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IN THE NEWS - July 7, 2001: Microsoft Ruling - 2001-07-06

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

In November, a Washington D-C judge found the Microsoft Corporation guilty of misusing its power to control the market for computer programs. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson announced his findings after months of trial. He said Microsoft uses its power to illegally block competition.

Judge Jackson later ordered that Microsoft be divided into two smaller businesses. The Microsoft Corporation quickly appealed Judge Jackson’s ruling to a Federal Court.

Last week, the Federal Appeals Court ruled on the case. It said Microsoft Corporation was guilty of creating a company that used its power to block competition. The seven Appeals Court judges agreed with Judge Jackson that Microsoft limited creativity in the computer industry and harmed the public. They said that Microsoft was guilty of violating several federal laws.

However, the Federal Appeals Court also said the Washington D-C court must reconsider its order to divide Microsoft into two smaller companies. The federal court dismissed Judge Jackson’s decision. The appeals court judges accused Judge Jackson of not being fair during the Microsoft Trial. They severely criticized him for comments he made about Microsoft and its chairman to reporters during the trial.

The Federal Appeals Court also said Judge Jackson repeated these mistakes several times. It said the public would lose its trust in a legal system that permits judges to speak their opinions to reporters during a trial.

Legal experts say both the federal government and Microsoft can claim small victories with the Federal Appeals Court ruling. The experts say government lawyers were able to prove that Microsoft is guilt of violating federal laws. At the same time, Microsoft can claim a victory because it may not have to divide into two smaller companies.

Legal experts say government lawyers and the lawyers for Microsoft must now choose one of three different possible paths. First, either side could appeal the Federal Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. Or, they could request a new trial before a different lower court judge to consider some of the unresolved legal questions. A third choice is for both sides to reopen negotiations to try to settle the case privately. Such efforts failed during the Clinton administration.

.Bill Gates is the head of Microsoft Cooperation. He says it is now a good time for all the groups involved to discuss the situation and see what kind of solution could be negotiated.

Most legal experts believe that the Microsoft company and government lawyers will come to an agreement during future negotiations. They say Microsoft may be punished by being forced to pay money.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.