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Parliamentary questions
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6 December 2012
Question for written answer E-011160-12
to the Commission
Rule 117
Amelia Andersdotter (Verts/ALE)

 Subject:  UEFI Secure Boot and European Union competition law
 Answer in writing 

On 26 October 2012, all hardware manufacturers with products compatible with the Windows 8 operating system chose to adopt a system of secure booting which is created and implemented only by Microsoft Corporation. Keys for the encryption used by the so-called UEFI Secure Boot can only be obtained from Microsoft Corporation, and only at a price. UEFI Secure Boot cannot be disabled by the end-user who has acquired hardware compatible with the Windows 8 operating system, thereby effectively obliging him or her to buy an encryption solution from a vendor different from the hardware vendor in order to be able to run any software on that hardware, including software other than Microsoft Corporation software.

Software vendors wishing to make software for the new hardware will be reliant on the availability of encryption keys from Microsoft Corporation or, possibly, from an entity which has purchased a licence for the keys from Microsoft together with the right to sublicense the keys (including free of charge). This makes all software made for new Windows 8-compatible hardware extraordinarily reliant on a single vendor (Microsoft).

1. Is the Commission investigating whether this may be a breach of European competition laws by the hardware vendors who have not made it possible to deactivate the Secure Boot option in their hardware, thereby forcing other developers of software produced by firms other than Microsoft Corporation to enter into a possibly involuntary contract with Microsoft Corporation over encryption keys?

2. What resources are at the Commission’s disposal to ensure that the freedom of developers to make software solutions for end-consumers, without being forced to enter into agreements with Microsoft, potentially involuntarily, is maintained in the European Union?

 OJ C 339 E, 20/11/2013
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