Microsoft, DOJ reveal terms of antitrust settlement
Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- Offering an end to their epic legal battle, the Justice Department and Microsoft Corp. asked a judge Friday to approve a settlement of antitrust charges that would set new rules for the nation's hard-hit technology industry.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed to review the settlement and gave states involved in the case until Tuesday to decide if they would accept the plan.
"I will applaud the effort to come to an agreement ... in this time of rapid national change," the judge said, alluding to her earlier plea for rival sides to settle their case in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Under the deal, Microsoft would agree to provide information helping rivals make software products compatible with its dominant Windows operating system.
And the company would be required to give independent monitors full access to its books and plans for five years to ensure compliance and resolve disputes.
And the Redmond, Wash.,-based software giant, credited with helping drive the technology revolution of the last decade, would be prohibited from entering exclusivity deals with computer sellers that disadvantaged competitors.
The settlement imposes a "broad range of restrictions that will stop Microsoft's unlawful conduct," the Justice Department said, hailing a deal many hope will invigorate the slumping economy and the technology industry.
Microsoft urged the states to accept the plan. Company lawyer John Warden called the agreement "good for the parties, and for consumers as we fully expect the states will conclude."
He added the "greatest beneficiary is the national interest."
Phil Beck, a private lawyer representing the Justice Department, outlined a three-month process for reviewing the deal and winning final approval from the court. There would be 60 days for the public to weigh in with comments.
Beck said the government was confident "that at the end of this period the court will rule the settlement is in the public interest."
Brendan Sullivan, a lawyer representing the 18 states that joined the Justice Department in suing Microsoft for antitrust violations, said his clients needed until Tuesday to review the terms and "be sure that this is a good agreement that is enforceable."
Kollar-Kotelly accepted settlement under advisement and ordered the parties to return to court Tuesday.
The restrictions would be imposed for five years, and could extended for another two years if Microsoft failed to follow the terms, the government said.
Microsoft would also allow a panel of three independent experts to reside on its premises and work full-time to ensure the software giant complied with the settlement, Justice officials said. The experts would have access to the programming code that is the blueprint of Microsoft's Windows software.
"These experts will have full access to all of Microsoft's books, records, systems and personnel, including source code, and will help resolve disputes about Microsoft's compliance," the department said.