8 February 2002 The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Microsoft may change some of the terms of the anti-trust settlement reached in November 2001. The move comes in response to public comments submitted to the DoJ about the agreement.
The two parties have made a joint filing to the US District Court saying that they were considering whether “in response to public comments, to submit to the Court proposed modifications”. According to US law, a judge must rule whether the anti-trust settlement is in the public interest.
During a 60-day period in which the DoJ invited public comments on the settlement, it received some 30,000 submissions, although only a tenth of these raised substantive issues, according to the organisation.
One comment came from Harvard University law professor Einer Elhauge, who described the settlement in its current form as “a terrible precedent contrary to the public interest”. Several thousand of the other comments made more general statements, such as “I hate Microsoft”. These were disregarded.
Despite the volume of comments, it is unlikely that Microsoft and the DoJ will submit major changes to the settlement, only “refinements to the language”, according to one lawyer close to the case.
Both Microsoft and the DoJ hope that these refinements will speed up the final settlement of the case, which received an additional setback in late 2001 when nine states refused to back the settlements in favour of tougher restrictions on Microsoft. The next hearing in the case will be heard on 11 March 2002.
A major cause of opposition to the settlement is based on the belief that it is too weak and does not provide an adequate punishment for the harm caused by Microsoft’s breach of US anti-trust laws.