He Saves Our Electronics From the Dump, Now Faces Prison

The 'Washington Post' takes a look at Eric Lundgren's court battle
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2018 1:42 PM CST
Electronics recycling is shown in this stock photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Eric Lundgren is known for impressive and admirable feats, with his e-waste recycling company putting 14,000 cellphones in the hands of US soldiers abroad; the 33-year-old's company handles 41 million pounds of e-waste annually. Now, he's fighting a 15-month sentence. The Washington Post explains the jargony situation, which involves Microsoft Windows licenses and "restore discs." New PCs typically come with the discs, which enable the Windows operating system to be re-installed in the event the computer's hard drive is erased. As the NextWeb explains, if a PC is sold, its Windows license legally transfers to the buyer, which makes "restoring non-working PCs ... a relatively easy process." You use the restore disc to install the operating system and enter the license key (traditionally listed on a sticker on the PC) to validate it.

So Lundgren had an idea of how to keep many perfectly good computers from being scrapped for parts: Make "restore discs" that refurbishers could use in instances where the restore disc had been lost but the license key was present and valid. And so he did, but the 28,000 discs he created were never sold: The 2013 shipment (en route from China to a sales partner in Florida) was seized by the feds. The discs had the Windows and Dell logos on them, which he admits was a misstep. He was found guilty of conspiracy and copyright infringement, which brought the sentence and a $50,000 fine, but a federal appeals court has granted him a stay of sentence and another shot at arguing that the discs are essentially worthless and had nothing to do with making a profit (Microsoft alleged they were worth $420,000) but was an attempt to tamp down on e-waste. The Post has much more on his case here. (China is no longer accepting the world's recycling.)

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