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Microsoft Has a Reasonably Discriminatory Plan to Illegalise FOSS

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Law, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents at 8:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We should dedicate a cross-group team to come up with ways to leverage Windows technically more.”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft

A few days ago we wrote about Microsoft's defense of RAND (and a bit of its latest slime against Groklaw). Do not be mistaken or deliberately misled to the point of believing that this RAND gotcha only applies to OOXML. It also applies to Mono and — by association — to Moonlight, which Microsoft hopes to infect the World Wide Web with. Put differently, Microsoft’s ambition is to create a Web where everyone needs to pay Microsoft some “reasonable” (by Microsoft’s own definition and judgment) patent tax merely to view XAML-built Web pages.

This post’s focus should not, however, be Mono, which Miguel has been happily bragging about and promoting for the past couple of days in his blog. Here we look at RAND in general because Microsoft is likely to repeat its dirty OSP routine over and over again in order to sidelines Free software.

Unable to compete based on technical merits, Microsoft will try to just employ good lawyers and write predatory licences that shrewdly exclude its #1 rival. In addition, Microsoft will rattle sabers, play 'politics', bully its opposers and exposers and, well… you hopefully get the point. Whether it’s about the shareholders or something more than that probably remains a mystery. But it’s time to fight back at attempts to change laws as means of defeating risk.

Here is how Digital Majority puts it. (highlights in red added by us)

Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means “we apply a uniform fee”. However with respect to Microsoft’s legacy OOXML format, one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such standards should become international standards, mandatory for government users.

You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.

It is safe to say that Microsoft is reasonably dishonest.

“[If I ask you who is Microsoft's biggest competitor now, who would it be?] Open…Linux. I don’t want to say open source. Linux, certainly have to go with that.”

Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s CEO), February 28th, 2008

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A Single Comment

  1. Liviu-Theodor said,

    September 4, 2008 at 2:58 am


    I believe the patent movement is very dangerous indeed. The promotors are mainly multinational corporations, who wants only their products on the market (monopoly). It is dangerous even for programmers who do not distribute their programs (ie software for in-house needs). I made a program fo reading DBF files in C (for Windows), for my work needs. I didn’t distribute the program. But if one company have patents for DBF files, they surely will want me to pay them a lot of money, even I do not use a single piece of code from them. This is how dangerous are patents: one could not program even for his/her own needs.

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