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.”