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Microsoft to license code to avoid EU fines

But feels penalties are unwarranted

Microsoft has agreed to license the source code for communications protocols in its Windows server software in a bid to avoid being fined €2m (about £1.37m) a day by the EC (the European Commission), the company's top lawyer said today.

"I don't believe any decision to implement a fine is warranted," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, told reporters in Brussels, following the announcement that the firm would license the code to third-party vendors.

The EC, which is the European Union's antitrust enforcement arm, has threatened to hit the company with the hefty fines unless it comes into compliance with the EC's March 2004 antitrust decision against it.

As part of that decision, Microsoft was ordered to license the communications protocols for its workgroup server software so that other vendors can develop products that interoperate smoothly with Windows. The EC's goal is to create a more even playing field for competition in the server software market.

Meanwhile, the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg is due to hear Microsoft's appeal against another part of the March 2004 antitrust decision on the 24 April, a court spokeswoman confirmed today.

Microsoft was fined €497m (£342m) by the EC for abusing its dominant market position.

To comply with the ruling, Microsoft shipped a version of its OS without Windows Media Player.


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