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01.10.12

After Microsoft OOXML Corruption, Microsoft Corrupts UK Government Through Front Groups and Lobbyists

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 11:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Westminster Parlament

Summary: Leaked documents from the UK reveal the role Microsoft played in derailing standards in the United Kingdom

THE thugs from Microsoft are waging imperialist wars again. They do this via mercenaries of sorts — front groups that pretend to be “local”.

“So MS got the UK Cabinet office to use a broken definition of Open Standard,” says iophk. “Strange that the office was so malleable.”

Herein we see standards getting replaced by Microsoft “interop” nonsense, just like Novell-type deals with their new propaganda. The sheer abuses (including bribery) Microsoft used for OOXML were covered here closely. Rather than recall them now we’ll just say with conviction that Microsoft is a criminal company, as evidenced around 2007 and 2008 when Microsoft attacked international standards bodies, many professionals (those whom Microsoft did not manage to bribe), etc.

“MS has been pushing RAND for more than a few years now,” iophk explains. As we showed in prior years, Microsoft is using the BSA and other front groups to achieve this.

Here too we have a new report which shows what Microsoft has just done (based on a leak):

The British government withdrew its open standards policy after lobbying from Microsoft, it has been revealed in a Cabinet Office brief leaked to Computer Weekly.

The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) also formerly opposed the policy before Cabinet Office withdrew it. BIS supported Microsoft’s position against open standards, the backbone of the government’s ICT policy. The Business Software Alliance, infamous for its lobbying against open standards policy in Brussels, also lobbied against the government policy.

Microsoft took up direct opposition to the ICT Strategy’s pledge to give preference to technologies that supported open standards of interoperability between government computer systems, said the briefing paper.

The software supplier was concerned this would prevent companies from claiming royalties on the point of exchange between those systems.

It complained specifically about the wording of UK procurement policy, which in January 2011 established a definition to explain its edict that open standards should be used in government computing wherever possible. UK policy specified that “[open standards] must have intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis”.

Microsoft said it supported the aims of UK open standards policy – specifically that government systems should be interoperable, that it should be possible for government to re-use purchased software components, and that government should not be “locked-in” to using particular technologies.

[...]

Microsoft refused to talk to Computer Weekly about its consultation with the Cabinet Office.

It said in a written statement: “Microsoft fully supports the Government’s ICT strategy and its goals of reducing cost and complexity, and increasing information sharing, interoperability, openness and re-use.”

The BSA said in a written statement it also supported government’s policy aims.

“However,” it said, “reducing public procurement expenses in the UK does not require the adoption of a policy which undermines the value of Intellectual Property and Innovation.”

Cabinet Office said in a written statement: “No lobbying has taken place that has affected our approach in creating an Open Standards definition that works for government.”

BIS also refused to discuss its differences with Cabinet Office. It said in a written statement: “Discussions are still ongoing between the departments with many options being considered.”

Glyn Moody was filled with fury over this. He wrote:

Although I am not surprised by this revelation, I remain incredibly angry about it – and I think everyone who cares about computing in this country should be too. It confirms that the UK government’s fine words about supporting open source and open standard are truly the typical and cynical political sweet-talking before you are stabbed in the back at the behest of lobbyists that wield so much power. No one should take anything the UK government says in this context seriously again.

What’s truly shocking about this episode is not that Microsoft has once again interfered with a sovereign nation’s decision to create a level playing-field – that’s just par for the course for the convicted monopolist. What’s really disgusting is that UK government has let them. This is a total scandal: anyone involved with this pathetic kowtowing to US business interests with any sense of decency would resign immediately. And those that don’t should be fired.

Free Software Magazine wrote, “look who’s behind it?”

It is at times like this I recall the Free Software Foundation’s opposition to the use of the term Open Source. Just as with “Open Standard” it is way to open to interpretation.

So once again the UK Government falls behind the pack in terms of freedom, transparency and accessibility for its citizens. This is not a party-political thing by the way – it’s a politician thing. In the UK there has been a backlash lately over the influence that the media (in particular the print media “barons”) has over government policy. Isn’t it about time the same spotlight was cast upon the influence that big business (many of them not British) have over government policy as well?

I find it saddening, disheartening and somewhat ironic that the one part of the software industry that is continuing to provide real innovation and progress is being locked out of Whitehall because of lobbying by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills!

Microsoft’s role in these situation is easy to see, even when Microsoft hides behind front groups. Over in a smaller country we find news about another FOSS-hostile government position:

A state which has been popular for using FOSS has now entered in a conditional pact where they ‘willingly’ chose to spend money on proprietary software despite the availability of free and open source alternatives.

Bribes come from proprietary software and overpriced goods. It should not be surprising that politicians turn their back on Free/Open Source software.

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