EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

11.28.10

Nichi Vendola Helps Microsoft Take Over Italy (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 12:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nichi Vendola
Image by Foto Giovanni

Summary: One culprit in the selling of Italy’s future to Microsoft gets named; this problem is not only Italian

“STOP” on zona-m.net is an interesting blog which reports from Italy, particularly about topics related to OpenOffice.org (and now LibreOffice). A few days ago it did some excellent reporting about Nichi Vendola and Microsoft [1, 2] and it is probably worth laying out in isolation as follows:

  • Italian Left Leader signs Berlusconi-like deal with Microsoft

    Nichi Vendola is president both of south-eastern italian region Puglia and of the Italian left party Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL or “Left, Ecology, Freedom” in English).

    Free Software is software that can save lots of public money. Even moms like Free Software like Linux, partly because it can be used without problems even by some disabled children. Besides, Free Software is such a good idea that European Parliament representatives of all colors like it !.

    On its own website, SEL says “we believe that for a modern party speaking of copyleft, Free Software and Net Neutrality is as necessary as speaking of jobs, environment, economy and civil rights”. Among the more than 100 political candidates supporting Free Software at the latest regional elections in Italy there were several SEL representatives. The Florence section of SEL even presented a motion to promote Free Software in Florence http://www.sinistraeliberta.eu/articoli/sel-per-il-software-libero-al-comune-di-firenze] in January 2010.

  • Nichi Vendola explains (but does he?) his Berlusconi-like deal with Microsoft

    The day after signing a Berlusconi-like deal with Microsoft, Nichi Vendola, president of the Puglia Region, published an explanation on the website of its party. These are my comments to the main parts of that article.

    Vendola: “Who is the enemy for Puglia and for Italy? Is it Microsoft, or any other software giant?”

    Stop: The first enemy is lack of competence and interest in ICT by Public Administrators. Is this the case with Vendola? Maybe not, but frankly this explanation isn’t enough to be sure, even if there are some good parts in it.

  • Italian region asks for help to avoid software lock-in… to Microsoft

    Today, after the initial surprise caused by knowing that Left party leader and president of the italian region of Puglia, Nichi Vendola, has just signed a Berlusconi-like deal with Microsoft offering an explanation that, alas, doesn’t really explain much, we started to know something about the content of the deal (because the bigger, problem in this whole business, much more of the presence of Microsoft, is lack of transparency).

    The Region of Puglia published a press release titled, more or less, “Protocol of understanding between the Region of Puglia and Microsoft. Vendola says: (this is for) technological neutrality (a summary of the press release was also published by Italian newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno.

Microsoft clearly relies on corruptible people who would rather serve Microsoft and not serve the public. It is worth naming these people to put pressure on them. Nichi Vendola appears to be one such person and as this fine new article puts it, the problem affects more than just Italy (the author previously showed how it’s done in the UK with the “Everything Microsoft” CIO, Richard Steel [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]):

The reason Microsoft’s EU numbers don’t add up is that the EC has spent only half the total amount it had alloted under its €49m contract for desktop software.

When on signing the contract in 2008 the EC estimated its cost per user per year would be €125, it fell well short of the total contract value. It sounds like a super deal when you say it’s a third cheaper than it is.

It better had sound like a super deal as well if the EC wants to justify spending millions on Microsoft software while still fighting the software giant in court over its monopoly abuses.

Discount on software which takes away one’s freedom can be worse than no discount at all because its purpose is to ensure lock-in at all costs.

As another blogger put it the other day (in relation to KINect):

It looks like Microsoft is admitting that it needs to look like a bully even if it really isn’t at times; why?

Well, that’s just Microsoft, a control freak. Italy was smart enough to shoot down the “EU Patent” and to move to Free software more quickly than some neighbouring countries. Hopefully the likes of Nichi Vendola will be seen for what they are — an impediment to Italian autonomy and freedom. More stories about Italy are appended below.

Related posts:

Update: Glyn Moody wrote a rebuttal to poor damage control from Vendola:

What on earth is he talking about? After having made an unjustified choice to sign a deal with Microsoft (one whose terms haven’t even been revealed, as far I can tell), he tries to simply avoid the central question “Why?” by saying in true Tony Blair fashion that it is time to move on, and that it’s not about competitors, but about the iPad and fibre optic cables, the price of apps and Net neutrality. He then changes subject yet again by bringing in the topic of Italy’s digital divide.

Now, closing the digital divide is certainly a hugely important undertaking, but if anything can do that it is *free* software, which can be distributed to everyone in Puglia – to every school, and to every business. Microsoft’s offerings are precisely the last thing that will close that digital divide.

Indeed, the divide is there largely *because* of Microsoft. By virtue of its monopolistic hold on the desktop market it has been able to impose artificially high prices on a sector whose marginal costs of production are zero. This implies that that natural price of software is also zero – as is exactly the case for free software. Anything higher than zero makes the digital divide deeper – which means that Microsoft’s inflated prices have helped excavate not so much a digital divide as a digital chasm.

So Signor Vendola’s bizarre “explanation” of his move – which, of course is a non-explanation, and the Italian equivalent of saying: “ooh, look, a squirrel” – is in fact a superb reason why he should in fact be supporting open source, just as his party professes to do on its Web site.

[...]

The message is clear: Italian free software activists must (a) continue to pile on the pressure until he cancels this deal with Microsoft, and (b) non guardare lo scoiattolo.

New Push for Software Patents in Europe (Innovation Union) While UK’s Tim Berners-Lee Opposes (F)RAND

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 12:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tim Berners-Lee

Image from Wikimedia

Summary: The debate over patents in Europe is starting to heat up again, just shortly after the patent maximalists got defeated; Sir Tim Berners-Lee explains his opposition to (F)RAND, in addition to software patents

EUROPE is under constant threat from the software patents lobby and the hawks from the USPTO. They try to warp the EPO so as to better serve the clients in the United States, clearly at the expense of European ones (the multinationals can pretend to be European and American at the same time). The patent lobby has pushed for more or less the same goal all along, but occasionally the name of the process gets changed a little. The one advocated most recently by Barnier et al. [1, 2, 3] was called the “EU Patent” or something along those lines, but it’s just another gown/brand for what was known as community patent, “unification”, or something like the “harmonisation” McCreevy spoke about back in his days. Now they call it ‘Innovation Union’ (equating patents/monopolies with “innovation”) and a European patents booster (from the same blog of a patent attorney which offers tips on patenting software in Europe) says that the Belgian presidency (Vincent van Quickenborne) is its pusher:

According to a recent press release, the European Commission published a Communication entitled “Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union”, which identifies ten key points required for turning Europe into a true “Innovation Union”.

Axel H. Horns, another such attorney from Europe (Munich), is counting on Vincent van Quickenborne when he writes:

Mr Vincent van Quickenborne announcing talks on ‘enhanced co-operation’ instead of EU Patent – http://tinyurl.com/37hmmsx

As some background on Vincent van Quickenborne consider [1, 2, 3, 4]. “EU Council Press” gives him lip service, so he has become a dangerous person to software developers.

#EUPatent on the agenda of the Competitiveness #EUCouncil on 10 Dec. / CC @VincentVQ

That’s just marketing talk. Competitiveness is effectively promoted without patents (monopolies), not with more of them and not with increased “enforcement” (litigation). The EU Patent was seen falling just weeks ago, with Italy and Spain taking a leading role in shooting it down because they know better. EurActiv says pressure tactics may be used now. It’s appalling if true.

Italy found itself in a political squeeze on Thursday (25 November) as several key European countries moved to create a unified patent to protect the design of products sold across their borders.

There will be huge harm caused by software patents in Europe, including an open door to patent trolls in the long term. The president of the FFII warns:

Second BGH decision validating software patents in Germany, technical means the software runs in a computer http://ur1.ca/2fgca

He also points out that the “Irish Government [is] on the way to levy taxes over patent royalties, was serving Microsoft and Google to evade US fisc” (linking to this story).

The Government has revealed just how little faith it has in its vaunted “smart economy” by proposing the abolition of the one incentive SMEs had to create their own intellectual property (IP) – patent royalty tax exemptions – a leading patent lawyer has angrily railed.

Buried on page 96 of the ‘National Recovery Plan 2011 – 2014’ to remove €15bn from the State’s deficit and stimulate a recovery is a list of measures to be abolished.

Top of the list is the tax exemption for patent royalties.

It is followed by a number of other measures, like the abolition of investment allowance for machinery and plant and exploration expenditure, the approved Share Options Scheme and benefit in kind for employer-provided childcare.

Glyn Moody sarcastically states regarding the above: “lucky #swpats don’t exist ‘as such’”

Yes, Europe left ambiguity there with the phrase “as such”. There is an additional debate right now over software patents and web standards. The founder of the Web (Tim BL) opposes software patents. I asked him about it (noting that W3C leadership has vested interests in employers’ patents [1, 2, 3, 4]) and he clarified that W3C work must be royalty free. This led to a debate where Tim wrote: “#w3c work is #royaltyfree. That is *not* FRAND, as FRAND-0 can still require you get some license.”

Simon Phipps wrote: “But doesn’t “royalty free” also imply that other restrictions are permissible? Remember Sender ID was RF: http://bit.ly/dXecPy”

Carlo Piana wrote: “actually I’ve used W3C IPR policy as a good example for Open Standards, in the past. E/thing is perfectible tho’”

“…I’ve used W3C IPR policy as a good example for Open Standards, in the past.”
      –Carlo Piana
Mr. Oliva added: “but isn’t that *still* a subset of both FRAND and FRAND-0? [...] i.e., it’s not correct to say it’s *not* FRAND, but rather that it’s the non-evil subset of FRAND”

Glyn Moody also published “Tim BL: Open Standards Must be Royalty-Free”, wherein he argues:

There’s nothing radical or new there: after all, as he says, the W3C specifies that all its standards must be royalty-free. But it’s a useful re-statement of that policy – and especially important at a time when many are trying to paint Royalty-Free standards as hopeless unrealistic for open standards. The Web’s continuing success is the best counter-example we have to that view, and Berners-Lee’s essay is a splendid reminder of that fact. Do read it.

The head of the FSFE, who previously argued with the BSA over (F)RAND [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], shares his “Christmas wish to the EPO”:

The European Commission is setting out to reform Europe’s standardisation system. About time, too. Standards define what things around us look and behave like, whether soft- or hardware. Standardisation in Europe is currently dominated by a small number of organisations, and they’ve mostly done their business quietly in a corner where not many people cared to look. Except the ones with a lot of money at stake, of course.

That explains why standardisation today is still a game that’s mostly played by big corporations. At the same time, much innovation is happening elsewhere, coming from individuals and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). Their numbers are large, but they don’t really have a voice in standardisation. Where they could participate, they often lack the time, money and specialised expertise to do so.

Well, there has been lots of RAND-related news recently [1, 2, 3, 4] and all these issues matter a lot. In Europe, mobbyists seem to be promoting Microsoft agenda (including RAND) under the camouflage/costume of opposing software patents.

« Previous Page « Previous Page Next entries »

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts