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12.20.09

‘Microsoft Press’ Acknowledges Microsoft’s Free Software-Hostile EU Deal

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Microsoft, OIN, Patents at 5:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Simons and Kroes
Photo of Wim Simons and Neelie Kroes
not from the public domain but
under the GNU Free Documentation License
(captions added separately)

Summary: Another look at a bad EU deal; software patents revisited; Microsoft’s copyright violations remembered

YESTERDAY we wrote about the European Commission failing to negotiate with Microsoft a deal that respects Free software users [1, 2]. Microsoft has been buying time and procrastinating until Neelie Kroes and others in the Commission needed to step down. Steve Ballmer's "schmoozing" trips to Neelie Kores did not help much, either.

It is rather surprising to see that even the ‘Microsoft press’ is covering some of the criticisms right now, notably by quoting critics other than itself:

Essentially, companies can sue if they think Microsoft is not following through with providing proper API documentation, according to a blog post by Groklaw, a frequent Microsoft critic and a site devoted to software legal issues. The Groklaw post noted that nothing has really changed for commercial software companies working with open source software under the GNU General Public License because Microsoft’s interoperability agreement appears to restrict commercial distribution of software without royalty agreements first being in place.

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) backed that view.

“The patent commitments are clearly insufficient, because they don’t allow commercial exploitation,” said Carlo Piana, FSFE’s legal counsel, in a released statement. “This keeps out competition from Free Software, which in many areas is the biggest competitor to Microsoft’s programs.”

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) was also skeptical.

“Whether the public undertaking will create a more level competitive playing field where open source software is not subject to Microsoft patent FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt], as has been the case in the past, is not yet clear,” the ECIS declared in a released statement (PDF).

Keith Bergelt (OIN CEO), who last got publicly involved when Microsoft floated anti-GNU/Linux patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], has just published this outlook for Linux in a world filled with intellectual monopolies, which are Microsoft’s weapon of choice against its #1 competition.

In the coming decade, Linux and other open source implementations will continue their migration from back office transaction processing and mission critical applications to the mobile and desktop computing spaces. This will transform the nature of communications and computing devices from static and utilitarian to dynamic and intelligent. This change has already begun to show itself in the Google mobile operating system – and the proliferation of devices that have been built on it by HTC and Motorola, among others.

Leveraging open source as a key building block for rapid innovation and reducing time-to-market is an irreversible trend.

Yet, as Linux and other open source initiatives usher in a new model for invention and value creation and further reinforces Linux as a permanent condition, longer term changes in the nature of the codification and management of the intellectual capital are prefigured by a set of observable trends in 2010.

It is interesting that OIN accepts rather than battles against software patents [1, 2] (Peer to Patent causes the same problem by legitimising “good” patents). But being somewhat of an IBM front, the OIN is expected to retain such a stance.

Microsoft would love people to think that GNU/Linux disregards intellectual monopolies, but Microsoft couldn’t care about them either, especially when applied to Microsoft. The Plurk incident is a fine example of that [1, 2, 3] and Microsoft is still expected to be sued.

Owners of Taiwanese Plurk microblog site have not decided yet whether and how to respond to cases of theft of code made by the company, which was commissioned by Microsoft to build another microblog service.

While Microsoft took upon himself the full responsibility, but apparently does not want to bear the legal consequences of this incident. According to the message given out Plurk site owners are wondering what legal action in this situation should take.

So it’s OK when Microsoft snubs intellectual monopolies (it knowingly and willfully infringes patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]) but very “naughty” and “communist” if GNU/Linux is against software patents.

“Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the US Department of Defense.”

Richard Stallman

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5 Comments

  1. dyfet said,

    December 20, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Gravatar

    In some ways this article offers a bad comparison. It is very different for people that believe in freedom but live within and respect incorrect laws until they can be changed and those that openly violate said laws and claimed principles. Hence, the idea that saying Microsoft’s crimes of violating these laws and GNU/Linux rejection of said laws while living within the consequences of them as somehow being equivalent is a false comparison, which is what I get being implied in reading the final paragraph, ‘So it’s OK when Microsoft snubs intellectual monopolies (it knowingly and willfully infringes patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]) but very “naughty” and “communist” if GNU/Linux is against software patents.’ These are clearly not the same, as one is criminal behavior and the other is speaking about legitimate social and economic advocacy.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I see what you mean now. I should have organised the message differently.

    dyfet Reply:

    Well, I did know clearly what you had intended to say, but I was concerned some might not, or might choose to, as they say, selectively quote…

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We don’t have vocal foes on the issue of software patents.

    your_friend Reply:

    The conversation above is sufficient, but long term readers already know BN’s stated opinions about US patents being little more than an anti-competitive tool for companies like Microsoft. BN has also insightfully called patents a form of colonialism that creates unfair trading conditions. Astute readers will remember that Microsoft has never actually revealed which patents are violated so their claims are fraudulent, judicial extortion. Finally, most people know that Microsoft is not simply a benefactor of insane US patent and copyright laws, they have been powerful advocates and authors of those same laws. BN has cited several US lawmakers quoting copyright cartel talking points with little modification. Thanks for all of the good reporting, Roy!

    I’d like to add that EU concessions to US patent law are a betrayal of all citizens, not just free software users. Software patents in particular are only useful to a few large companies. EU recognition legitimizes Microsoft’s scheme and violates EU law which has repeatedly rejected software patents. This will be used against everyone as “Intellectual Property” maximallists proclaim the universal recognition of software and business method patents. Let’s hope this shameful decision is thrown out by the proper authorities.

    It is amazing that Microsoft has been able to turn a piddling browser squabble into an implicit acceptance of their OS monopoly and a positive referendum on software patents. A similar thing happend in the US Netscape anti-trust trial and it can be compared to tobacco industry tactics, where official channels are jammed with relatively harmless secondary issues and poor remedies. The Netscape and later Comes trails discovered clear evidence of OEM and retail manipulation that should have resulted in the punishment and break up of Microsoft. Not only was this opportunity missed by the EU, a tremendous step backward was taken. Most shamefully, this step backward comes as Microsoft’s business methods fail, the US is realizing that “IP” is a poor empire builder and US law is rejecting software patents.

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