Ignorance is not a defence in court

Ignorance is not a defence in court
Ignorance is not a defence in court

The owners of a computer sales company were fined and sentenced to terms in prison. The reason for their sentence is that they took old computer systems, re-installed Windows and sold them onto consumers. This is perfectly legitimate except for one detail.

They made copies of Dell's recovery disks and distributed them with the refurbished computers. The machines themselves came with a genuine license to use Windows but the issue is that the recovery disks that Dell provided are only meant to be supplied with a brand-new Dell system. They tried to distribute 28000 copies of these restore disks.


This is a fairly harmless crime and there is no clear sign of damages to either Microsoft or Dell but none the less, the owners of this business were prosecuted for copyright infringement.

Eric Lundgren one of the owners was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $50000. His lawyers are appealing the sentence and Lundgren made the following statement to the Washington Post.

** "I thought it was freeware, if it’s free, then I’m just going to duplicate the free repair tool and give it away, and that’ll be fine. The value’s in the license. The court didn’t understand that.”**

Despite this, all the prosecution needs to do is hold up one of these disks in court with a clear written warning. Then all they have to do is mention that Lundgren travelled to a factory in China where they mass produced thousands of these disks. His lawyers will have a very difficult time.

If you want to follow the full story, take a look here: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/21/e_waste_lundgren_windows_dell/

What they set out to do was right if only they did not make and try to distribute those disks and breach both Dell's and Microsoft copyright in the process. One deadly mistake sunk their business and got them into legal trouble.

You can be 99% right, all it takes is 1% wrong to cause legal trouble

With IT systems there are hundreds of legal requirements, best practices and requirements to keep in track of and follow. Anyone who has ever dealt with Microsoft licensing will know the pain involved in trying to learn everything to keep their businesses compliant. There is also the "exciting" change in UK law which comes into effect this May (Are you fed up of hearing about GDPR yet?) meaning that many businesses need to make significant changes to stay compliant.

Yet despite all of this, businesses will continue to function. The world will continue to spin and have successfully existed for years. Raise your hand if you remember the health and safety act of 1974. There was panic, there was confusion, there was fear and no shortage of opportunists seeking to cash in on the desire business owners have to protect themselves.

Social media and online advertising only compounds the issue by making the problem seem larger than it really is. Yes there is work that needs to be done with GDPR but just like the health and safety act of 1974, it is created to deal with the genuine offenders. If you take steps towards compliance you might not get it right immediately so long as you improve.

The risk is greatest if you do nothing. If you place your head in the sand and hope it blows over, then if the auditors do knock on the door and see no effort has been made, you will be left in a far worse position then those who have tried and failed. You can hire consultancies and advisors to assist you with GDPR and technology issues but often you may not need that. The information is freely available to your business, there is no good excuse anymore for not knowing.

You can hire experts in different fields to help you in marketing, HR, legal and IT and there are many benefits to doing so yet for some business owners, they just need to look at the basics of the issue in front of them. It might not be that scary after all

As you are reading this, hopefully you have registered your business with the ICO: https://ico.org.uk/registration/new and looked at the ICO's guidance: https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf - For if you've not even done the bare minimum...what would the ICO say if they trigger an audit on your business? "Ignorance is not a defence" So take a step in the right direction for your business today.

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Breffni Potter

I get to help my clients achieve their goals every day, whether they want to grow their business or just want to use technology without stress.