The European Commission (EC), in all its zeal to control competition worldwide by targeting successful U.S. corporations, has once again shown its anti-American stripes, disregard for fairness and contempt for intellectual property rights.
This week, the EC issued an unprecedented ruling and levied yet another astronomical fine totaling $357 million against Microsoft Corporation for what the Commission said was the U.S. software giant's failure to comply with its 2004 "antitrust" order.
For those unfamiliar with the case, in March 2004, the EC, prompted by Microsoft's competitive rivals, issued an order against the U.S. software giant that, among other things, required it to pay a record fine totaling $613 million, mandated the sharing of some of its software code and ordered the company to offer a stripped-down version of Windows. The deadline to comply with the order was July 18, 2006, nearly a week after the EC levied its latest fine. And, the company was supposed to have until July 24 of this year to make any final revisions.
Despite a pending appeal of the 2004 order (a decision which is not expected until early next year), Microsoft has nevertheless paid the fine, brought to market the stripped-down version of Windows (which flopped as European consumers chose not to buy it) and established a technology licensing program to share some of its source code. Yet the EC, with its latest action, claims that Microsoft has somehow failed to adequately comply with the 2004 order.
Is anyone surprised? Given European regulators' growing disdain for American success and innovation, nobody should be.
If this were just another ho-hum antitrust case, there would be little cause for alarm. Even if this was just about slapping Microsoft on the hand for some supposed offense, few would take notice. But clearly this case has significant ramifications. Indeed, the EC's latest action is further evidence that it cares for nothing more than controlling worldwide competition, and undermining property rights and the foundation of free-enterprise that is intellectual property.
You see, Microsoft's competitors want access to its valuable source code, which is the core of the company's business, so they can further profit from Microsoft's success by plundering its intellectual property. Failing to acquire free access to the source code, in which Microsoft invested tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to develop, under the terms of the company's 2001 court-approved settlement with the U.S. government and state plaintiffs, those competitors are now colluding with all-too-willing, power-hungry EC regulators. As the EC's arrogance grows, so does the threat to the U.S. economy.
All successful U.S. companies, their employees and consumers worldwide beware!
The long-term impact of the EC's actions is nauseating to consider: It is a simple fact of economics – without private property rights, no incentive to innovate exists. No incentive to innovate, no innovation. No innovation, less jobs. Less jobs, less money for consumers to buy new products -- new products that won't exist because the incentive to innovate is eliminated.
It goes without saying that unchecked power in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats is the most dangerous threat to individual freedom and free enterprise. Bit by bit they will undoubtedly and mercilessly claim one right after another until competition is eliminated, innovation is crushed, taxes are beyond oppressive and economies become trampled under the feet of unmotivated, apathetic consumers and business owners.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this unsettling assault on American enterprise is the United States government's silence. Considering the precedent that is being set, considering the rights being undermined, considering the incredible regulatory powers being assumed, considering the grave threat to the U.S. economy, one would think the United States would speak up. Not so.
If the EC's unprecedented, self-appointed powers continue unchecked, coupled with its growing anti-American sentiment, no American company -- large or small -- expanding business overseas is safe from the foreign regulatory body's wrath or cynical manipulation.
Are our elected leaders in Washington beginning to sympathize with their European counterparts? If that is the case, Americans have an even bigger problem on our hands than a bunch of reckless bureaucrats in Brussels.July 14, 2006
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