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03.29.11

When Microsoft Changes International Law to Make GNU/Linux Illegal

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft at 6:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Collage

Summary: Microsoft’s distortion of the law goes more global with the attempt to marginalise freedom in software using legal instruments, not technical merit

IT IS easy to beat the competition when it can simply be called illegal or borderline criminal and in a later post we are going to write about Microsoft’s use of software patents to do exactly that. Over in New Zealand (see background) Microsoft has been lobbying to make software patents legal — a lobby/fight that New Zealand carries on fighting against, even in the face of Microsoft- and IBM-backed lobbyists and the patent lawyers of those companies from overseas. One of them, a person among “lawyers at Chapman Tripp,” is still betraying New Zealand by trying to convince his government that giving multinationals a monopoly on algorithms would be a good thing. IDG prints this baloney, which in some sense validates opinions on technical matters courtesy of legalese experts (one of whom, Mr. Quinn, keeps on daemosing open source right now because it a threat to those who make a living from litigation). Here is a taste of the baloney:

Champions of software patents are urging Parliament to revisit the ban on patenting “computer programs” in the presently drafted amendments to the Patents Act 1953. They suggest the law as it stands will be unclear and will possibly contravene existing international agreements.

What international agreements will these be? Some speculative consent to sell out sovereignty, a la South Korea? People of New Zealand don’t fall for it. As one person from New Zealand told us recently, over there it is still the people who control the government, not the other way around, and that is increasingly rare. In Western parts of the world the balance of power long ago shifted and evidence of this exists in the fact that companies like Microsoft break the law in its existing form and in order to make themselves more powerful. This last example of it shows how Microsoft wants to criminalise not selling Windows. As Brad puts it, “Do You Sell to Washington State? Dump Microsoft.”

If you sell products or services to any customers in the state of Washington, you need to be aware of a new legal liability you might face. (Obligatory disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer, and this is not legal advice.) Microsoft has successfully lobbied to get new legislation passed there, in their home state, that will allow your customers to be sued if you use any “stolen IT” (Information Technology).

Microsoft keeps distorting the system (legalised bribery through lobbying) and it is starting to attack the customers for some extra income, as Groklaw explains: “But the real question is, Why? Why is Microsoft doing this? Does Microsoft need a new revenue stream, now that folks are switching to smartphones instead of PCs? Or is it something worse, something Machiavellian? I ask that because I noticed two things, one, that Microsoft said that it came up with the laws because it is dissatisfied with patent law and two, something odd and frankly alarming in the Washington State version of this bill that leads me to suspect that this is Microsoft’s Plan B in its litigation storm against Linux — its Ace in the hole in case the Supreme Court decides that its software is unpatentable.

“Not that Microsoft would mind having more than one way to harass Linux and it competitors in general, or two revenue streams without having to actually work to make better products. I’d like to show you how Open Source is deliberately excluded, though, a deliberate carve out.”

That is part of a long and fascinating post from Pamela Jones. For a shorter version of what Microsoft is scheming, see Edmundo Carmona’s “Is Microsoft trying to equate selling computers without Windows to software piracy as a new world policy?”

Very recently (as recently as 23rd of March) there was a small event in Mexico. An independent computer builder and a Microsoff legal representative had a meeting at the Legal Direction of Mexico’s National Institute of Author’s Rights. Apparently Microsoft wanted to make a statement specifying that they could take any legal action Microsoft considered pertinent given the builder’s lack of a Microsoft certificate of authenticity or original license included along with a computer built/sold by the independent builder. The builder states that given that they sell their computers with Free Software instead of Windows, the software has licenses and that Microsoft doesn’t have anything to complain about given that they don’t own copyrights for said software.

Greed knows no bounds, said Microsoft at one stage. The hypocrites. As Robert Pogson explains and as everyone else so well knows, counterfeiting has been beneficial if not essential to the monopoly. To use Pogson’s new words:

Illegal copying is just one of the means that non-free software suppresses the distribution of Free Software. It is similar to the tactic of making sure that only non-free software is found on retail shelves. Free Software is not about price but freedom to run, examine, modify and distribute software, something anathema to some big names in the industry of selling licences to software. Because of the four freedoms, Free Software tends to have a low price and purveyors of non-free software treat illegal copying of their software as an advertising cost.

There is no limit to how much Microsoft will distort the truth and distort the law (through lobbying) just to ensure it can squeeze out more money out of the population, which Microsoft software is controlling. Well, ideally, the user/population should control the software i uses.

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