05.25.08

Then, They Fight You… by Buying Some New Laws

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Patents, RAND, Standard at 3:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“…yesterday we were notified that the Microsoft representative in charge with the education strategy had requested the organizers to pull the Ubuntu presentation because it is ‘unfair competition’ to hold such a presentation at an event sponsored by them. They are indeed co-sponsors but the conference is organized by the Ministry of Education and its local office, and is being held on the premises of a public University.”

“Then, they fight you,” May 2008

The question of Free software adoption (or contrariwise — obstruction) continues to involve some heavy doses of corruption, so herein we study some of the methods which are actively used against GNU/Linux and other disruptive trends, especially in light of news items that cannot escape without comment.

RAND

The ugly nature of RAND was discussed recently in [1, 2]. Microsoft, for instance, embeds its RAND routine in Mono and OOXML. It’s a tool for monopolisation and control of rivals. One recent case, which demonstrated just how nasty a RAND can be, revolved around Rambus [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Let this new blog post remind you what it’s all about.

By the time Rambus announced its patents and began demanding royalties (and filing patent infringement suits against companies that refused to pay royalties), Rambus had achieved a technical “lock-in” that made it difficult for the memory chip industry to move to a different technology. Rambus’s lock-in allowed it to obtain a 90% market-share, and demand supracompetitive royalties from companies that were producing JEDEC-compliant memory devices. Rambus has earned several billion dollars in licensing fees to date, and by some estimates its total royalties are could reach as high as $11 billion.

Think about OOXML, which is RAND-’protected’ in the sense that it ‘protects’ itself from this ‘nasty’ thing called the GNU GPL. Expect more of the same poison to be spread via Microsoft technologies which are queued in the pipeline. For granted, Novell will continue to help Microsoft with this. It’s Novell's new business model (since 2006).

Here is another month-old example of RAND nastiness. [via Digital Majority]

Now, here an example of a RAND (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory) licensing model, this one has been made by Cisco about VRRP :

Cisco is the owner of US patent No. 5 473 599, relating to the subject matter of “Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol for IPv6 <draft-ietf-vrrp-ipv6-spec-04.txt>. If technology in this document is included in a standard adopted by IETF and any claims of this or any other Cisco patent are necessary for practicing the standard, any party will be able to obtain a license from Cisco to use any such patent claims under reasonable, non-discriminatory terms to implement and fully comply with the standard.

First you need to contact Cisco to have a license but the terms are unknown. “Non-discriminatory” is vague and could be an issue for any free software implementation.

That would be convenient to Cisco, but not to any of its rivals. Therein lies the importance of vendor-independent protocols and formats such as ODF.

Media Codecs

In a similar vein, Microsoft lobbyist (dare we say “shill”?) Jonathan Zuck seems engaged in another new mission to ensure Europe’s media formats remain discriminatory and require payments to be made (i.e. make Free software an impossibility). In his latest logical gymnastics he’s trying to pretend to have agreed with FFII while at the same time pushing for Microsoft-esque technologies to be required.

We need to work together on live streaming challenge

Jonathan Zuck’s crusades against ODF, against the GPL(v3), and for software patents in Europe were noted before. We have already expressed an opinion about such lobbying in general.

There is already a response to the latest FUD from Zuck.

To correct the article of EurActiv, the 2 petitions are not about free software adoption, but well about free and open standards, which are not the same as free software. So the article of EurActiv misses the point and has a confusing title.

In addition to this, a clarification was made to make people aware that the European Parliament shuts the door in the face of those who don’t have proprietary “special software”.

In order to find out what your members of European Parliament are doing, you need some special software. Europe by Satellite (EBS) is only for those people who have the right software.

[...]

None of those protocols and file formats are described in specifications, neither they are standardized nor free of patents or other restrictions. Why Europe is choosing technology which is not accessible to everybody, regardless of the platform?

Remember the recent story (possible corruption) from Hungary? Remember the BBC? That’s just how it’s done. Lobbyists and spinmeisters are used as agents of monopolisation, by intruding government authorities and deceiving them on technical decisions that are made. They impose lock-in ‘from the top’, so to speak, by requiring basic things like tax submission and communication with Parliament to be dependent on specific software vendors.

Rocket Docket

Blackboard, the very bothersome patent troll whose portfolio has been harassing FOSS projects [1, 2, 3], is getting stung again [via Digital Majority], having recently suffered defeat. Will it finally learn (pun unintended)?

TechRadium sues Blackboard over patent

[...]

TechRadium develops and sells a mass communication messaging systems that allows a “group administrator to send a single message that will be delivered to the members of [a] group via numerous communication devices such as cell phones, pagers, standard landline telephones and e-mail,” according to TechRadium’s complaint.

Quoted above is the claim, which hopefully illustrates superficiality. Unsurprisingly, TechRadium is a “Texas-based technology company.” In addition, as one can just about guess, it “filed a patent infringement lawsuit Monday against Blackboard in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.” Yes, once again it’s that Rocket Docket, which even Law.com is addressing.

Will the 5th Circuit Ground an Eastern District of Texas Rocket Docket?

In a mandamus case that could significantly alter one of the hottest federal civil dockets in Texas, the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Thursday over whether a trial judge’s discretion should be limited when a party moves to transfer venue.

Digital Majority had dug up some articles from 2006 to show just how often the slack treatment in the Eastern District of Texas is being misused. Will someone, anyone, somewhere, finally take care of this loophole?

Software patents are bad enough as they are, but for these patents to be seen as valid and assure settlement out of court due to one dysfunctional district court seems utterly inexcusable. It encourages programmers to apply for more software patents and it casts a shadow over the legitimacy of Free software. It taken one rotten egg to poison the entire well.

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25 Comments

  1. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 3:52 am

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    RAND (Reasonable And Non Discriminatory) licensing model is the new weapon against FOSS – I agree 100%

  2. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 3:56 am

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    RAND = Wolf in the sheeps clothing !

  3. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 3:57 am

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    FOSS should publicly announce boycott of all RAND licenses !!!!!

  4. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:02 am

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    If OOXML is “protected” from the GNU GPL, how come OpenOffice.org is implementing it?

  5. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:14 am

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    OpenOffice has not received any patent protection from Microsoft with regarding to OOXML.

    Every user of OpenOffice is open to litigation except Novell and their customers !!!

  6. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:21 am

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    OpenOffice could support OOXML as a seperate plugin I suppose.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:22 am

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    If OOXML is “protected” from the GNU GPL, how come OpenOffice.org is implementing it?

    I believe the EC would have something to say about this. While ISO won’t challenge RAND, those above ISO might.

  8. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:26 am

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    OpenOffice is implementing it without taking any permission from MS. I guess except for Novell and their buddies everyone is under a bit of threat from MS regarding this.

  9. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:28 am

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    MS and likes are in a software patenting business

  10. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:31 am

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    @Roy: so you think that OpenOffice.org is relying on the EU stepping in to prevent any legal issues with OOXML?

    Considering how fast the EU moves, that wouldn’t be an entirely clever move, but thankfully I’m pretty sure that their plan isn’t to rely on the EU at all.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:45 am

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    What’s the alternative, Alex? Remember that these are filters.

  12. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 4:52 am

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    I don’t need an alternative; I don’t buy the “OOXML cannot be implemented by GPL’d software” FUD. I’m just pointing out the logical inconsistency.

    FWIW, btw, the EU are generally pretty OK with RAND terms – e.g., the patents mentioned in the Samba docs are under RAND terms. Samba also had to pay up front for their docs. I’m not saying that’s good, I’m just saying that their history indicates RAND isn’t a problem.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 5:23 am

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    RAND is /inherently/ incompatible with the conditions of Free software (redistribution gotcha), so it’s not a question of practicability as you put it.

  14. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 6:00 am

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    Firstly Roy, don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say RAND was a question of practicability, and please don’t say that I did.

    Second, you keep sidestepping the issue. It’s very simple: you can’t simultaneously claim that OOXML cannot be implemented in GPL’d software without casting FUD on OpenOffice.org 3′s status as free software. It’s logically impossible. So, which claim do you want to keep?

  15. master_chief said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:21 am

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    Considering OOXML is like a tiny fraction of OpenOffice which can easily be removed, and there seem to be no other way…

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:53 am

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    You sort of put words in my mouth too. I did not say that OOXML cannot be implemented; I said it would be unwise to do so (RAND+OSP exclude/discriminate against the GPL), especially if your end users require free software and full peace of mind. Even *without* OOXML, let me remind you of May 2007 when Microsoft specifically pulled the “patent terrorism” card (Sun’s words) against OpenOffice.org users. It remains to be seen if they have anything. Threats are tactless. Words are cheap.

  17. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 9:34 am

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    So… you’re saying OpenOffice.org 3 users won’t have free software and/or full peace of mind?

    Gimme a break, Roy, you’re like a broken record.

  18. Woods said,

    May 25, 2008 at 9:36 am

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    Is OpenOffice’s implementation of OOXML going to be in the general version or in the “Novell edition” of OO?

    If the latter, isn’t it automatically a non-issue because of the patent covenant?

    (insert a *big* IANAL-disclaimer here…)

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 9:46 am

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    OOo3 has import filters only. Novell’s ‘enterprise’ thingie has Mono-based ‘translators’, which have the whole covenant strings attached to them.

    It’s important to fight for ODF at the moment, at all costs.

  20. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:17 am

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    @Woods: it’s a new implementation, not the quick hack Novell put together, and it will be in the general edition of OOo, not go-oo.

    @Roy: don’t bring Mono into this; it’s irrelevant. The question is OOXML. Are you saying that by including OOXML, OOo is somehow less free? Because that’s what it sounds like.

  21. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:25 am

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    It may make it more susceptible and sensitive to the aforementioned “patent terrorism”, in my humble assessment.

  22. AlexH said,

    May 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

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    The license is irrelevant to patent terrorism: if someone else has patents on something you’re doing, then no GPL, BSD or other license is going to give you any protection; the threat is exactly the same.

  23. Victor Soliz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 11:39 am

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    “Proof by OpenOffice”, such an amazing way to back up arguments…

  24. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 11:49 am

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    You dodge my point, Alex. There’s the OSP. It assures developers that there is a form of ‘protection’ (from Microsoft). The GPL is implicitly excluded.

  25. Bogdan said,

    May 26, 2008 at 6:41 am

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    Please read: http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx
    Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can’t give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses

    There is no legal assurance in here. Until proven by an advocate (better: in a Court of Law) the OSP does not make any legal assurance.

    I had never heard of a “promise” being held in a law court (judges, jurors, audience). I know of contracts, donations & other legal bonds, but there is no “promise” in my juridical/legal vocabulary.

    US Court system follows the rule of precedence – is there another precedent of this kind of promise being enforced by a judge?

    Until proven otherwise, a promise is made to be broken.

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