Justice seeks review of Microsoft source code

The Justice Department and state attorneys general have demanded a close
look at Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows 98 source code.

Justice and state lawyers filed the motion this month following a July 30 ruling by the
U.S. District Court for Utah that ordered Microsoft Corp. to turn over the source code to
antitrust plaintiff Caldera Inc. of Orem, Utah.

Justice and the attorneys general of 20 states and the District of Columbia made the
motion as part of their antitrust suit against Microsoft, alleging anticompetitive
practices. The antitrust trial is set to begin Sept. 8 at the U.S. District Court for the
District of Columbia.

Microsoft will fight the motion. “Our source code is our most valuable
asset,” Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said, and therefore should not be made
available to competitors.

Although Justice has offered to protect the confidential information, Microsoft wants
an agreement that any consultants who review the source code for the government will not
publicly disclose information about it for a year and will not discuss it with Microsoft
competitors for 18 months.

The state attorneys general earlier this year had agreed to Microsoft’s terms for
turning over the source code, Cullinan said.

In a counter motion, Microsoft attorneys called the government’s request
“burdensome” and “irrelevant” and said it required disclosure of
“extremely confidential, highly sensitive trade secrets.”

But Justice and the states argued that “Microsoft makes repeated factual and legal
assertions relating to technical design features of its products that can only be
countered through analysis of its source code.”

Justice specifically wants to see whether the source code bears out Microsoft’s
claim that the Internet Explorer browser is an integral element of Windows 9x and not a
separate program.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to give a deposition in the main antitrust
case Aug. 12. Justice attorneys plan to question him for two days.

Calling it a “deliberate attempt to hinder our preparation,” Cullinan
questioned why Justice has requested the source code 60 days after filing its lawsuit and
has sought to depose 17 Microsoft executives before the trial starts.

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