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Microsoft charity dispute draws attention

An Australian charity says it has received applause from around the world after standing up to Microsoft in a dispute over software licences.

An Australian charity said it has received applause from around the world after standing up to Microsoft in a dispute over software licences.

"It is clear that the international audience is concerned that a well known philanthropist company and its major stakeholder (Microsoft CEO Bill) Gates must understand that their hard line on charities is very damaging to their record," PCs for Kids president Colin Bayes said.

The nonprofit organization said it has received overwhelming support on an international scale in regards to the software giant's refusal to support the charity.

PCs for Kids recycles old computers and donates them to children. The organization reformats Windows 3.11 or Windows 95, both of which are no longer supported by Microsoft.

The charity received a letter from Microsoft telling it to stop downloading its operating system onto computers, as this was in breach of the software giant's copyright.

In the past two years, the charity has donated over 1,000 recycled computers to underprivileged children, each containing old versions of Microsoft's operating system.

A Microsoft Australia representative earlier said the company was trying to work out the dispute, noting that the company made allowances for charities in its license scheme and has an authorized refurbishment plan that offers "heavily discounted" licenses.

"Microsoft cannot condone the disregard of Australian copyright laws but acknowledges the important work that nonprofit organizations such as PCs for Kids undertake to bridge the digital divide within Australia," said the representative.

In an act of defiance, Bayes has sent a letter to Gates saying that Microsoft is "rapacious in its grasp for control and profit...But, never so obvious as in the matter quoted above; that a corporation of Microsoft's size and profitability would act against a charity using software that is basically obsolete is reprehensible."

The charity has ceased the distribution of computers to children as it investigates ways in which to obtain legal Microsoft software or alternatives.

"One only hopes this stupid mess is resolved sooner rather than later. Let's face it, we are requesting to use operating software that Microsoft no longer supports," Bayes said.

Staff writer Megan McAuliffe reported from Australia.