Microsoft offers charity-friendly license

The software maker creates a program that allows charities to use donated PCs without breaking its software licensing rules.

Microsoft has created a special software license for Windows 98 and Windows 2000 that allows charities and schools to use second-hand PCs without breaking the company's end-user license rules.

As pressure increases on businesses to recycle or refurbish their old PCs, a greater number of used systems are finding their way into the hands of charitable organizations and schools. The catch is that, because the computers were sold with corporate licenses, it is effectively illegal for the charities to make use of the computers without falling afoul of Microsoft's license agreement.

To address this issue, the company has launched the Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers program, which allows selected companies to install updated versions of either Windows 98 or Windows 2000 to used computers for a "nominal charge" to cover "materials and program operations."

Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft's corporate social responsibility and community affairs director, said in a statement that the program will extend the life of PCs and help increase access to technology. She said the refurbishers program will "maximize IT access in schools and community centers to support more education for all and minimize the environmental impact of redundant hardware."

Three years ago, Microsoft gave in to pressure after at first demanding that an Australian children's charity buy new licenses for donated computers. Eventually, the software giant offered to give the charity 150 packs of Windows 95 and 10 refurbished computers as a "gesture of goodwill."

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet UK reported from London. Megan McAuliffe of ZDNet Australia contributed to this report.
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