Watching like a hawk, preying on binary ‘gifts’
Some recent entries about OpenDocument format and OOXML warned that attempts were made to change the story (Microsoft-induced embellishments). One has to be extremely careful when listening to those who claim to be involved. In fact, just under a couple of days ago, the following pointer served a reminder of our chance to exploit transparency, correct disinformation, and prevent manipulation. As Rob Weir said a long time ago, with ODF he lives in a glass house.
Interoperability and Conformance (IIC) Technical Committee. The new TC would provide a means for software implementors and service providers to create applications that adhere to the ODF specification and are able to interoperate. Proposers include representatives from Ars Aperta, IBM, and Novell; Rob Weir of IBM is designated as the discussion leader.
Groklaw saw this pointer and asked readers to keep an eye on what goes on.
I can tell you that from what I know, and I know a fair amount, that X marks the spot where a lot of eyeballs are needed. I have no doubt that Microsoft wishes to use ODF for its own purposes, and I know for a fact that some kind of liaison is what some who seem to me to be happily doing whatever Microsoft wants have been hoping for, namely some mechanism for ODF to coordinate with SC34 in ISO that would operate a bit like the relationship between the Unicode Consortium and JTC 1/SC 2, who jointly maintain the Unicode standard.
This is the moment to pay full attention, if this is something you care about and you wish to avoid the Microsoft EEE. Stay polite at all times, of course, if you say anything, and you needn’t say anything, but do follow along and please keep us posted on anything you see that sounds peculiar. I’ll try to do the same.
For more information about Microsoft’s possible motives (and potentially devious intentions) inside the ODF committee, consider reading [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Even Dana Blankenhorn has already weighed in on a related concern.
If Microsoft wants its standard to stand on equal footing with the ODF, it needs to stop embedding closed binary objects in the Office format, and stop treating it as proprietary.
It’s quite likely that Microsoft will (at least try to) do to ODF what it once did to HTML. That’s what makes vigilance ever so important. █
“We’re disheartened because Microsoft helped W3C develop the very standards that they’ve failed to implement in their browser. We’re also dismayed to see Microsoft continue adding proprietary extensions to these standards when support for the essentials remains unfinished.”
–George Olsen, Web Standards Project
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A year later: GPLv3 won
It has been a long time since we last mentioned GPLv3 in the context of ACT (or vice versa). ACT has littered the World Wide Web with GPLv3 smears and libel, most likely on behalf of a very major client.
This apparently-national/global entity called “Association for Competitive Technology” (how ambitious a name!) is little more than the public face of Jonathan Zuck, who has a small lobbying firm/pressure group whose big customer is Microsoft. It pretends to be operating in the interest of small businesses, but it’s little more than a law-manipulating shill-for-hire pool — one that’s intended to serve large (and paying) customers.
“Microsoft was bound to be negatively affected and it couldn’t sit aside idly. It needed to throw a wrench in.”When GPLv3 made its debut — and even beforehand — there was a media storm that was intended to daemonise this good licence. The bad reputation was partly generated not by those who are open source developers but by those to whom Free software is a threat; a finance threat to be more precise. Microsoft was bound to be negatively affected and it couldn’t sit aside idly. It needed to throw a wrench in. To again credibility in its criticism, a seemingly broad mouthpiece (proxy) would be needed though. ACT was only one of them, but probably the most prominent one at the time.
Palamida continues to track adoption of the GPLv3 and it indicates that the oceans of FUD Microsoft has bought itself, including low-key payments to academics (never forget academic kickbacks), were at best able to slow down — but never to defeat — adoption of this evolutionary licence.
The year has gone by quite quickly since the GPL v3 was first released. We have just entered into the month of the release, and it is only 23 days until a complete year has passed. It doesn’t seem like we have been tracking the GPL v3 and its derivatives for a year, but it is more believable when you look at the count. Cumulatively, the GPL v3 and its derivatives have gained over 2800 adopters, which is an impressive number. Thousands of projects have, and now we can more confidently say thousands more will adopt the GPL v3, proving its significance in the open source community.
Surely enough, there will be those who are not easily convinced by empty accusations, so we bring back some articles from last year. Recall ACT and remember how much Microsoft loves them. It needs them, just like it needs CompTIA [1, 2].
It would only be fair to state what these pressure groups really are about. In practice, it’s little less than legalised bribery, a scam. Typical signs: pompous Washington-based people in suits and some name for a firm that’s intended to generalise and expand its scope. It make it seem like more than a one-man operation (Enderle ‘group’, anyone?) or a small part-time/casual group of affiliates. Had the congress been more ethical, groups like these would be shut down and declared illegal. But they are not declared illegal, so it’s something we must live with and at the very least inform people of.
Anyway, about ACT, consider again:
1. Perens Lashes Out at Claims GPL 3 Brings Legal Risks
“Let’s make it clear that [ACT] is Microsoft’s lobbying front and that they are going to paint as negative a picture as they can,” Perens told eWEEK in an interview.
“Obviously, GPL software is displacing Microsoft enough to have them concerned, and it’s doing it at customers who are important to them. A lawyer’s job is to scare the other side if they can–because they know it’s cheaper than winning a case in court,” he said.
2. ACT Warns of Legal Risk with Latest GPL Draft
But ACT, a Washington-based technology lobby group whose membership includes large companies like eBay, Oracle, Orbitz and VeriSign, and which was founded in 1998 in response to the Microsoft antitrust case, is largely dismissed by those in the open-source community as nothing more than a lobby group for the interests of Microsoft and those other large corporations.
3. Association for Competitive Technology
ACT has been accused of being an industry front for Microsoft, promoting a Microsoft-friendly agenda in relation to property rights and anti-trust legislation.
4. Open sourcerers do battle for GPLv3
Mark Taylor, a former head of the Open Source Consortium in the UK, thinks the whole thing is being blown out of all proportion.
He told us: “The only people worrying about the GPL draft are people like ACT. Everyone else is really pleased with the draft. The original GPL aimed to prevent deals like the one between Novell and Microsoft. They just found a loophole. This draft closes it.”
ACT wasn’t the only Microsoft lobbying front that battled GPLv3. There are the usual anti-Linux figures such as Dan Lyons and Rob Enderle. for example. To give you an idea of how it works, read the following old piece.
Some of the bad publicity about GPL3 is deliberate. A particularly bad article by Dan Lyons of Forbes magazine painted an offensive picture of GPL3 and Richard Stallman, even accusing Stallman of having sex with flowers (!!!) after Lyons failed to comprehend a scientific joke.
The GPLv3 FUD may have not been successful, but Jonathan Zuck and his vile lobbying arm are currently fighting for software patents in Europe [1, 2, 3, 4] and fighting against ODF (you can easily find Zuck slandering ODF in Congress and in the press).
ACT continues to do Microsoft’s crusades, which is why we write this post. It’s partly for future reference. Going back to the point made at the top, if Europe cannot declare this group’s activity illegal, it should at least block their arrival at the continent. Didn’t the Indian universities teach us a lesson quite recently about colonialism? Didn’t Malaysia and South Africa tell us how despicable lobbying arms can be? It shouldn’t be seen as just morally unacceptable; it should be considered corrupt. It needs to be stopped. Below we append some memorable quotes from last week. █
“That particular meeting was followed by an anonymous smear campaign against one of the TC members. A letter was faxed to the organization of the TC member in question, accusing the TC member in question of helping politicize the issue (which is, of course, untrue). I too had the dubious pleasure of hearing first hand how Microsoft attempted to remove me from the TC (they did not succeed, thanks to integrity and cojones of the organization I am affiliated with).”
“If this unethical behaviour by Microsoft was not sufficiently despicable, they did the unthinkable by involving politics in what should have been a technical evaluation of the standard by writing to the head of the Malaysian standards organization and getting its business partners to engage in a negative letter writing campaign to indicate lack of support of ODF in the Malaysian market. Every single negative letter on ODF received by the Malaysian standards organization was written either by Microsoft, or a Microsoft business partner or a Microsoft affiliated organization (Initiative for Software Choice and IASA).“
A Memo to Patrick Durusau
“I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft.”
–Professor Deepak Phatak
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