Plurk Hints At Legal Action Against Microsoft Over Copied Code

Plurk, the Microblogging site from which a Microsoft MSN China contract developer copied software code, is considering taking legal action against the software giant, according to a blog posted on Plurk's Web site entitled "Plurk's Official Response To Microsoft's Apology."

"We are currently looking at all possibilities on how to move forward in response to Microsoft's recent apology statement," said Plurk co-founder Alvin Woon in the blog. "We are still thinking of pursuing the full extent of our legal options available, due [to] the seriousness of the situation. Basically, Microsoft accepts responsibility, but they do not offer accountability."

The dustup began Monday when observers noted that Juku, a microblogging site on MSN China developed for Microsoft by a China contract developer, had similar features to Plurk and appeared to use the same code. Juku was launched in November.

"Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but blatant theft of code, design, and UI elements is just not cool, especially when the infringing party is the biggest software company in the world," Plurk said in a blog posted Tuesday.

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Microsoft suspended access to the site while it investigated the reports and later Tuesday acknowledged that the contractor had indeed copied Plurk's code. Microsoft suspended access to the site "indefinitely" and issued an apology to Plurk. The contractor's copying of the Plurk technology "was in clear violation of the vendor's contract with the MSN China joint venture, and equally inconsistent with Microsoft's policies respecting intellectual property," Microsoft said in a statement.

"We apologize to Plurk and we will be reaching out to them directly to explain what happened and the steps we have taken to resolve the situation," Microsoft said in the statement.

But it appears that apologizing and "reaching out" might not be enough. "This event wasn't just a simple matter of merely lifting code. Due to the nature of the uniqueness of our product and user interface, it took a good amount of deliberate studying and digging through our code with the full intention of replicating our product user experience, functionality and end results. This product [Juku] was later launched and heavily promoted by Microsoft with its big marketing budget," Woon said in his blog.

Much of the blog emphasized how small two-year-old Plurk is, how it lacks sales and marketing departments, and how it devotes all its resources to developing its software.