Eric Lundgren is resigned to doing prison time. After spending his life engaged on e-waste recycling programs, Lundgren was arrested and charged with “counterfeiting” Microsoft restore discs, part of a debatable, years-lengthy criminal struggle that ended this week whilst an appeals court docket declined to overturn a decrease courtroom ’s determination.
Lundgren, who ’s additionally an electrical car inventor, ordered a cargo of the discs and supplied them to a Florida dealer, with plans to transport them directly to computer refurbishers. The dealer ultimately asked Lundgren to for my part acquire them as an alternative — just for Lundgren to find the sale was once a part of a government sting operation.
In courtroom, Lundgren pleaded accountable but argued that the value of the discs was zero, as the tool was made freely available online to restore damaged computers. but the courts sided with the prosecution, which was once assisted by way of Microsoft. the corporate mentioned in an announcement this week that offering tool as Lundgren did “exposes people who acquire recycled desktops to malware and different kinds of cybercrime, which places their security in peril and ultimately hurts the market for recycled products.”
Update, 8pm ET April 27th: Microsoft has printed a blog submit which stridently disagrees with Lundgren ’s characterization of the case. It additional disputes the truth a minimum of one in every of Lundgren ’s claims, that a US lawyer informed him “Microsoft needs your head on a platter and i ’m going to provide it to them.”
Lundgren will quickly serve out his 15-month sentence. He spoke on the phone with The Verge this week after the decision.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
are you able to tell me a bit bit about your historical past?
I grew up in just a little, tiny town within the heart of nowhere in Washington, proper up through the border. While I moved there it had 14,000 other folks and everybody used to be a farmer. I went to my native bank and cashed an $EIGHTY FOUR test and my financial institution stated, “you’ll be able to ’t money it at this time as a result of our computer systems are being upgraded.”
I went to go depart and there was this large pile of computer systems in front of the exit. I stated, “What are you going to do with the ones?” She stated, “we will be able to ’t throw them away, as a result of we heard that they ’re very toxic, and so we’d like to seek out a pc recycler.” So I simply turned 16 years antique, and i have a beat-up truck, and that i mentioned, “Neatly, I ’m a computer recycler,” and i changed into a computer recycler that day.
That ended up becoming me recycling for my faculty, and helping to pay for varsity buses, after which that changed into getting all of the retired veterans that had been on the senior voters heart involved. Eventually I ’m nearly 17 years vintage and i ’m driving all the way down to Seattle picking up company computers, truckloads of them.
I said, ‘Neatly, I ’m a pc recycler, ’ and that i turned into a pc recycler that day
on the age of 17, I just moved to L. A. with $ONE HUNDRED in my pocket and went to move visit my brother that was once going to USC. He used to be suffering to pay for his tuition and i stated, “Neatly, permit ’s just get started a company doing recycling.” Ahead Of I knew it I ’m this 17-12 months-old kid that ’s chargeable for all of the recycled computer systems for American Airways, yearly, all over the world. Then that grew and that i ended up building up a company, operating with many Fortune 500 companies.
However I wasn ’t truly solving the e-waste drawback, and it was once haunting me. So I followed the e-waste, all of the stuff that we throw away that ’s non-repairable to US standards, and i followed it over to Hong Kong and that i watched it pass over to China. I befriended some other people there and so they taught me the ropes of the way to re-use portions and components, and it bothered me so unhealthy what I noticed over there, that I had to head discover a solution for e-waste.
are you able to describe your arrest and the felony state of affairs that adopted?
i was at a meeting with RadioShack in Dallas, Texas when federal retailers at five o ’ clock in the morning-ish busted down my door with masks and weapons and raided my space and took all of my electronics.
the second that i noticed what it was once relating to …. that I had potentially price Microsoft millions and hundreds of thousands of greenbacks and the whole 9 yards, I hopped on a red eye flight from Dallas, flew directly to the us lawyer ’s place of business and sat and waited for the sellers and the assistant US attorney to meet with me. I defined to them precisely what this was referring to and i mentioned, “Glance, these are repair CDs, there ’s no licenses, you’ll be able to obtain them without cost online, they ’re given to you without spending a dime along with your computer. the one way that you can use them is if you may have a license, and Microsoft has to validate it. have you spoken to Microsoft approximately it?”
They said, “We don ’t care, we think you ’re a legal, and i ’m sorry but Microsoft desires your head on a platter and that i ’m going to give it to them.” Those are the words that the u.s. legal professional stated to me in that meeting, face to stand. There ’s in point of fact nowhere to go from that. I advised them, “I ’m a pc recycler, i’ve no legal history, i’m no longer a felony. you’ll be able to look at this all you need, however I ’m unlikely to head to prison over this because this isn ’t a criminal offense, except it ’s a criminal offense to assist people and assist the surroundings.”
He said, “You ’re going to prison a method or every other. you’ll be able to sign this paper nowadays and visit a few nice, comfortable ‘Membership Fed ’ or just roll the cube and spot what happens.” every week and a half before the statute of limitations, I received 21 federal indictments. That was once a scary day.
“We don ’t care, we predict you ’re a criminal, and that i ’m sorry however Microsoft needs your head on a platter and that i ’m going to present it to them.”
Meanwhile I ’m operating three different recycling companies and had just gotten back from my second shuttle to Ghana. I ’m literally devoting my time to humanitarian work after which i am getting this indictment and i cross, “Shit, now I ’ve were given to do something about this.”
i thought, “I just need to train the federal government approximately what this is now,” and it became an incredible lesson in educating the U.s.a. govt on what a restore CD was once.
Walk us in the course of the middle dispute. What do restore CDs do, and how do you feel the government and the courts misunderstood or misinterpreted what they do?
The discs that i used to be promoting refreshed your computer back to its unique viewpoint while you purchased it. It ’s a restore CD, it restores your laptop again on your settings while you bought your pc, again when it was once rapid and back whilst the whole thing worked right and there weren ’t any glitches and there ’s no missing DLL files and there was no viruses and all that. while you come to a point whilst you get this blue screen in this computer, or your computer ’s just slowing down, and also you say, “Heck, I Would Like this to function find it irresistible used to,” you pop in the repair CD, click input enter enter, and positioned within the Microsoft code that you’ll handiest get from Microsoft, that ’s discovered on your laptop. You type that during and Microsoft validates it and says, “Okay, you may have the suitable to make use of this,” then validates your license that you simply paid for from Microsoft. You principally get to reload your existing operating device for your legally owned hardware.
however the govt was evaluating repair discs to something else?
They were comparing it to a new license. You don ’t get a license with the repair CD. the government treated the infringed item as though it was once a certified product, the license itself, what Microsoft sells, and it ’s now not. It ’s the item that nowadays Microsoft will provide you with at no cost. That used to be the big misunderstanding. Microsoft treated the repair CD as though it was once a brand new, licensed running machine, and it ’s now not. it’s a restore device that may handiest be used to repair your laptop ’s present working gadget.
i started doing this as a result of my grandmother ’s pc got tousled. She took it to Absolute Best Purchase, and it went to Geek Squad. Geek Squad stated, “To Restore your working gadget it ’s going to price $ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY.” She purchased a new pc, but her antique laptop was once tremendous, and that inspired me to move, “Holy shit, other folks in The United States don ’t understand how you can restore their product and aren’t given the tools they want to keep this stuff alive.” It wasn ’t a cash-making project. I didn ’t make any money doing it. i truly lost cash doing it. The function was to get these to refurbishers so they may put them within the boxes and then customers down the road could restore the problem.
While the discs got to The Usa, they sat within the dealer ’s garage for a long time for the reason that refurbishers had already made their very own, so they didn ’t need them. In The End I were given a call from a broker and he stated, “Howdy, I Would Like to buy all of them from you and i ’ll pay you 20 cents a piece, right here ’s this $3,FOUR HUNDRED, will you are taking it?” What I didn ’t realize was that that money used to be a sting operation from the America govt. So my only purchaser that I ever had used to be the us taxpayers thru a sting operation.
My handiest buyer that I ever had was once the u.s. taxpayers thru a sting operation
Why is Microsoft being so zealous approximately this?
Here ’s why. I were given within the manner of Microsoft ’s multi- multi- multi-million greenback industry style of recharging people for computer systems that already have an operating system. Now they can use this case legislation and my case to truly hit home all the refurbishers out there that recognize me, and there ’s so much that do. It ’s a multi-billionaire trade, but it ’s a very tight-knit small community. They get to move to every refurbisher and say, “We don ’t need to come after you civilly anymore, we will be able to come once you criminally, and we will be able to positioned you in jail. So do you need to pay us the $25 times 50,000 running methods that you need this month, or do you want to possibility it?” I truthfully believe that that is a tactic to solidify a trade style that may be very wasteful and very destructive for society.
with the exception of the prison part, are there any non-public plans that you simply ’re making at this time together with your trade or with your family prior to this?
I stepped down as CEO and we hired a very excellent group, so they ’re doing nice. My different firms are struggling. I ’m in the means of construction the world ’s longest-vary electric semi that I Need to power from the West Coast to the East Coast on a single rate, and that i ’m if truth be told building that. the problem is that they ’re unlikely to let me construct that during prison. so that one stops, the paintings in Africa stops, as a result of i was leading that rate. There are things that allows you to stop. the corporate is not going to, it ’s going to move do good things.
I ’ll get in there and figure out some way to modify the prison device so that when I go away it ’s a greater position for the people who aren ’t getting to depart, and that i were given a guide deal out of it.
I ’m going to make the best of it. I ’ll turn lemons into lemonade. I ’ll get in there and figure out some way to switch the prison device in order that while I depart it ’s a better position for the people who aren ’t attending to leave, and that i were given a e book deal out of it. a really large writer and a really nice ghostwriter wish to write a ebook with me, and not specifically this, however just my lifetime fighting e-waste and what I care approximately and looking to share that message with the arena. I Want to write a e-book in jail about attempting to find joy, trying to be the happiest that I ’ve ever been in my entire lifestyles in prison. i actually want to see if it ’s conceivable to search out essentially the most quantity of pleasure that i’ve ever had in my whole existence in an environment that ’s designed to thieve that from you.
I ’m not staying in that long and whilst i am getting out I ’ll continue to do the paintings that I do lately, but when the dialog gets began love it has, if other folks start knowing and being attentive to e-waste, to deliberate obsolescence, to the fitting to fix movement that ’s taking up the country, if i will be a cog in the wheel of that development in society, if i will lend a hand the world evolve past being primitive neanderthals that throw the whole lot in a hollow in the ground that leeches destructive chemicals into our water desk and the meals we eat and the water we drink and the air we breathe, if i will be able to assist the sector in that manner, then hell yeah, I ’m keen to go to prison for that.