Microsoft admits Plurk code theft

Yesterday Neowin reported that Microsoft's MSN China joint venture - Juku, was accused of copying popular social networking site, Plurk. Today Microsoft admitted that portions of the sites code were copied. Not only did Microsoft China copy code snippets from Plurk, but they even copied a large section of the design.

Microsoft admitted today that they hired an outside vendor to handle the design and code for MSN China Joint Venture's Juku site, who later admitted to Microsoft that the design and code were copied. Microsoft's contract with the outside vendor was clear that the design and code of the site must not infringe the intellectual property rights of other sites.

Microsoft has issued a statement taking responsibility for the situation and will be contacting the site owners of Plurk to explain what exactly happened and the necessary steps to fixing the situation. Microsoft said that they will be looking into future practices with third-party vendors to ensure situations like this do not happen again.

Plurk supplied images that proved Microsoft had ripped some of the design and code. This is the second time in a month that Microsoft has been caught stealing code and using it illegally in their products. In early November blogger Rafael Rivera discovered that Microsoft illegally used GPLv2 code in a Windows 7 USB/DVD tool. Microsoft officials came clean and recently offered the tool for download alongside the tools source code.

Microsoft has suspended all access to the Juku beta indefinitely.

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40 Comments

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Wow, this is really getting ridiculous. What sort of shady third parties are Microsoft dealing with? I just can't imagine ever thinking this was appropriate...

Outsourcing is not new, nor unusual. The company I work for specializes in web pages ad we still outsourced our website.

Because of our bill rate it was cheaper to have it made outside then we just maintain it then to have on of our techs build the site.

ZX2 said,
Outsourcing is not new, nor unusual. The company I work for specializes in web pages ad we still outsourced our website.

Because of our bill rate it was cheaper to have it made outside then we just maintain it then to have on of our techs build the site.

Haha, and you think they can't undercut you for maintenance also? You'll be out of a job soon buddy.

I can understand the need to outsource some business, companies need to save money even if they do have deep pockets. It makes business sense to save money. But you can't tell me Microsoft don't have in house web developers. There was no need to outsource a web design project, this will cost them more money in the end due to pure man hours, investigating the matter etc.

cerealfreak said,
I can understand the need to outsource some business, companies need to save money even if they do have deep pockets. It makes business sense to save money. But you can't tell me Microsoft don't have in house web developers. There was no need to outsource a web design project, this will cost them more money in the end due to pure man hours, investigating the matter etc.

I used to work at a company the same size as Microsoft and they all work the same. You can have 1000 web developers sitting on their asses doing NOTHING but they charge their hours to an existing project. So big boss sees that everyone is "busy" (charging hours) but he wants this new thing done... he doesn't want to hire anyone new, so he outsources it and pays for it by firing 100 of those 1000 web developers.

Are the developers wrong for cheating a broken system? Yes, but ultimately the blame lies on the big boss for creating a dumb system to track time down to the minute, rather than having a little trust and keeping people busy through legit projects instead of jumping through hoops in a ridiculous bureaucracy.

Well good on Microsoft for at-least accepting responsibility, my respect certainly goes up for any company that doesn't feel it necessary to excuse every mistake they make.

I agree. Hopefully they won't deal with this company again though. I'm glad they admitted to it, but I do question what third party would think this was acceptable...

Microsoft China is not an outside vendor, it is part of Microsoft [a Microsoft branch], and those guys are Microsoft employees.
That's why Microsoft had to make a formal apology.

Microsoft China was the one behind the project, but part of the actual development was supposedly contracted out to a 3rd party outside of Microsoft & Microsoft China.

Neither Microsoft or Microsoft China seemed to have double checked if the code was infringing upon another individuals/company's intellectual property rights.

So while Microsoft did not directly do the infringing themselves, the 3rd party contractor they had hired to do the work did the infringing, making Microsoft/Microsoft China indirectly guilty because it was used in one of their projects. Thus why they suspended the project and formally apologized.

voidpharoh said,
Microsoft China was the one behind the project, but part of the actual development was supposedly contracted out to a 3rd party outside of Microsoft & Microsoft China.

Neither Microsoft or Microsoft China seemed to have double checked if the code was infringing upon another individuals/company's intellectual property rights.

So while Microsoft did not directly do the infringing themselves, the 3rd party contractor they had hired to do the work did the infringing, making Microsoft/Microsoft China indirectly guilty because it was used in one of their projects. Thus why they suspended the project and formally apologized.

Not that I disagree with your statements, but how exactly is MS supposed to ensure that work done by a 3rd party doesn't infringe on the IP rights of any website out there? We're talking about hundreds of millions of websites, and the code for those sites isn't exactly available in a searchable format...

vaximily said,

Not that I disagree with your statements, but how exactly is MS supposed to ensure that work done by a 3rd party doesn't infringe on the IP rights of any website out there? We're talking about hundreds of millions of websites, and the code for those sites isn't exactly available in a searchable format...

The same way somebody figured out in a matter of minutes that Joku ripped off Plurk? Honestly, all they have to do is not hire cheap labor who is looking to make a quick buck off idiot american corporations - you get exactly what you paid for as always.

The...people at Joku who WROTE the code saw the site and realized they were being ripped off... how exactly is that practical before code is put live? IT doesn't make sense to assume Microsoft would be able to verify the third party (or their own employees) are writing original code. The only thing they can do is higher good workers, keep an eye on them, and correct oversteps like this...which they seem to be doing consistently.

stgeorge said,

The same way somebody figured out in a matter of minutes that Joku ripped off Plurk? Honestly, all they have to do is not hire cheap labor who is looking to make a quick buck off idiot american corporations - you get exactly what you paid for as always.

Oh yeah, because the team of people putting it on the web must have seen Plurk, one of hundreds of millions of websites. It would take someone who has already seen Plurk to know that it was a copy, they can't check every website ever made.

vaximily said,
Not that I disagree with your statements, but how exactly is MS supposed to ensure that work done by a 3rd party doesn't infringe on the IP rights of any website out there? We're talking about hundreds of millions of websites, and the code for those sites isn't exactly available in a searchable format...

Exactly. Good post.

vaximily said,
Not that I disagree with your statements, but how exactly is MS supposed to ensure that work done by a 3rd party doesn't infringe on the IP rights of any website out there? We're talking about hundreds of millions of websites, and the code for those sites isn't exactly available in a searchable format...

Unfortunately, at the moment there isn't any practical way for them to verify. They're just going to have to be more strict about what 3rd parties they use in the future, or better yet do the development in-house. I'm sure it'd be more expensive to do it in-house than contracting another company to do it, but what money you might save may end up costing them more in a potential lawsuit. Lots of companies would gladly sue Microsoft over intellectual property infringement or similar if they were in Plurk's shoes.

the words "If you want something done right, do it your self" is coming to mind.........shame on the 3rd party for F***ing up but shame on Microsoft for not taking the necessary steps to be sure what they paid for was theirs.

It's a shame an outside vendor did this to Microsoft.. where they not thinking they would be caught?

Microsoft has the money to hire someone inside to web develop for them, why did they bother going outside? Hopefully their approval process in the future will require developers to provide all images and materials used.

Maybe it's cheaper? Just because Microsoft has some of the deepest pockets in the world doesn't mean they shouldn't save. I've seen stories of millionaires going and buying stuff at Walmart and actually spending their money the smart way. Just because you're rich doesn't mean you have to be a reckless spender. :P

I personally don't consider shopping at Walmart to be a "smart way" to spend money. Sure it's cheaper but it's well known and documented what Walmart does to its employees and suppliers. None of it is good.

Tekkerson said,
Maybe it's cheaper? Just because Microsoft has some of the deepest pockets in the world doesn't mean they shouldn't save. I've seen stories of millionaires going and buying stuff at Walmart and actually spending their money the smart way. Just because you're rich doesn't mean you have to be a reckless spender. :P

They really saved a lot here huh, dumb corporations outsourcing their souls, they get every bit of misfortune they wrought upon themselves. I hope Plurk sues and gets a nice quarter billion settlement - then MS can fire the idiot who decided to save a few bucks to pay a few web developers to make an original site.

stgeorge said,
They really saved a lot here huh, dumb corporations outsourcing their souls, they get every bit of misfortune they wrought upon themselves. I hope Plurk sues and gets a nice quarter billion settlement - then MS can fire the idiot who decided to save a few bucks to pay a few web developers to make an original site.

+1

It's not exactly new to outsource to a third party contractor.
Any big business will out source a majority of it's work because it's cheaper and cuts through a lot of the red tape and tax that sourcing your own employees would involve.

Taking the blame seems to be hard for companies nowadays, but I feel this was the most responsible thing Microsoft could do. My respect for Microsoft just went up a little bit. :P

A shocker is that they don't deny or defend these allegations. I think there's a big change at Microsoft. They must've hired someone new recently.

Solid Knight said,
Technically the second time a third party violated contract terms.

A *supposed* third party.
How very convenient that when they were caught copying stuff and can't deny it, there suddenly is a third party to take the blame for it.

Lord Ba'al said,
A *supposed* third party.
How very convenient that when they were caught copying stuff and can't deny it, there suddenly is a third party to take the blame for it.

Palm -> Face

+Chrono951 on 15 Dec 2009 - 23:59
Didn't both times it was a 3rd party contractor that copied the code and not actual Microsoft employees?

"Did not both times it was a 3rd party contractor that copied the code not actual Microsoft employees?"

Wonderful

Chrono951 said,
Didn't both times it was a 3rd party contractor that copied the code and not actual Microsoft employees?


Yes it was. Expect Microsoft to contract out even less stuff to third parties than they already do.

I used to work for a company that was acquired by Microsoft, and the only options we had were to either move to Redmond, or terminate our own employment. When it comes to software development, Microsoft hates having branch offices--they'd rather have all development done in Redmond, where situations like these are a lot easier to avoid (since there's a lot more people doing reviews all the time).