06.18.10

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European Commission Still Lobbied by Microsoft, OASIS Does Not Support Software Freedom

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, IBM, Microsoft, Patents, Standard at 5:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OASIS members

Summary: Groups in Europe fight over the definitions of “open source” and “open standards”; meanwhile, “Free/libre software” is being left out of this conversation

THE EUROPEAN Commission made some disappointing statements recently [1, 2], probably and reportedly after being lobbied by Microsoft front groups like ACT (Jonathan Zuck’s current shell). For some background, see older posts such as:

  1. European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
  2. Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
  3. Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
  4. The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
  5. 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
  6. After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
  7. Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
  8. ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
  9. Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
  10. With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?

According to this new report, the Commission is still being bamboozled by Microsoft lobbyists:

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes today (19 May) unveiled her strategy to create a “virtuous and self-replicating digital economy”. The five-year plan concentrates on infrastructure for high-speed Internet and fostering a borderless market for online music and film.

[...]

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association of Competitive Technologies, stated: “Developing European digital services and products is crucial. European SMEs are not only users but often pioneers in developing new and original services which are critical for EU employment, competitiveness and growth. If we talk about our digital future, then innovative SMEs have to be a focal point. Policies should protect users and consumers, but also promote the innovative creators behind successful technologies.”

It is sad to see that the door is left open to lobbying groups that masquerade as fronts for SMBs whilst actually promoting monopolies that fund them.

The president of the FFII points to this new document from the EU Commission [PDF], saying that the EC stands for software patents in standards by arguing “There should be no bias in favour or against royalty free standards” and using the undefined FRAND term by writing: “IPR to all third parties on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms”

According to Red Hat’s opensource.com, the term “open standard” loses its meaning (partly due to lobbying). To quote:

Debate over the definition of an “open standard” has become a contentious one. Gerloff proposes that, “For a standard to be open, it is key that it can be implemented by anyone, anywhere, without asking for permission.” This perspective was largely reflected in the European Interoperability Framework v.1 (2004), but appears to have been abandoned in a leaked second version in October, 2009. “That was a key moment, when we saw how strong the lobby on the proprietary side is in Brussels,” Gerloff said.

Peter Brown (from OASIS, not the FSF) has also just made a somewhat hostile remark about “open source”:

It will also be important in the debate on the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) to assess the real value of open source as distinct from open standards. Whereas open standards contribute very positively to the IT eco-system, I personally believe there is much misunderstanding surrounding open source: even if ‘open’, increasingly complex code, often poorly maintained and under the aegis of a singly consultancy firm, can often create greater ‘lock-in’ and dependency than reliable, well-documented, licensed and known commercial software.

OASIS, the patron of ODF, made an encouraging statement about the subject of patents (not contradicting IBM's attitude towards software patents), but it is not to be viewed as a supporter of software freedom. OASIS is not supported by companies with such interests (IBM is the first member listed). To give one very recent example, see what IBM’s Rob Weir wrote about the FSF’s “4 freedoms” and presented some days ago. Here is slide 8 of this new presentation [PDF]:

Weir on freedoms

IBM keeps many of its crown jewels proprietary and it then raves about standards, obviously at the expense of software freedom. The screenshot above is part of several slides that demonstrate IBM’s attitude.

As we emphasised and showed many times before, IBM promotes the patenting of software. IBM brags about not only sending jobs to places where it’s cheaper (good for shareholders) but also amassing patents (monopolies), based on this new press release:

Since 1995, IBM employees in Massachusetts were awarded 2,950 patents.

Amongst IBM’s patents there was the attempt to have a monopoly on offshoring. The PR above is intended to send the opposite impression to the public in the US (jobs creation in Massachusetts).

Speaking of companies that drape themselves in “open source” while amassing software patents, how about Gear6? A couple of days ago we found this in The Register:

Gear6 fell on hard times, and a liquidation filing was reported in late April. Now Violin Memory has bought its technology assets, saying: “The venture funded Gear6 portfolio includes over 30 customers and multiple patents related to NFS Caching and Memcached.”

It doesn’t matter who applies for software patents. Such patents can change hands and sometimes end up being auctioned away to patent trolls [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The only real solution is to eliminate software patents. More to come in the next post…

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