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02.01.11

FSF to Challenge Software Patents While Microsoft Uses Them to Extort GNU/Linux

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fuel

Summary: Microsoft’s products are running on empty, so the company is using patents as a form of tax imposed on the competition which is winning

TECHRIGHTS covers patents more than just about any site which focuses on Free/open source software. The issue of software patents ought to be widely recognised as the #1 barrier to adoption of GNU/Linux and the many patent lawsuits against Android — including several from Microsoft and its allies — should provide concrete evidence of this. The FSF will soon take part in a patents-focused discussion of the Churchill Club (which recently held a Wikileaks debate). The FSF’s Web site informs followers about this event:

FSF operations mananger John Sullivan and license compliance engineer Brett Smith will be on a Churchill Club panel discussion to argue against software patents.

For those who view software patents only as a prospective threat, one ought to serve a reminder about Microsoft profiting from Linux through companies like Novell, LG, Samsung, and others. When one buys Linux from these companies, Microsoft will be paid for it. This is rapidly becoming more of a cash cow to the monopolist and as Tim suggests, it may increasingly compete with Microsoft Office as the #1 ‘product’ of the company:

Today I’m looking at figures produced which allegedly show the amount of money Microsoft is losing online and ask the question based on those figures, is it only Office and patents which are keeping Microsoft alive?

We brought up the subject on the TechBytes show, so I thought it would be nice to elaborate on some of the sources I used for that particular section.

[...]

In my opinion, Microsoft has very little to offer. They have grown so large, that sustaining themselves with the products they do make returns on is no longer viable. For me it comes as no surprise that Microsoft would seek to get revenue from patent maneuvers. In the past I’ve made predictions, one of which being Ballmer will be gone come mid 2011, I also said that whilst Microsoft will not simply shut up shop, I think the Microsoft of the future will be far smaller and humble than the bloated monster it is today. What worries me are the products/companies it will bring down with it as it desperately tries to keep its position of power.

One way for Microsoft to further spread its patents and push them into GNU/Linux devices/distributions would be Mono, which is still intruding Ubuntu, including parts of Mono that Microsoft deemed uncovered by the "Community Promise". To quote a news item from a site that's apathetic towards Mono issues (part of the so-called “Mono lobby”: “The Sound Menu of Ubuntu 11.04 Alpha sees the return of play list support – an easy way to access your favourite track line-ups in Banshee without needing to open the app itself.”

This is Mono intrusion which may be going into panels in Ubuntu. The distinct problems associated with Novell’s Banshee were previously covered in :

Mono is partly developed by Microsoft now. It contains Microsoft code, licensed under Microsoft licences. This is not a “gift” — no more than the Greek bearing gifts. Watch out for new spin from the ‘Microsoft press’, courtesy of the company’s longtime booster, Kurt Mackie. It is just yet more deception and misdirection — some propaganda about “interoperability” and not open standards, where interoperability may also involve patent agreements like Novell’s. Microsoft executives are trying to spread some Trojan horses like Mono (.NET) and OOXML because they failed to embrace the community of Free software and failed to make their proprietary formats the ‘standard’ (OOXML, for example, is very scarcely used at all). Unless or until software patents are vapourised, Microsoft APIs are unsafe and are better off avoided (unless approached passively, e.g. Wine).

“The patent danger to Mono comes from patents we know Microsoft has, on libraries which are outside the C# spec and thus not covered by any promise not to sue. In effect, Microsoft has designed in boobytraps for us.”

Richard Stallman

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