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Microsoft ‘Twisting’ Court Order?

Microsoft Corp. relies on a “twisted and tortured construction” of a court order, the Justice Department charged Monday in a renewal of its call for a contempt-of-court order against the software giant.

The government made its comments in a legal brief filed with U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who will hold a hearing on the issue Jan. 13.

The Justice Department says Jackson should fine Microsoft $1 million for every day it continues to defy the judge.

In papers filed last week, Microsoft said it has complied in good faith with the order, which said the company must give computer manufacturers the option of removing Internet Explorer software from the Windows 95 personal computer operating system.

Microsoft responded to that decision, a temporary order issued Dec. 11, by giving computer manufacturers two new alternatives for installing Windows 95. Although both those options undermine a PC’s performance, Microsoft said it did exactly what the Department of Justice sought and what the judge ordered.

“Microsoft admits that its reading of the injunction yields a senseless result,” the Justice Department said. “But rather than draw the obvious inference - that its construction of the injunction is incorrect - Microsoft asserts that this court entered a senseless order. The fault, however, lies with Microsoft, not the court.”

A spokesman for Microsoft was not available for comment.

Monday’s filing is part of a broader antitrust war in which the Justice Department accuses Microsoft of using unfair marketing practices. The government charges Microsoft violated a 1995 antitrust settlement by requiring personal computer makers to offer its Internet Explorer browser if they want to license its dominant Windows 95 operating system.

Microsoft counters that the 1995 agreement with the Justice Department permits enhancements to the Windows 95 operating system. Internet Explorer, the company says, is not a separate program, but an improvement to the operating system.

Tags: business

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