Microsoft filed a lawsuit on January 25th against a Phoenix e-waste recycling firm in federal court alleging pirated copies of Microsoft’s software had been used on some of their refurbished computers. Not only has Microsoft request the Phoenix e-waste recycling company to stop selling and hand over these computers allegedly in violation, but to also pay damages covering profits made and legal fees. E-Waste Harvesters, Inc hopes to quickly resolve the litigation.

Consumers and businesses need to be certain they are using responsible ITAD vendors when recycling electronics and purchasing refurbished electronics. Some assume when a device is disposed of the recycling organization has complete control over it. Although an IT asset disposition company controls the process of recycling, they must tread lightly on refurbishing devices. It is considered software piracy when an electronics recycler issues unlicensed software onto a computer. Responsible recycling organizations are aware of the dangers of unlicensed software and take the proper precautions to protect themselves and their customers.

Apart from the ethical issues that come with pirating software for refurbished computers, data security can be compromised. Unlicensed software can crash a computer, erasing valuable files, data and can even destroy other software. Data security becomes an issue with software on refurbished computers if spyware programs are loaded that report personal information without the knowledge of the owner. Even with data protection programs, cyber thieves find vulnerabilities in unlicensed software. Without acquiring the software from the vendor, the owner of the refurbished computer will not be able to incorporate legitimate updates to enhance data security.

This is not the first time Microsoft has taken a recycling firm to court for copyright infringement. In July of 2012, Microsoft was in litigation with a Rochester computer recycling firm for selling computer pre-loaded with illegal Windows software. They also requested compensation for any profits made from the computers with the pirated software as well as reimbursement for legal fees.

Consumers must be cautious when it comes to buying refurbished computers. Responsible recyclers, such as HOBI International Inc, are experienced in the practice of recycling and remarketing electronics without incorporating pirated software. This protects themselves and customers from data security risks and legal issues.