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02.23.10

Boycott Amazon

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, Servers at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game.”

Mark Shuttleworth

Ballmer on patents

Summary: Not so long after getting a lot of Microsoft executives working for Amazon, the company decides to pay Microsoft for GNU/Linux

Amazon has just become a partner of Microsoft’s racketeering against GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. In the words of Microsoft Emil:

While Microsoft wouldn’t say which of its products and technologies Amazon is interested in, Microsoft did mention that Amazon’s Kindle, which employs open source and proprietary software components, as well as Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers are covered.

[...]

It’s possible that Amazon agreed to signing the deal to avoid patent-infringement lawsuits from Microsoft. The mention of Kindle and Linux is not likely to be coincidental: the software giant has put extensive work into tablets and e-readers of various form factors and has previously claimed that Linux infringes on its patented technologies, although it has never specified which patents it believes the Linux stack and kernel violate (the software giant did sue GPS maker TomTom over the FAT file format).

It is not exactly shocking that Amazon is doing this. Amazon was mentioned here yesterday for helping Microsoft and Amazon’s disgusting patent policy (1-click shopping being the most infamous example that we last mentioned yesterday) is a sign that Bezos and his boys (and girls) are interested in monopoly, not in software. But more importantly, this isn’t too surprising because of the corporate takeover through staff — one that leads to inevitable Microsoft influence in the board and in the management. Over the past two years we have covered many examples of high-level Microsoft employees joining the management of Amazon, so the deal above is likely to be signed by existing and some former Microsoft employees. The latest major example of a manager from Microsoft entering Amazon (Kindle to be precise) is Mike Nash, so DRM and takedowns (remote deletions) are likely to only be justified. Giving up on Amazon would have little negative effect at all (on Free software); their contribution to Linux is very scarce and even source code is something that they rarely give.

“This is a huge growth area for Linux, so Microsoft wants to steal its revenue and also make it less appealing from a cost perspective.”Microsoft did not invent Linux (it hardly ever invented anything) and it does not own Linux using imaginary software patents. Almost all E-readers run Linux, so Microsoft is trying to create precedence for extorting all of them and profiting from Linux devices, as Allison warned last month in LCA [1, 2]. This is a huge growth area for Linux, so Microsoft wants to steal its revenue and also make it less appealing from a cost perspective.

Microsoft is also going deeper into the patent racketeering business, with its investment in entities that it helped create, such as Intellectual Ventures which continues to receive flak:

If there is one thing you read today, go read Brad Burnham at Union Square Ventures excellent essay titled Software patents are the problem not the answer.

Several years ago when I first started saying things like “software patents are invalid constructs” or “software shouldn’t be able to be patented” or “software patents are a huge drag on innovation”, I was told by many people (lawyers, journalists, patent trolls, and other VCs) that while I might be right, no other venture capitalist would agree with me or support this position.

Software patents are not legal (except in a few countries), let alone patents that Microsoft refuses to name. Buying a Kindle or server space at Amazon is paying Microsoft for GNU/Linux. That’s not an acceptable practice to support. Boycott Amazon and let them know how you feel.

Kindle

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2 Comments

  1. NotZed said,

    February 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Gravatar

    Hmm, although this rubs me up the wrong way something terrible, I didn’t write any code inside linux, and so I guess I shouldn’t get upset. And It’s really no different from Google paying for patents on video codecs behind the back of the people who wrote them in places they don’t even apply.

    If these projects refuse to embrace the GPL3 that (I presume) gives projections against such behaviour, then I guess they shouldn’t get upset either. They have had ample opportunity and warnings about this.

    The whole patent concept is a broken one, not just software patents. But it is just another symptom of a world which is descending step by step into oligarchy and corpocracy in a seemingly unstoppable fashion. And given that even bigger issues facing our future freedoms and prosperity are falling on deaf ears, I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

    But I suppose it’s just `pragmatic’ to go along with the flow, rather than fight to maintain hard-won freedoms like some `religious zealot’.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Amazon did not have to involve Linux in this.

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