When electronics recycling innovation is strangled by corporatism: The Eric Lundgren story
In case you haven't heard, the US government and Microsoft have succeeded in their quest to take down one Eric Lundgren, a force in the electronics recycling industry. How did Lundgren land in this predicament? Did he avoid taxes? Did he mislead consumers? No. All he did was attempt to sell thousands of Windows Recovery Disks to computer refurbishers for 25 cents a pop in an effort to significantly extend the life-cycle of used PCs. It was all a part of his personal crusade against planned obsolescence, corporate greed, and e-waste. Now he will be serving 15 months in prison after Microsoft claimed it had lost millions in sales, despite the fact he never sold any licenses and was only attempting to sell software similar to the free software downloads on Microsoft's website.
"In 2013, federal authorities intercepted shipments of 28,000 restore discs that Lundgren had manufactured in China and sent to his sales partner in Florida. The discs had labels nearly identical to the discs provided by Dell for its computers and had the Windows and Dell logos.
“If I had just written ‘Eric’s Restore Disc’ on there, it would have been fine,” Lundgren said. As a result of violating the copyright of Windows and Dell, Lundgren pleaded guilty to two of the 21 counts against him. But he believed that since the discs had no retail value and were seized before they were sold, he would not receive any prison time. His sentence was based on the financial loss involved."
Making this case even more egregious is all the charitable environmental and community work Lundgren does that could be compromised at this point. According to the same Washington Post article, this case was particularly complex for the judge:
“This case is especially difficult,” Hurley told Lundgren at his sentencing last May, “because of who you are today and in terms of who you have become.” The judge received evidence of Lundgren’s recycling company, IT Asset Partners, his projects to clean up e-waste in Ghana and China and a 2016 initiative in which Lundgren’s company repaired and donated more than 14,000 cellphones and $100,000 to “Cellphones for Soldiers” to benefit U.S. soldiers deployed overseas."
On the bright side, it seems even prison can't keep a good man from giving back to the community. After all, Lundgren is planning on organizing a repair and entrepreneurship class to teach inmates valuable skills for when they reintegrate themselves into society.