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When Microsoft Racketeering Meets Apathy

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Where are we on this Jihad?”

Bill Gates

Summary: Microsoft’s extortion racket against Free software is debated further and the Linux Foundation, which is not opposed to software patents, chooses to ignore the problem

IN OUR PREVIOUS TWO posts about the Amazon patent deal with Microsoft [1, 2] we called for a boycott against Amazon and complaints about Microsoft, which are hinged on the RICO Act. Microsoft has become a rogue corporation that operates based on threats or retaliation and that’s just neither acceptable nor legal. “I’m outraged,” says this one person who explains what Microsoft is doing here:

Every time I read about these ‘secret’ deals I’m outraged. M$ consistently alleges patent infringements in Linux without exposing the details.

So, first of all, the alleged infringements cannot be challenged, tested and validated or removed if extant, or kicked into touch if not validated. M$ use their (financial) muscle to achieve this, intimidation by any other name.

Furthermore, I’ve always understood that once a patent infringement is identified (alleged) it must be exposed to preclude profiteering. Secret deals do not satisfy this satisfy this requirement and, are in my opinion an abuse of an already discredited patent system by a discredited monopolist. It seems to me that this is just legal chicanery and legal extortion (the new version of the twenties protection racket).

Ballmer used to speak of Linux as a cancer. It seems to me that M$ are now the cancer, exhibiting all the symptoms of the development, growth and potential consequences of a cancer.

Microsoft booster Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says that “Microsoft puts an end to Amazon’s ‘free’ Linux usage” (that’s his headline) and other articles [1, 2, 3] put it more gently. Microsoft Nick just cites someone who knows better:

As my colleague Darryl Taft points out in his most excellent article on eWEEK, Microsoft has signed more than 600 licensing agreements since launching its IP licensing program in 2003, with companies ranging from Apple and Hewlett-Packard to Nikon and Fuji Xerox. Such deals help avoid those pesky patent-infringement lawsuits hated by virtually everybody except intellectual-property attorneys with Bentley payments.

Yes, that’s Hewlett-Packard (HP) in there. There is some interesting history to be seen. Consider this similarity between Dell and HP when it comes to patent cross-licensing. According to the following (and maybe it’s just incorrect), HP may have also caved somewhere along the way:

Microsoft has long maintained that free and open-source software violates 235 of its patents. It’s already used this fact to coax companies including Novell, HP and TomTom into signing patent agreements.

The deal has already stirred up open-source advocates. “If the strategy isn’t to create uncertainty around Linux, it’s hard to say what it is,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation.

What disappoints us but not exactly surprises us is that Zemlin, speaking on behalf of the Linux Foundation, says that there is “Nothing to See Here”. He writes:

Companies reach broad cross-license agreements all the time, never disclose the patents involved and don’t often issue press releases about it. Amazing how despite the “broad range of products and technology” covered in their cross license, Microsoft chose to focus on Linux and open source – distinctly calling it out from “proprietary software” and wasn’t specific about any patents.

What Zemlin might not say though is that he works for advocates of software patents. As the president of the FFII put it last night, “The Linux Foundation supports the USPTO’s drive to improve the quality of software patents.” It’s not exactly news that it's a front of IBM et al (IBM is supporting software patents) and Todd Bishop calls them “Linux boosters”, arguing that they “give a shrug to Amazon’s Microsoft patent deal” (that again is from the headline).

Well, IBM or the Linux Foundation are not spokespeople of the whole GNU/Linux system; maybe they speak for the kernel, but the operating system involves many more people and groups. Here is the ‘Microsoft press’ referring to the Novell deal in its coverage of this latest deal with Amazon.

Microsoft elicited controversy among open source Linux advocates when it announced a deal with Novell in November of 2006 over IP used in Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system. In May of 2007, Microsoft was accused of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt over Linux licensing after a Microsoft executive claimed that Linux violated 235 of Microsoft’s patents.

It’s Novell that came to Microsoft and started a lot of this patent crusade against GNU/Linux. This is why Boycott Novell exists.

Pamela Jones from Groklaw wrote the following text about this deal with Amazon:

Amazon isn’t a Linux company, and it sells a hardware device. And I gather Microsoft’s MO is to make any company signing up with them in a patent cross licensing deal sign an NDA, so only Microsoft speaks in public, then they put out a press release which makes claims no one can check or verify, wave their arms about Linux, then go on to the next victim. Unless they show some details, it means absolutely nothing to me, except that Microsoft is very good at marketing (fear, uncertainty and doubt.)

ZDNet makes a Nazi era analogy and Jason from The Source feels similarly (to Groklaw). Here is one report that says:

The paper also says that Microsoft has reached a patent licensing agreement with Amazon.com that gives the online retailer rights to use open source software in its Kindle e-book reader. At the moment, the Kindle uses both open source and proprietary software components made by Amazon. Under the agreement, Microsoft said Amazon will pay it an undisclosed sum.

As long as Amazon does not deny Microsoft’s statement about the Kindle and GNU/Linux servers being part of this deal, well… then Amazon is complicit.

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  1. your_friend said,

    February 25, 2010 at 1:10 am


    No one can speak for the Linux kernel, it is free software and has no owners. The Linux Foundation may do good or bad things to Linux and they own the trademark, but ultimately, GNU/Linux belongs to each person who uses it as long as the user avoids non free software. Linux itself is only one of many free kernels.

    Software patents threaten all software freedom and the Linux Foundation will learn this at great and immediate cost. ACTA, if it’s as bad as people fear, will allow the people who stole the first generation of free software to steal everything in the GNU/Linux world. The software will live on, in the stale and sad kind of condition that BSD lives in Windows, but the Linux Foundation and most of the wonderful companies using free software will be eliminated. People who ignore threats to their freedom for some small advantage now will learn the price of slavery later.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    February 25, 2010 at 5:25 am


    Speaking of secret deals, what happened with M$ versus the UK schools? BECTA was going to publish how much the UK flushes down the drain on M$ products. How much did it turn out to be?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I don’t think they ever disclosed the numbers. If they had, I didn’t noticed.

    BECTA is no better than a parent imposing a belief system upon a child; to make matters worse, BECTA is neither a parent nor does it have a right to make that “belief system” an abusive corporation from another country.

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