An e-waste recycling pioneer may be headed to jail for trying to make PCs last longer
For years, Eric Lundgren has fought to cut down on e-waste, or the millions of electronic devices that are discarded every day.
The LA Times calls Lundgren a man “obsessed” with recycling electronics — so obsessed, that he once built an electric vehicle out of recycled parts which recorded a longer travel time on a single charge than a Tesla.
Now, his obsession may send him to prison: The 33-year-old is facing criminal copyright infringement charges for dispersing 28k Microsoft restore discs that would help older computers last longer.
All about those “restore discs”
Back in 2011, Lundgren created IT Asset Partners (ITAP), the first US-based “electronic hybrid recycling facility.”
ITAP processes over 41m pounds of e-waste a year, with the goal of turning discarded cell phones and other electronics back into functional devices.
Shortly into his project, Lundgren had the idea to re-create and sell the Microsoft restore discs that “empower” consumers to refurbish their aging Dell computers, so they could last longer and stay out of the trash.
But Microsoft and the government didn’t like that
The computing giant argued that Lundgren’s distribution of their repair tool — reportedly worth $300 per disc — cost them $420k in lost sales, and the government filed a 21-count indictment against him.
Lungren argued that the recovery software he pedaled was given away for free with the purchase of each new computer, and was worth $0 per disc, but that didn’t fly: in February 2017, he pleaded guilty to 2 of the 21 counts, and he was handed a 15-month prison sentence and a $50k fine.
In a twist, a federal appeals court granted him “an emergency stay of the sentence.” He is awaiting the appeals process.
When benevolence gets in the way of corporate interests
Lundgren maintains that he merely intended to do a good thing for the planet (and owners of old computers), but happened to get in the way of “planned obsolescence” — or the act of corporations giving their products artificially short lifespans to bolster sales.
“My actions helped consumers, protected our environment, and resulted in zero revenue loss to Microsoft,” Lundgren told Forbes last year. “I believe that consumers should have the right to repair their property and I [may be] going to prison because of this belief.”