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01.02.11

Microsoft Breaks the Law, Then ‘Settles’ by Elbowing Free/Libre Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 6:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Boxer

Summary: Santa Clara County schools will need to purchase more software (proprietary) after a settlement that’s hardly a punishment for Microsoft’s illegal activities

IT IS “FUNNY MONEY” season just before the year closes. Yes, a Microsoft victim is once again bragging about some so-called ‘settlement’ which leaves much to be desired. We have found many reports about it, mostly from California where schools were reportedly too slow (if not late) to claim Microsoft’s debt to them.

Most headlines refer to the news as “settlement money” or “technology money” [1, 2, 3] while the headline from the Bill Gates-funded ‘press’ makes it sound like Microsoft does its ‘donation’ thing when it “Pays for School Tech.”

Too much focus is put on the sum of money [1, 2] and too little about how it must be spent. As one report put it:

Funding for the first and second phase is used in the same manner. Half of the Cy Pres awards come in the form of general-purpose vouchers to reimburse school districts for the purchases of eligible computer hardware, information technology support services, professional development services for teachers and a broad array of computer software.

The other half comes in the form of specific category software vouchers that reimburse school districts for the purchase of only particular types of software.

What “particular types of software” would that be? It does not specify. For those in need of some background, here is a portion of another report:

The settlement comes from a 1999 lawsuit in which businesses and consumers charged that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) engaged in unfair business practices in selling certain systems.

Microsoft basically broke the law to drive competitors out of the market and then hike the costs. Why is Microsoft even around after obviously engaging in illegal activity? Because the way the law works, if Microsoft can pay “settlement” money to the plaintiff, then the case goes away. It’s just like a bribe, but they call it a “settlement” because it sounds so much more benign (like “licensing” versus “racketeering”). To put the scale of this bribe in perspective, we’re talking about a rate of $5.31 per pupil in one case. What’s the real toll of a kid being grown up to be enslaved by Microsoft software? This is surely disproportional.

Santa Clara County schools will receive nearly $821,000 for technology purchases, and San Mateo County schools will receive nearly $306,000, in the second phase of a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

The funds benefit schools that applied for a portion of the settlement. The awards, granted at a rate of $5.31 per pupil, range from less than $100 for small continuation schools to $18,141 for Independence High School in San Jose, which has about 3,400 students.

[...]

Schools receive the funding in the form of vouchers they can use for technology purchases — and not just ones sold by Microsoft. Half of the value of the vouchers must be used for particular software.

And there are strings attached to it. As prodigy educator Diane Ravitch put it the other day (we’ll come back to it later), “[i]nsisting on controlling the use of one’s gift of money is another low form of philanthropy. Today’s givers want to control others’ lives.” Ravitch referred specifically to education and added: “Insisting on recognition for philanthropy (cf. Mark Zuckerberg) is the lowest form of philanthropy. It is ego-driven.”

Ravitch is critical of both Gates and Zuckerberg, but that is a subject for another day. The huge damage the Gates Foundation is doing to public education is a massively-underrated subject which is suppressed through actual control of the media (e.g. sponsoring journalists). In the case of the schools above, they can’t use Free/libre software if a software purchase is strictly required. Coincidence? Maybe. This is is not mentioned by anyone and not even the self-serving strings are mentioned a lot of the time, with exceptions:

Schools that serve large numbers of poor children are getting new money to pay for technology as the state releases $25 million through the second phase of a legal settlement with Microsoft, the California Department of Education announced today.

[...]

The awards come in the form of vouchers to reimburse school districts for buying computer hardware, information technology support services, professional development services for teachers, and computer software.

As usual, the biggest winners in these cases are the lawyers. Moreover, Microsoft manipulates the settlement so as to make it self-serving (to Microsoft). It does not really pay fines if those fines have to be redeemed in particular ways.

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