Summary: Audio recording of the patents panel in FOSDEM
Summary: Audio recording of the patents panel in FOSDEM
The scam which is OOXML lives on
Summary: What some newly-leaked letters and analyses help teach us about Microsoft’s wrongdoing and corruption in the public arena
Francis Maude MP sought advice from the British public, but will other Brits (other than Microsoft lobbyists) submit consultation letters? “Our approach will enable the Government to work collectively together but effective open standards for software and systems are required to ensure interoperability between software systems, applications and data,” writes Maude. “Within the Government Digital Service we are already demonstrating how collaboration between departments, along with a clear focus on the user, delivers better public services for less. Open Standards are crucial for sharing information across government boundaries and to deliver a common platform and systems that more easily interconnect.”
“Open standards are vital for progressing this work and I encourage you to share your views in this consultation.”
How can Microsoft subvert this logical plan? Simple: redefine “open”. Mark Ballard followed Moody’s lead for a change, reporting that the Microsoft-subsidised “lobby triumphs in first open standards showdown”:
Software patent heavyweights piled into the first public meeting of the Cabinet Office consultation on open standards on 4 April, conquering the meeting ballot with a resounding call to scrap the government’s policy on open standards.
Open source and open standards campaigners complained they hadn’t been invited to the Round Table event, the proceedings of which Cabinet Office will use to decide the fate of its beleaguered open standards policy.
Government supporters felt a growing sense of urgency over the consultation. Scattered and underfunded, they looked incapable of standing up to the big business interests that induced the consultation with backroom lobbying and have stepped forward now the debate has been brought out into the open.
Computer Weekly understands Cabinet Office officials regretted they hadn’t got the meeting call out to a wider audience. Open standards supporters who attended complained it was stacked with opponents who easily dominated a meeting motion against the government’s open standards policy.
Linda Humphries, Cabinet Office open standards official, said yesterday in a blogged report of the meeting: “The consensus was that the… proposed policy would be detrimental to competition and innovation.”
Graham Taylor, chief executive of Open Forum Europe, which has worked closely with Cabinet Office IT policy makers, said he was “disappointed” the meeting hadn’t been “representative”.
Glyn Moody published the second part of the dirty Microsoft laundry he had gotten hold of. “In yesterday’s post about Microsoft’s lobbying of the Cabinet Office against truly open standards based on RF licensing,” he writes, “I spent some time examining the first part of a letter sent by the company on 20 May last year. The second part concentrates on the issue of open standards for document exchange. This touches on one of the most brutal episodes in recent computing history – the submission of Microsoft’s OOXML file format to ISO for approval.”
Further down he says: “In other words, as a result of a decision by single city in the US to adopt open standards for documents (also mentioned in Microsoft’s letter of May 20), Microsoft set in train an immense sequence of events that culminated in the accelerated adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard.”
“That, in a nutshell, is the power of truly open standards, especially when implemented by open source, because everything is driven by a desire for openness and interoperability. This sets a very high bar that other companies must then match if they wish to remain competitive, as Microsoft’s hurried actions demonstrate.
“A few months later, on 31 August, Microsoft sent an email to the Cabinet Office that included a policy paper “compiled by Microsoft Corp” as it says in the footer, on the same subject, entitled “The Importance of Neutral of Multiple-Standards Policy in Document Format Standards” [.pdf].”
Glyn Moody did some further research to show that the cost of this sort of corruption from Microsoft may be close to a billion dollars (of British taxpayers’ money). That may be about $70 per family, due to Microsoft’s dirty tricks in government alone (putting aside the cost to businesses and homes). To quote:
As far as I can tell, the CEDI research is something to do with this, which points to this Danish government page with links to two studies. They’re all in Danish, not unreasonably, but even with the help of Google Translate I can’t find any figures about the savings of “moving to a flexible two standard” as claimed by the Microsoft email. But I assume it is backed up somewhere, so let’s take it, and the £500 million figure for the UK, on trust.
One of the interesting developments over the last few years is how the debate about TCO – Total Cost of Ownership – has died down. In the early years of this millennium, there were various studies, from both Microsoft and companies based around open source, that purported to show that their solution had a lower TCO than the rival’s. Of course, much of this depended on the details, but it was striking that there was no clear winner in any of these comparisons. I think the reason that the TCO argument has disappeared today is simply that it wasn’t possible to use it to decide between offerings because there wasn’t any big difference between the two alternatives from that point of view.
What that means in practice is that the total cost of Microsoft-only or open source only solutions is broadly the same – the real differentiation comes in terms of other aspects, such as the companies offering support, ecosystems, freedom from lock-in etc.
So if the UK government could save £500 million by moving from an open-source only office suite provision to a mixed one, as Microsoft claims, then, broadly speaking, it could similarly save £500 million by moving from a Microsoft-only approach to the same mixed environment, if the calculation is carried out on a fair basis.
Microsoft’s recent email implies that the current lock-in to Microsoft Office is costing the UK government something like half a billion pounds, give or take a few quid. Surely a powerful argument for moving to that two-standard solution based on Microsoft Office and ODF office suites as quickly as possible?
Over Finland we have learned that Microsoft is also attacking the attempts to move to FOSS. This is said to cost millions of dollars even though the population is considerably smaller (extrapolated to the US it would almost exceed the aforementioned numbers):
A report on the City of Helsinki’s pilot project for the use of OpenOffice in the public administrations leaves the public with more questions than answers. The city trialled the Free Software productivity suite on the laptops of council members for ten months in 2011. The suite enjoyed high approval rates among its users. When the pilot was finished, the City produced a report stating that the costs of migrating the entire administration to OpenOffice would be very high.
“The City’s report claims that it would cost EUR 3.4 million per year to run OpenOffice. This figure appears surprisingly high, and the report does not say how it was calculated,” says Otto Kekäläinen”, Finland coordinator of the Free Software Foundation Europe. “Without details, this figure seems baseless.” Apparently, Helsinki’s administration did not even contact major OpenOffice service providers to ask for their prices when preparing the report.
Over in Korea, the “world’s most wired country,” the cost of Microsoft lock-in is immeasurable. To quote a new article:
Nine years ago when Kim Kee-chang came back to his native country of South Korea, he had no idea he was coming back to start a tech war. But when he booted up Linux on his computer something strange happened: he couldn’t use Korean Web sites.
“Basically I couldn’t do anything,” said Kim, the founder of OpenWeb, an organization dedicated to expanding web accessibility in Korea. “Pages were not adequately displayed on the screen, links didn’t work, menus didn’t work. Nothing worked.”
Kim had discovered a glitch in an otherwise perfect system: for all intents and purposes, South Korea had become a slave to Internet Explorer and, by extension, Microsoft. It’s a problem that Kim believes is rooted in pride; pride that has had damaging effects to Korea’s Internet culture.
At the end of the 1990s, Korea developed its own encryption technology, SEED, with the aim of securing e-commerce. Users must supply a digital certificate, protected by a personal password, for any online transaction in order to prove their identity. For Web sites to be able to verify the certificates, the technology requires users to install a Microsoft ActiveX plug-in.
“The Korean government took a great deal of pride in that breakthrough security technology,” Kim said. “They wanted it to be widely used in Korea.” But ActiveX drew a lot of criticism in the international community.
Park Hun-myoung, a professor of public management and policy analysis at the International University of Japan, says that ActiveX plug-ins consume computing resources, often conflict with each other and contribute to bad computing practices by teaching users to always click “OK” on command prompts.
Using bribery, lobbying, distortion of public processes — and at times retaliation, intimidation and bullying — Microsoft has been able to depress and suppress attempts to do what citizens actually want their government to do. And some people still wonder what makes Microsoft so unusually malicious…
Watch Microsoft taking more positions of power in Africa. From the Microsoft press:
Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft Corp’s chairman for Africa, has been appointed interim prime minister charged with helping to restore civilian rule to the Saharan state of Mali after a coup last month, it was reported Tuesday.
The appointment of Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist who was born in the country, was announced on in a statement read out on state television, Reuters reported.
Entryism that money cannot buy (or need not even buy). █
Street protests over patents in Germany
Summary: Nokia is becoming more like a patent troll while Microsoft perhaps loses its ability to do so
The term “patents licensing company” means “patent troll”. It’s a euphemism. Having said that, with the likes of MOSAID getting Nokia’s patents and the press reporting that Nokia plans to ‘monetise’ its patents (i.e. sue and extort), Nokia will become almost the same thing as IPCom and Microsoft. They cannot sell phones, so as their sales dwindle they will just try to make money by bullying those who found success, notably Google. Well, actually, that is already happening, even though Microsoft has not managed to bamboozle any company into a Linux/Android patent deal since the FAT patent came under fire. It’s Microsoft’s #1 weapon against Linux, based on what we learned from the OIN's CEO.
As we argued at one time, the demise of the FAT patent does not help end the problem at its root. Microsoft is busy buying a lot of patents in hope of finding something that can be used against Linux/Android and withstand any court’s scrutiny (Microsoft does not favour the German court). Over at British papers, the protest continues against software patents:
Don’t let software patents stop us standing on the shoulders of giants
Put aside the old chestnut of people copying the latest Lady Gaga album or The Hunger Games (whether movie or book) without permission. There’s plenty of fighting over that, replete with collateral damage from proposals such as the US’s Sopa bill, but the lines for détente on straight-out copying are drawn: there’s been uptake of all-you-can-eat subscriptions through services such as Spotify or Netflix, and pay-per-item stores such as the iTunes store.
No, the deepest and most pressing problem of intellectual property online is derivative use. What we build is made possible by the work of others who precede us. “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants,” wrote Isaac Newton, in a modest moment. Indeed, Newton’s very quote can be traced back to others at least as far as the 12th century. When we create, we in fact rest upon a succession of shoulders of varying sizes.
In today’s digital environment, the linkages between past and present work are more readily laid bare. Quotes morph as they are retweeted, while often leaving a trail of bread crumbs back to Tweet Zero. YouTube videos include soundtracks and images from other videos – enough that copyright-minded robots can detect the fingerprints of those earlier works and throw up a red flag against a new use.
Microsoft really needs software patents because they are the last thing Microsoft can use to stop FOSS/Linux/Android and open standards. █
Jobs image licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (version 1.2 or any later versions); Ellison patch By Thomas Hawk
Summary: The case against Android is falling flat on its face as even the leader of Oracle falls on his sword in court
SEVERAL months ago we remarked on Steve Jobs' highly misguided claim that Android was "stolen". Putting aside the misunderstanding of the word "stolen", what’s really just a copycat is the toy collection of Mr. Jobs. It’s a bunch of “glorified” (i.e. with apple-shaped logo) merchandise, made in the very same factories that produce Apple’s competition, assembled with the very same components that are sold to many companies including Apple.
There is some coverage of the Oracle-Google trial in the Microsoft/Intel-friendly press (reporting on where the big advertising money is) and as it kicks off we are fortunate to have Pamela Jones on the case, remarking on “the first live witness for Oracle, namely Larry Ellison” (to whom, by his admission, Steve Jobs is a “best friend”). Ellison messes up the testimony because of his ignorance. “Larry Ellison knocks Oracle’s Linux strategy,” argues Zonker. Just watch what he said. Even a Microsoft booster was unable to spin it against Linux/Android. He wrote:
Oracle’s argument is that while Java is an open-source language free to all, using the APIs as Google did requires a license—and the fact that Google doesn’t have one puts them on the wrong side of copyright law.
Another longtime anti-FOSS guy looked at this from another angle:
Computer languages and software interfaces may fall under copyright protection if Oracle succeeds in its Java lawsuit against Google. Amazingly, “copyfighters” appear to have paid little or no notice to this rare extension of copyright into new realms. But the consequences and costs for the software industry could be enormous.
Google’s CEO seems to concur on that, so what’s this legal fight all about? Putting aside the lies from the Oracle/Microsoft lobbyist, this whole lawsuit seems like a misunderstanding. Ellison just acted upon passion, not logic, just like his best friend Steve Jobs, who even in the courtroom is unable to stop Android; in fact, it all comes back to bite Apple in the rear end. Here’s the latest:
Samsung targets Apple in the US with eight more patents
Samsung has finally answered Apple’s second US patent infringement lawsuit with patent infringement counterclaims of its own. On Wednesday, Samsung filed a response to Apple’s lawsuit over the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, claiming that iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and Macs infringe one or more of eight patents. Two of those patents have been declared essential to 3G wireless standards, however, which could complicate the European Commission’s investigation of Samsung’s alleged abuse of standards-related patents.
It sure begins to seem like the lawsuits against Android are more like SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation). No wonder Oracle is retreating. There is no successful case against Android, even 2 years after it all began. █
How not to ‘pull a Novell’
Summary: Even though Twitter made a mistake by validating software patents as a concept, its new licence can help Red Hat prevent the “weaponisation” of its patents (learning from Novell’s mistakes)
The problem with patent pledges is that they’re missing the point and are a short-term solution, if any solution at all. Twitter is against software patents, as we showed some years ago. The executives openly complained about software patents. Despite support from people with a lot of money, Twitter’s new patent pledge is merely a promise not to use its patents offensively (agreement here), but one can just “fork and troll” as the FFII’s president put it. Also, it gives birth to yet more software patents.
“Why get weapons in the first place? It doesn’t even deter against trolls, which would be terrorist equivalent if one used a nuclear analogy.”Twitter might not be the only company in possession of these patents over the next 20 years. As one put it, “I wonder if that would change with Netscape patents?” (which Microsoft now ‘owns’, as strange a concept as it may seem)￼
Netscape/AOL gave code to open source, so one might think their patents were “defensive” or at least harmless. But they are ending up in Steve Ballmer’s portfolio this month, rendering any implicit promises pointless and useless. It is the same with Novell’s patents, which were formerly included in the OIN and are now with Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle, all of which attack Linux with patents (Oracle uses Sun’s patents against Android, so Sun’s promises/goodwill too are useless).
Novell used to assure people that its patents were not a problem and so did Red Hat (which can in principle e sold along with its patents, only to see those patents used against Linux). Why get weapons in the first place? It doesn’t even deter against trolls, which would be terrorist equivalent if one used a nuclear analogy.
Twitter received a lot of positive press for the move, including this:
Say what you want about Twitter – pointless, annoying, noise, useless – at least the company has its heart in the right place. Twitter just announced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, a promise not use their or their employees’ patents offensively. In a world where yesterday’s innovators are today’s patent trolls – Apple, Microsoft, Oracle – this is a big deal.
The basic gist of the – for now – draft agreement is that Twitter promises not to use its patents or its employees’ patents in an offensive manner without explicit permission from the people listed as inventors. This applies to both past, present, and future patents, and is strictly transferable; if the patents are sold, the original agreement still stands.
Red Hat made no legal promise, not one that would be honoured if the company got bought out. Zonker from (formerly) Novell explains that “Every Company Should Adopt Twitter’s Internet Patent Agreement”. To quote:
Twitter has raised the bar for recruiting the best and brightest developers, and without any real costs. Instead, the company’s Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) appeals to a cause near and dear to many of today’s best developers: Refusing to weaponize software patents.
What Twitter did should urge Red Hat to do the same, but ideally, Twitter should just never have gotten any software patents and the same goes for Red Hat. █
Summary: Microsoft is trying to hijack the voice of “bloggers” and “FOSS” by hiring lobbyists, but Florian Müller has more clients for the astroturf campaigns
WHILE I WAS busy at work several readers of Techrights enthusiastically told me that Florian Müller had exposed himself again. But is it really news? We knew this all along and after some words that came through the grapevine this shameful lobbyist was forced to disclose that Microsoft was paying him. He wants to be treated with respect while for heaps money from malicious interests he is disrespecting society as a whole, then plays/acts like a “victim”.
“Hopefully this will stop tech news sites from citing him on #swpats.”
–ClaudioWell, the business model of Florian Müller is to pick up some money for an agenda/propaganda, which is not so different from that same old agenda of few others who attack Linux in public and seed the press with Linux-hostile coverage. Right now we see the Microsoft propaganda army (‘open’ nonsense, a loophole for patent attacks), where people are paid indirectly to do the spinning and all the systematic liars pressure journalists. Here is one of those spinners pressuring the former COO of Canonical to repeat the Microsoft talking points rather than think critically. From his own mouth: “When I tweeted as much, Microsoft’s Peter Galli was quick to email me to suggest I hadn’t understood; that “open source does, and will continue to, permeate Microsoft”. I am sure Galli and the rest of the open-source crowd at Microsoft sincerely believe this, but it’s hard to see how Microsoft can hope to embrace open source and other open technologies while sidelining them to a subsidiary.”
Just like other proxies that Microsoft sets up as controlled opposition inside FOSS, this one is a trap and it is worse than nothing at all. We are disappointed to see Red Hat letting a Microsoft employees spew out the propaganda in a Red Hat site and feeding the PR talking points, countering the scpeptics (those who use their heads, not press releases). It’s all just perception management, they try to remove opposition to set an organic/fake consensus. Red Hat issued a polite statement, which Microsoft spinners then use to pretend that Microsoft is now loved by all that is FOSS. This relentless PR campaign that’s just costing slush funds-level expenditures for the monopolist has been a smashing success. The goal is to pretend that Microsoft is not attacking FOSS and then allow Microsoft to speak on behalf of FOSS. We have given many examples of this over the years. One of their current lobbyists calls himself “FOSSPatents”, but nobody with a brain is falling for it. As one auidocaster put it, “Florian Mueller outs himself as #Oracle employee. Hopefully this will stop tech news sites from citing him on #swpats.”
So the trial began and Groklaw is all over the papers. Pamela Jones remarks on the fact that Oracle is paying Florian Müller, who served Oracle by having his lies implanted in the press (this is what they groom him for). To quote Jones:
Florian Mueller has confessed — in the interests of being “transparent”, he says — that Oracle has hired him, for his analysis of FRAND issues. I know. You are shocked, shocked. Who’d have ever guessed?
We did. Groklaw did. We get suspicious when someone’s “analysis” is uniformly that Google is doomed. It’s my Spidey sense. And it’s usually on the money, as they say.
It seems, according to the story, that Mueller and Oracle kissed and made up after he fought against Oracle and lost before the EU Commission, back when it was considering whether or not to allow Oracle to buy Sun. Remember the MySQL affair? No doubt Oracle deeply admired his work. Well. That’s not what *I* heard.
Anyway, he has known, I gather, that he was going to be working for Oracle as an “analyst” and “for the long haul” for some time, he indicates. But he didn’t think to mention it until now.
Does that clear up some mysteries for you?
Read the Slashdot and Groklaw comments as they are a lot more blunt and less polite. “Florian Mueller Outs Himself As Oracle Employee” is the headline in Slashdot. As Ryan said in our IRC channels, “he’s a whore, whores are always for sale, the price is negotiable… A guy walks up to a woman and asks “Would you have sex with me for a million dollars?” she says “Sure!”… so he asks “How about for $100,000?” “OK”… so he asks her “What would you do for $100?”… she says “What do you think I am? Some kind of prostitute!?”…guy says “We already established what you are, now we’re just talking price” ”
We have already established a lot of evidence to show that Florian Müller is making money by attacking society for unethical corporations. These corporations are grooming their lobbyists and the end outcome is press distortion — a subversion of public opinion and trial by media. Florian Müller, whom his former boss dislikes with a passion, is exposed by him further, as follows: “Florian Müller (or Mueller when he is quoted in english articles), a self-acclaimed “expert” on software patents and nowadays quite a mouthpiece for FRAND licensing, has always been someone I had a love-hate relationship with. We fought together against software patents in the 2003-2005 years. And while he lost interest and left the stage with a loud announcement that he will never ever work on software patents again, decided to switch to soccer lobbying etc, I was hired by Red Hat, which was (and is) a dream come true and I continued my fight against “IP”-extremism.
“Out of the blue Florian came back to the spotlight a few years ago, fighting appartently for David against Goliath in the Turbohercules case (which later turned out to be a company that was funded at least partly by Microsoft), fought for (former) MySQL’s Monty Widenius to stop the SUN/Oracle merger (where Monty later supposedly admitted that Florian was the wrong guy for the job), admitted that he did some “strategic” consulting for Microsoft, shouted about billions and billions at stake when Oracle sued Google, admitted he worked on a research paper for Microsoft to explain that FRAND is somehow compatible with Free Software and Open standards – or in short: He came back with a flurry of stuff that seemed unrelated but not exactly on the same side as my fights.
“And while he lost interest and left the stage with a loud announcement that he will never ever work on software patents again, decided to switch to soccer lobbying…”
–Jan Wildeboer“I accused him at various times that a lot of what he claimed is FUD, blown out of proportion etc. But who am I to criticise Europe’s biggest expert?
“Now the court case in Oracle v Google has started. And after all the shouting about billions and billions at stake I was sure that Florian would either be in the court room or at least report the hell out of that case. As, after all, it was him who reported on it for a long, long time. But what did I see? Nothing.”
Here is what the site that habitually feeds the lobbyist wrote about him:
“So you’re commenting on your highly visible blog about patent case after patent case that deal with corporations battling over open source stuff, what does it matter if you’re taking money from one and not the other? If you don’t see any ethical problems with that, you might be Florian Mueller. Groklaw’s PJ (who has been suspicious of Florian’s ties to other giants like Microsoft for quite sometime) has noticed that Florian Mueller has decided to go full disclosure and admit that all his commentary on the Oracle v Google case might be tainted by his employment by Oracle. It seems he’s got a bunch of consulting money coming his way from Oracle but I’m sure that won’t undermine any of his assessments like Android licenses violate the GPL or that Oracle will win $6 billion from Google and Google was “at risk” of not settling despite the outcome that the charges later dropped to a small fraction of the $6 billion. Like so many other times, PJ’s hunch was right.”
If Slashdot keeps feeding this lobbyist (giving him a platform), then how come it’s publishing an exposé too? Lobbying is a malicious thing, and it’s time to react to it accordingly. This is of course part of the PR effort, and this piece of the puzzle must be recognised to realise that Microsoft is still AstroTurfing. █
Summary: Explaining the obvious difference between copying and stealing (either when applied to data, methods, or ideas)
Credit: Yes, this is ThistleWeb from TechBytes.
Summary: “Microsoft will only be able to survive as a patent litigator/royalty collector,” writes Formic
We have discovered that Microsoft is using sneaky underhanded tactics again. It’s obvious to us that Microsoft has not changed. A lot of free software groups have been creating licenses which have clauses that require contributors give up the right to sue over patents they own that are related to their contributions. Microsoft has figured out a loophole to avoid having to give up the right to sue. I call it Microsoft’s “Man in the Middle Attack”.
“3. Firewall open source licensing. Licenses like the GPLv3 are an inescapable fact of open source and they do a fine job protecting their communities. However, they do that by placing responsibilities on corporate participants, especially on how they handle patents. Most modern licenses include a “patent peace” clauses, removing rights from community participants who turn out to be patent litigators.
“Microsoft has figured out a loophole to avoid having to give up the right to sue.”Those clauses also give broad patent licenses to a contributor’s patent portfolio. Additionally, most open source licensing experts believe all open source licenses give implied licenses to patents infringed from a contributor’s portfolio. A separate subsidiary provides an “arms length” relationship so that license terms can’t affect the parent company and unintentional free patent licenses don’t get given away. It wouldn’t do to be unable to collect fees from open source competitiors.”
They have created a subsidiary which will contribute on their behalf. The effect of this is that since Microsoft isn’t contributing directly; they don’t have to give up the right to sue over patents they own. The subsidiary doesn’t have any ownership of their patents.
“They have created a subsidiary which will contribute on their behalf. The effect of this is that since Microsoft isn’t contributing directly; they don’t have to give up the right to sue over patents they own.”This is extremely dangerous to free software. By using this “Man in the Middle Attack”, they could contribute code by proxy that infringes on their patents. They can then claim ignorance since on paper; they aren’t in direct control of their subsidiary.
After doing this Microsoft will behave like it always does. It will start suing companies and blackmailing them with settlements that require paying royalties. With all the popularity of Android smart phones and tablets; Microsoft will only be able to survive as a patent litigator/royalty collector. They will become a company just like SCO with no real products, spending their money on lawsuits to collect more royalties. █
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