Eric Lundgren said he was e-recycling when he made 28,000 discs to restore computers with Windows operating systems.
Microsoft fights e-waste, too, but accused Lundgren of copyright violations. That triggered a criminal prosecution for counterfeiting goods, which didn't end well for the recycling advocate.
After a decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in United States of America v. Lundgren, he will have 15 months in prison to think about other ways to clean up his act.
15 Years and $50,000
The appeals court affirmed a counterfeit and copyright sentence, plus a $50,000 fine against Lundgren. According to reports, he will not seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.
He told the ABA Journal that he spent $850,000 defending himself, but his lawyers told him an appeal would be a "costly long shot." He said he has accepted his lot, but not given up his fight against e-waste.
"Hopefully my story can shine some light on the e-waste epidemic we have in the United States, how wasteful we are," he said.
His story could have ended much worse. The trial judge gave him a break based on a report that the discs were worth $700,000 and sentencing guidelines called for 36 to 47 months in prison.
Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch, had a big problem with the case. He called the decision "a sickening concession to bad copyright law and Microsoft's bottom line over basic technical truths."
He said Lundgren's discs were not countefeit, and they were practically worthless. At the time, he said, Microsoft provided disc images so that people could burn copies for free.
It was intended for users who lost their installation discs, and it worked only if a computer already had a licensed copy of Windows. Lundgren said that's all his discs would do.
"Throughout this entire case, I kept telling everyone this is a Dell restore CD," he said. "They kept telling me it's a Microsoft operating system."