MS Pulls Plug on Blog Service after Cries of Plagiarism

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has apologized after a contractor appeared to copy code from a rival company to use in a microblogging service. But Plurk, the company claiming its material was stolen, says it is considering taking the matter to court.

Juku, a Twitter-style blogging feature on Microsoft's MSN site in China, was taken down this week after the complaints. Plurk's staff had written that Juku's design had involved "blatant theft of code, design, and user interface elements."

As Much as 80% of Code Stolen

Not only did Plurk staff believe Juku's look and feel was remarkably similar to its own site, but it said as much as 80 per cent of the code used to create Juku was virtually identical to that used in Plurk. The firm illustrated this with three specific examples which certainly look too close for comfort.

According to Plurk, some independent sources who noted the similarities had assumed that nobody would be so blatant about copyright infringement and that the only logical explanation was that the two sides had joined forces. That would have made some business sense, as Plurk is currently banned from operating in China. However, it certainly isn't the case.

Third Party Gets Blame

After taking down the Juku feature, Microsoft carried out an investigation into what had happened. It later said that the copying was down to an independent contractor (not its main partner in China), saying "The vendor has now acknowledged that a portion of the code they provided was indeed copied. This 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." (Source:

Plurk Not Satisfied, Considers Legal Action

That's not enough for Plurk, which argues that "Microsoft accepts responsibility, but they do not offer accountability." It also dismisses the suggestion that it was an isolated incident involving a small section of code, arguing that the extensive similarities can only be down to a deliberate and intensive effort to copy the content. The firm warns that, "We are still thinking of pursuing the full extent of our legal options available due the seriousness of the situation." (Source:

Several observers have noted an irony to the situation: Microsoft has suffered seriously at the hand of software pirates in China. Indeed, only last year a gang of 11 were jailed after illegally copying Microsoft products with a full retail value topping $2 billion.

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