Gervais' secret Microsoft videos surface on web - fact

How did two supposedly secret Microsoft training videos featuring David Brent from The Office end up all over the internet? Microsoft, which owns the rights to the films, apparently does not know - or, if it does, it isn't telling.

The films, called The Office Values, star Ricky Gervais and his writing partner, Stephen Merchant. Filmed in 2003, they were devised by Gervais and Merchant on the understanding they would never be made public. Merchant plays a Microsoft employee who interviews Gervais as Brent on management techniques.

But the two films appeared on the video-sharing site iFilm and began to generate worldwide interest. They have since been taken down - apparently as a result of pressure from Microsoft or Gervais' representatives - but not before copies appeared on websites.

The videos can be seen on Google Video, YouTube and a number of blogs. They include comic lines from Gervais such as: "I don't think Bill Gates made his fortune by spending time in meetings with idiots. It would be easier to talk to Osama Bin Laden."

While neither Microsoft nor Gervais may have wanted the videos to be made public, the response they have generated has been generally positive, with Microsoft receiving some rare praise from bloggers more used to heaping abuse on the software giant.

- Comment, page 56.