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12.19.10

Microsoft Lobbyists Corrupt the European Interoperability Framework to Marginalise Software Freedom

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Patents, Standard at 3:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Early assessments of the latest version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF)

How good/bad is the final version (as in revision) of EIFv2? Well, it depends on who’s asked. Glyn Moody looked at the difference between the different versions, which the FSFE also highlighted in its Web site. They stood up against Microsoft EIF lobbyists. Microsoft Florian, BSA, and ACT, for example, were promoting RAND using the exact same lies about Free software. Moody, who was actively rebutting these people, says that “the lobbyists won, free software loses badly [in] #eif #eu” and he writes an article titled “the Great Defeat”:

Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that the European Interoperability Framework has occupied me for some time – I wrote about the first version back in 2008, and have been following the twists and turns of the revision process since.

These included the infamous leaked version that redefined “closed” as “nearly open”. Now we finally have the final version of EIF v2 – and it’s not a pretty sight.

[...]

This issue of whether FRAND or royalty/restriction-free should be adopted for open standards is one that I’ve discussed much in recent columns, pointing out that FRAND is not generally compatible with free software implementations. It might seem that the European Commission has come up with a nicely-balanced compromise by specifying that both FRAND and royalty-free are acceptable. But if you think about it, “FRAND or royalty-free” is identical to FRAND, because FRAND includes royalty-free as a stricter subset. The European Commission has simply mentioned “royalty-free” as a sop to those who called for it.

But wait, you might say, doesn’t it specify that even FRAND terms must be “in a way that allows implementation in both proprietary and open source software”? It certainly does, but that just means that it must be possible for some type of open source to implement the FRAND standard; it doesn’t say that all kinds of open source must be able to.

So, in practice, this means that FRAND standards that shut out GPLv2 software, for example, are perfectly acceptable provided other open source licences – of which there are many – can accommodate them. Once again, the European Commission has adopted wording that seems to address the concerns of the open source community, but which in practice gives FRAND fans exactly what the want: the ability to lock out GPLv2 code – still the bulk of the free software world – while complying with EIFv2.

Well, not everyone agrees with this assessment (there are many remarks in Identi.ca) and it’s claimed by a Red Hat employee that BSA and Microsoft are upset about this outcome. For some more background see:

  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?
  11. European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Corrupted by Microsoft et al, Its Lobbyists
  12. Orwellian EIF, Fake Open Source, and Security Implications
  13. No Sense of Shame Left at Microsoft
  14. Lobbying Leads to Protest — the FFII and the FSFE Rise in Opposition to Subverted EIF
  15. IBM and Open Forum Europe Address European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Fiasco
  16. EIF Scrutinised, ODF Evolves, and Microsoft’s OOXML “Lies” Lead to Backlash from Danish Standards Committee
  17. Complaints About Perverted EIF Continue to Pile Up
  18. More Complaints About EIFv2 Abuse and Free Software FUD from General Electric (GE)
  19. Patents Roundup: Copyrighted SQL Queries, Microsoft Alliance with Company That Attacks F/OSS with Software Patents, Peer-to-Patent in Australia
  20. Microsoft Under Fire: Open Source Software Thematic Group Complains About EIFv2 Subversion, NHS Software Supplier Under Criminal Investigation
  21. British MEP Responds to Microsoft Lobby Against EIFv2; Microsoft’s Visible Technologies Infiltrates/Derails Forums Too
  22. Patents Roundup: Escalations in Europe, SAP Pretense, CCIA Goes Wrong, and IETF Opens Up
  23. Patents Roundup: Several Defeats for Bad Types of Patents, Apple Risks Embargo, and Microsoft Lobbies Europe Intensely
  24. Europeans Asked to Stop Microsoft’s Subversion of EIFv2 (European Interoperability Framework Version 2)
  25. Former Member of European Parliament Describes Microsoft “Coup in Process” in the European Commission
  26. Microsoft’s Battle to Consume — Not Obliterate — Open Source
  27. Patents Roundup: David Hammerstein on Microsoft Lobbying in Europe; Harrison Targets Lobbying on Software Patents in New Zealand, Justice Stevens Leaves SCOTUS
  28. Oracle Doesn’t “Go Bananas Over EIF 2.0” Being Subverted by Microsoft and Friends
  29. Inaction From Ombudsman/EU Commission Regarding Microsoft Lobbyists Derailing Public Policy
  30. The Difference Between Florian Müller and Hugo Lueders (Pro-Microsoft Lobbyists)
  31. BSA, ACT, and Other Microsoft Front Groups Still Try to Shoot Down EIF in Europe While Promoting Software Patents
  32. Free Software Proponents Expose the Microsoft-Funded (F)RAND Lobbyists and Their Lies, Microsoft to Lobby Directly in SOSOCON 2010
  33. Battling the BSA Hydra – Interpretation and Spanish Translation

The head of the FSFE responded to the EIFv2 on various occasions and then wrote about it in his blog:

Yesterday, the European Commission finally published the new version of the European Interoperability Framework [pdf]. We at FSFE have been working on this document for a long time. When it was published yesterday, we gave it a welcome despite some reservations.

Glyn Moody points out a number of weak spots in the new document. Actually, I’m concerned about many of the same points as he is. Still, I don’t agree with his judgement that EIFv2 is a “great defeat”. The document would certainly have been a lot worse without the hard work of FSFE and others. Even though it leaves some key issues open, it represents some progress.

Whether to welcome EIFv2 or not is a question of what you take as a baseline for comparison, and if you view the document isolated or in context. A lot will also depend on how the EIF is implemented.

But let’s take the issues in turn.

His conclusion:

So what we have now is a strategy statement, without the level of detail that made EIFv1 such a useful document. But this strategy generally goes in the right direction, and it’s much more powerful than before, thanks to its official status.
I’m guessing that the change we’ll see across Europe will be slow, but that it will be continuous and very broad. EIFv1 provided a rallying point for those member states and public bodies that were interested in Free Software and Open Standards. EIFv2 is a general push for everyone to use more Open Standards, even though it contains generous get-out clauses.

On the whole, we welcome EIFv2. It’s not everything we wished for, but it’s far better than we feared. We’ll watch its implementation very carefully, and will nudge it along where necessary.

Here is a page in question and related feedback from the FSFE:

  • FSFE welcomes revised European Interoperability Framework

    The European Commission today published its long-awaited revision of the European Interoperability Framework. This document aims at promoting interoperability in the European public sector. The document is the result of a prolonged and hard-fought process. Free Software Foundation Europe accompanied this process and offered input to the European Commission at various stages.

    “During the history of the EIF, we had reason to worry that Free Software would effectively be shut out of the European public sector. FSFE has worked hard to prevent this, and we have succeeded,” says Karsten Gerloff, FSFE’s President. “With this document, the Commission shows that it is willing to lead. We will support and accompany the EC in this effort.”

  • Freedom to compete: Fixing software procurement

    On Tuesday December 7, we issued a press release about a contract awarded by the European Commission, under which the EC and other European institutions will spend up to 189 million Euro on proprietary software and related services. We are of the view that in issuing this contract, the EC has once more failed to live up to its own guidelines and recommendations about the use of Free Software and Open Standards, and has missed an opportunity to open up software procurement to competition from Free Software companies.

Mark Bohannon, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat, says in a Red Hat-owned site that “European Interoperability Framework supports openness” and to quote the ending:

Is the new EIF perfect? No. Due to heavy lobbying by vested proprietary technology interests, some key sections of the EIF have been made confusing (indeed, the definition of ‘open standards’ has been watered down from the 2004 version and no longer includes the requirement of being ‘royalty-free’). The definition of “open” standards or specifications remains a matter of some contention in the IT industry. An example of a more accurate definition of open standards can be found in the recently released India Standards Policy for E-Governance, which specifies that intellectual property should be licensed royalty-free and that any required specifications should be technology-neutral.

While the new definition does not give the open source and open standards community all it would have wished for, and some will certainly criticize the result, the EU’s policy should still be applauded as an overall statement in favor of openness. At its heart is a reaffirmation of openness and the recognition that open source is not only a key element of – but also a growing factor in — Europe’s IT agenda.

Red Hat and the open source and open standards community will continue to work for royalty free IPR licensing policies that level the playing field and promote consumer choice. Given this latest announcement in EU policy, the open source and open standards community will have to be vigilant to ensure that this policy is implemented in a meaningful way and achieves its true goal: interoperability, vendor choice, portability, collaborative innovation and competition in providing products and services.

Simon Phipps’ comments can be found in Identi.ca but also in his blog summaries, e.g.:

Landmark publication of the European Interoperability Framework by the European Commission. Of course, this is only guidance, and the political context is very complex as evidenced by the language around “FRAND” and patents. Let’s see if they can stick to this better than they can stick to their own procurement guidelines.

[...]

As if to provide caution for those welcoming the EIF publication, FSF Europe continues its very rational and well-argued assault on the European Commission’s failure to follow its own rules.

All in all, there is no consent here. There appears to be agreement that the EIFv2 could be better, some F/OSS advocates are reasonably satisfied, but RAND still managed to find its way into EIF. In a way, the mobbyists and lobbyists got their way.

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3 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    December 19, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Gravatar

    Confusion is the surest sign of defeat. If there is enough confusion there will be no change.

    The FSF has explained how “RAND” discriminates against free software, but it should be obvious that software that can not be distributed without permission is not free.

    The real test of defeat will be when state agencies continue using Microsoft fromats in public documents. That will prove that this framework fails to even provide interoperability, let alone software freedom, and represents no change. Microsoft’s new phoney open document formats are even worse than their older binary formats but these are what Microsoft wants allowed rather than be forced to implement real standards like ODF.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    OOXML was promoted with RAND. EIFv2 does not exclude RAND. I think we know what that means. I will write more about this later.

  2. twitter said,

    December 21, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Gravatar

    Groklaw has unearthed a Novell/Microsoft agreement that is particularly damning for OOXML as an interoperability format. Microsoft’s Statement of Work for Novell considers Novell a “first-class” implementer of OOXML with special access that no one else will enjoy. The final “milestone” is “Novell OpenOffice can save files containing-Novell-specific features using the Open XML standard.” Almost all of the other goals are of the form, “Novell OpenOffice can open Microsoft Office 2007/2010-generated Open XML files without failures; M[1-4] features supported; unsupported features are lost on open.” So, even this “first-class” implementer will be unable to really use OOXML and anyone that makes the mistake of working with that format will be tied to specific versions of a program from a single vendor, Microsoft. The company refused to use a real open standard and should be shunned by governments that are interested in real interoperability.

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