MS $65K back flip over charity, but not for PCs for Kids

MS $65K back flip over charity, but not for PCs for Kids

Two weeks after it copped a media flogging over its attempt to bring legal action against a Victorian-based charity for software piracy, Microsoft has revealed it will donate $65,000 worth of software and PCs to local community organisations. But a furious PC for Kids co-founder Theresa Bayes has labeled the move as a gross publicity stunt too late to benefit the PC for Kids charity - which is now facing closure.

PCs for Kids, which redistributes old computers to underprivileged kids, was slapped with a copyright infringement notice by Microsoft recently for hard-loading copies of Windows 3.11, Windows 95 and Word onto the refurbished machines.

Although Microsoft dropped the threat of legal action, entering into talks with the charity as soon as the incident was picked up by international wires, this donation does not directly go to PC for Kids.

Instead Microsoft wants to provide 150 Windows 95 licenses valued at a total of $33,000 (which it claims to have sourced through its OEM partners) to Geelong Rotary's Donations In Kind (DIK) program. The DIK program provides technological assistance to people in Australia and overseas.

Furthermore, Microsoft wants to provide 10 refurbished PCs to Geelong's YMCA valued at a total of $37,000, to be used in Geelong YMCA holiday camps. The software vendor is touting the move as an acknowledgment of "the importance of supporting the local Geelong community and the beneficiaries of PCs for Kids in particular".

According to Julie Inman, corporate affairs manager at Microsoft, PCs for Kids had requested 2,300 copies of Microsoft software valued at over $400,000, which would consume the bulk of Microsoft's community assistance initiative budget under its eMpower program. Inman also claims the request was for obsolete software up to 10 years old. This does not fit Microsoft's charter of providing charities with "modern" Internet accessible technology, she said.

Inman denied allegations the donation was a knee-jerk reaction to bad publicity, stating the PCs for Kids charity did not fit the criteria established for Microsoft's Community Assistance Initiative. Also, Microsoft has worked with YMCA and Rotary on a global level in the past.

Interestingly PCs for Kids supplies the computers used by Geelong Rotary and the YMCA in their programs, yet Microsoft's Inman claims the charity is deemed unworthy to assist.

ARN has obtained a copy of a letter sent by Microsoft's Inman to PCs for Kids claiming the charity pays $150-275 for PCs with Windows 95 loaded onto them, therefore falling outside the vendor's eMpower assistance program. PC for Kids founder Colin Bayes brands this as an out-and-out lie, claiming the charity has never charged for software.

With a stockpile of old PCs, but no software to load them on, PCs for Kids is facing closure said Bayes. He is now lobbying government to get an exemption written into the copyright legislation, which will allow charitable organisations to load out-of-production software donated by the community onto PCs.

"As the founder of PCs for Kids I am ashamed at this halfhearted offer by Microsoft and urge all our supporters to call Microsoft and voice your concern," said Bayes.

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