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05.12.08

Intellectual Monopolies: From Microsoft Back Stabbing to Software Patents from the Back Door

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 12:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Have an Orange, What’s in Your Wallet?”

Earlier on we mentioned the Europe-based Blender and recently we also mentioned Microsoft's role in pushing for software patents in Europe, using ‘proxies’ as large as the United States government. You may be interested in the following perspective on the latest Blender story.

The Image below was created a few years ago to raise awareness about the EU software patent laws sponsored by Microsoft that threatened open source projects such as Blender. Fortunately the software patent directive was rejected but the Microsoft continues to aggressively lobby governments abroad and apply for software patents in the European Union…

The image included in the above says it all really. Microsoft is merely trying to sneak into bed with its rivals and then exploit them. It wants a project like Blender to implement the software patents-encumbered OOXML while at the same time pushing for software patents in Europe. It’s like feeding someone a rotten/poisonous orange and then stealing his/her wallet. Has Microsoft no shame or guilt? Does it try to insult the intelligence of its rivals?

Software Patents by Intuition of Greed

Digital Majority has just dug up an interesting and timely old quote.

In 2000 Tauchert spoke open about the commercial benefit of the patent system for patent examiners and the lack of need for economic analysis.

[...]

Harmut Pilch: Is it really appropriate to make software patentable, without conducting a systematic study of the economical effects of such a change first.

Tauchert, DPMA: Absolutely. We don’t need economic studies. The reality speaks for itself. The market already made its judgement. We receive every year thousands of applications for software patents and our patent system is profitable. It feeds without state subsidies 20 000 patent specialists.

Intellectual Monopolies, Part Deux

This is not directly related to the above, but consider the economic impact of licensing, which is bound only to punish and suppress entrants, or those at the bottom. [via Glyn Moody]

It is a damn shame that we no longer think of the public domain as an option that is attractive. It’s a sign of the victory of the content holders that the free licensing movements work against that something without a license – something that is truly free, not just just free “as in” – is somehow thought to be worse. We’ve bought into their games if we allow the public domain to be defined as the BSD. The idea of the public domain has been subjected to continuous erosion thanks to both the big content companies and our own movements, to the point where we think freedom only comes in a contract.

A good parable or at least an explanation of the difference between the GPL and the BSD license(s) revolves around the issue of sustainability. The GPL strives to ensure that Freedom is spread and sustained, whereas the BSD is relatively lenient or indifferent in that regard (it grants the freedom of choice). Each licence has its merit and the “free” probably has different meanings (not just gratis versus libre).

Not particularly software-related is the following article [via FSDaily], which nonetheless speaks of the effects of issues such as the above on society as a whole. This raises the ethical questions around licences and what they are intended to achieve.

As a matter of fact, in virtue of our dependent condition and the profound inequalities that mark Brazil, we experience deeply all the problems related to present day science and technology in a most extreme way; here the private appropriation of the fruits of research by corporations has a devastating impact on the majority of the population, who are marginalized by the market – reinforcing the importance of the defense of science as a public good.

Why can’t companies like Novell and Microsoft ever realise their impact on competition and society as whole? Being well-established names, they probably just don’t care. Occasionally showing us those crocodile tears is the most they bother to do. And they keep hoarding software patents.

“Don’t encourage new, cross-platform Java classes, especially don’t help get great Win 32 implementations written/deployed. (..) Do encourage fragmentation of the Java classlib space.”

Ben Slivka, Microsoft

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