limit you in the world. If you only know how to click on the button that Microsoft provides, you don't know how to use that software package.

RDK55
RDK55

The judge is doing him a favour by "forcing" him to use Windows so he can learn what the rest of the world is learning and doesn?t have to go through a major shock when he gets out of school when he sees that a lot of job postings require ?knowledge of? some sort of MS product or another. :)

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

Convicted felons have many rights taken away and that is a good thing, but it is becoming broader as to what a felon is. Some felonies are not crimes that deserve as harsh punishment. If an 18 year old kid uploads a movie and gets busted and charged with a felony I don't think he should be treated the same as a murderer. He was dumb and he broke the law, but he did not hurt anyone besides the movie company on a movie that those who downloaded it may have not paid to see anyways. So who knows how much the actual damages would have been. Should he be punished, yes. Should he have his life altered dramatically and be forced to endanger himself, I don't think so. He says he is trying to go to school which can't be done without a computer now so not using one would effect him for the rest of his life negatively. Using Windows will require him to purchase any applications needed to do school work or every day activities that were free before. So now he also has to buy Windows, Office, and other software necessary. I just think it is a little much for the level of crime. First offense on what a lot of people do everyday shouldn't have such a dramatic punishment. I do believe he was wrong as well as all who infringe on copyrights and they should be punished, just not force them to either stop their life or spend what could easily go into thousands of dollars.

RDK55
RDK55

Sorry. I shouldn?t tar all of you with the same brush. Some of you DO get it. But when I start seeing others start thumping their drum about ?rights? and ?freedoms? and ?amendments? when it comes to a convicted criminal, I just have to shake my head. What?s next? Someone should have the right to choose whether they?re held with Smith & Wesson handcuffs or something else? Freedom of choice I say! I have the right to choose! Sheesh!

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

But as people are demanding that a decision is made on available material I mealy pointed out that under what is supplied the Courts didn't actually insist that the Application work. Only that it be installed. When I first dealt with a High Court Judge I was taught to only do what was written down as anything more wasn't required. So if it's not asked for it's not important. :D I know that it is silly but so is the Defendant in this case who seems more interested in playing the Victim rather than accepting the ruling of the Court. Actually for that matter the Court on the provided Requirements hasn't even insisted that this person pay for a M$ Windows OS just that they install one maybe so it's possible that a Pirate Copy of Windows would be acceptable to the Court provided that the Application works on that OS. What is interesting here is that the application isn't mentioned so it's possible that there may be a requirement to have a specific version of Windows Installed as well. So unless there is something different posted it's impossible to say one way or the other. But what is the important thing here is that the above poster is making assumptions that may or may not be required by the Court. If you follow the written word to the letter there is never a problem with the Cort Orders. And more importantly who would know any better? If the defendant had just installed Wine and told the Parole Officer to install it now there would be no one the wiser would there? Col

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