IBM Needs to Explain Office Suite Patents (and How Bill Gates Was Attacking Interoperability With Lotus, Using Patents Against OpenOffice.org)
Summary: A look back at how Microsoft distorted the market of office suites and a candid suggestion for IBM to open up on the real issues, not the minor details
THE “RUTHLESS” Bill Gates is nowadays buying newspapers to call himself something else and distract from his evil side, rewriting history to a sufficient extent so that people will forget his poisonous legacy that everyone suffers from, to this date. It is called reputation laundering. Today we would like to go back and show people the real Bill Gates. Later this month we hope to get a helping hand from another editor who can help show some of today’s offences from Gates (but that’ll be left aside for now as it is partly off topic).
“On another occasion Gates showed not only his hatred of standards and interoperability but also his love of patents.”So yesterday we wrote about how IBM becomes a key player in ODF. IBM and Microsoft are rivals as much as Apple and Microsoft are rivals. They actually collaborate in some areas where it is beneficial to both companies (not necessarily to the externalities). Microsoft, which is is run by sociopaths, has quite a history of copying and also breaking Lotus. We showed this using Comes vs Microsoft court exhibits. A Techrights informant has just reminded us that, in Comes vs Microsoft, “PXE 3078 has Lotus working for interoperability and MS working against it.” We covered this several years ago. Bill Gates said that giving out the Office 2000 formats to competitors seems crazy and this type of remark occurred later too. On another occasion Gates showed not only his hatred of standards and interoperability but also his love of patents. On several occasions he tried to use software patents against OpenOffice.org, even resorting to patent blackmail against Sun. A lot of publications speak of the OpenOffice.org news in the context which excepts and excludes patents (see examples at the bottom of this post). This is a mistake. To give just one example of a typical interpretation of this announcement:
Continuing what it likes to describe as its “long-standing commitment to open source,” IBM has this week confirmed that it will now take an active role in the new OpenOffice.org code base submitted to The Apache Software Foundation Incubator.
IBM and open source you say? Should that be unusual?
This does not tell the whole story. Remember what we wrote about the Apache licence some weeks ago (this led to FUD). Remember who likes this type of licence, which Microsoft proponents sometimes champion (and Microsoft now gives money to the ASF too). As we stated yesterday, too much would have been written about the news and we wish not to bore with repetition. But what we shall say is that Microsoft is vehemently opposing interoperability (the problem is at the core, including Bill Gates), so we must defend ODF, even if it means tolerating IBM. But IBM should not be treated as our friend here (nor should The Document Foundation, which has some residues from Novell). After many observations were being made in our IRC channels we have reached the conclusion which some of us accept. It is possible that IBM, which cross-licenses (software patents) with Microsoft, can now take its proprietary version of OpenOffice.org (Lotus Symphony) and further extend it legally without contributing back the changes. That’s what an Apache licence will do assuming that the passage of copyrights to Apache works as IBM hoped. This whole thing shows the dangers of copyright assignment agreements (pay attention, Canonical) and if the LGPLv3 is abandoned as Bradley from the FSF suspects , then it will be possible for IBM to make Symphony the only patents-’covered’ derivative of OpenOffice.org (indemnification for example). The big vendors are playing evil games to increase their own power and ODF gets wedged somewhere in the middle. IBM could have joined hands with LibreOffice and its umbrella organisation. It hasn’t done so yet. There were even snide remarks from IBM. One person who urged IBM’s most relevant Vice President in this area claimed that the latter has not approved his comment, although after some discussion and an E-mail from this vice president we learned that he was too busy (which is probably true and not an excuse/afterthought). Anyway, IBM needs to clarify two things now: 1) will it join LibreOffice? 2) Where does it stand on the subject of licensing/copyrights and patents? IBM is generally a silent company after the antitrust complications, so it has communications problems (even when it communicates it is trying to hide the communication). █
The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org.
IBM’s Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of Collaboration Solutions., which lobbied for Oracle to spin OpenOffice off after it became clear that Oracle wasn’t going to put much, if any, resources into OpenOffice, said in a statement, “IBM welcomes Oracle’s contribution of OpenOffice software to the Apache Software Foundation. We look forward to engaging with other community members to advance the technology beginning with our strong support of the incubation process for OpenOffice at Apache.”
I was disturbed today to read that Oracle will seek to relicense all OpenOffice code under the Apache-2.0 license and move OpenOffice into the Apache Software Foundation.
I’ve written recently about how among the permissive licenses, my favorite is clearly the Apache License 2.0. However, I think that one should switch from a copyleft license to a permissive one only in rare circumstances and with the greatest of care.
Obviously, in this case, I oppose Oracle’s relicense of OpenOffice.org under Apache-License-2.0. It is probably obvious why I feel that way, but I shall explain nonetheless, just in case. I’m going to mostly ignore the motives for doing so, which I think are obvious: Oracle (and IBM, who are quoted in support of this move) for their own reasons don’t like The Document Foundation fork (LibreOffice) of OpenOffice.org. This is a last-ditch effort by IBM and Oracle to thwart the progress of that fork, which has been reported as quite successful and many distributions have begun to adopt LibreOffice. (Even non-software sites sites like Metafilter have users discussing changing to LibreOffice .)
There is an entirely different class of CAAs where you give a company full right to your code, however. Sun (and later Oracle) demanded this for contributions to OpenOffice.org. They need this to be able to incorporate the contributions into non-free versions of OpenOffice like StarOffice or IBM’s Lotus Suite. So in essence, you have to give them the right to sell non-free versions of your code or you can’t contribute. As far as I’m concerned, this is clearly not a good use of CAAs!
I guess Oracle thought the same thing. They ignored OpenOffice and its contributors after buying Sun. Sure they killed OpenSolaris first. It was only a matter of time before they ankled OpenOffice.