Assocham (or ASSOCHAM) has been fronting for Microsoft’s interests for nearly a decade (if not much longer)
Summary: Assocham is showing its true colours yet again, lobbying for the interests of foreign companies and endorsing serious abuse or compromise of India’s national sovereignty
MICROSOFT, which suffers big financial losses, layoffs, and cancelled products, must be rather nervous right now. It even appointed a new CEO with Indian roots, as part of its desperate, shallow effort to change the company’s image. More than seven years ago we showed how Assocham had become somewhat of a lobbyist for Microsoft's interests in India (effectively aiding Microsoft corruption of international scale). Now that India is moving towards Free software we see a lot of lobbying from Microsoft again. Microsoft still exercises far too much influence against the interests on India, often relying on proxies and front groups that it is closely connected to. We covered it earlier this year in articles such as:
In lobbying for Microsoft et al. Assocham now uses the same propaganda as for software patents, using almost exactly the same words, mainly “fair” and “non-discriminatory” (remember what FRAND and RAND stand for, uttering in quite an Orwellian fashion the very opposite of what they are). Microsoft’s India lobby wants back doors, spying, and strong foreign lock-in in India. Anything else would be “unfair” and “discriminatory”, or so Microsoft would have us believe.
“Given Assocham’s past actions it would be hard for it to deny rogue play.”India’s corporate media and paid-for press wires are now clogged up by at least a dozen English language bits of propaganda from Assocham, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. It’s pure nonsense and it is consistent with what Microsoft has been doing in recent months, both directly and indirectly, e.g. through NASSCOM, which is connected not only to Microsoft but also the Gates Foundation.
Given Assocham’s past actions it would be hard for it to deny rogue play. It’s easy to see why propaganda is needed here. Assocham should be asked by our Indian readers, “are you that corrupt?” We urge for action, perhaps some petition, questioning the integrity of this 95-year-old body, which was either corrupted or was always inherently corrupt.
Vista 10 is totally unacceptable for use by any government. It is definitely unacceptable for use in Munich, which is now under attack by Microsoft boosters yet again (report from CBS), amid many reports about NSA espionage inside Germany (vindicating Munich). Microsoft is a spyware company and no nation in Europe, especially a nation’s government, should let Microsoft possess any data, yet in Italy, based to Microsoft boosting sites [1, 2], there is a retreat to the huge costs of lock-in and OOXML. They say it’s done “to Save Money” as if selling citizens’ data without their consent to some foreign company that cooperates with the NSA more than any other software company is some kind of achievement.
India ought to fight for its digital sovereignty. It has many talented software engineers who can build and maintain the country’s infrastructure using Free software. Assocham may continue to prove itself to be a parasite, a mole, and a sellout. It’s time to shut it up. █
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“People naively say to me, ‘If your program is innovative, then won’t you get the patent?’” —Richard Stallman
Software development is NOT writing English sentences
Summary: Dealing with some of the hard (but soft, or invisible) issues in the US, where patents on abstract things are commonly misused for trolling/blackmail and abstract ideas have state tax associated with them
THE political landscape in the United States makes it increasingly unlikely that the patent system will be reformed in anyone’s favour, only in corporations’ favour (and corporations are not people). It is abundantly clear that the current proposals/bills on the table are unfit for purpose if the goal is really fixing the patent system. We already wrote over a dozen articles about this and today we present some of the latest finds.
“Patents threaten access to vital medicine” says a headline from South Africa, part of BRICS. It looks like South Africa is starting to view things like India does (I is India and S is South Africa in BRICS). Populist nations realise that many patents are unjust or even evil because monopoly is not more important than lives. South Africa and India both disallow patents on software, too.
“Populist nations realise that many patents are unjust or even evil because monopoly is not more important than lives.”What about the US? Well, as we showed three days ago (“GOP Media Deception, Healthwashing Patents”), the healthwashing tactics are being used to curtail and eliminate any potential of a reform. It’s the “PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE” sort of blackmail (if patent reform is passed).
GOP media (i.e. corporations) has played a big role in lobbying against patent reform, but oddly enough, someone called Mytheos Holt, writing in a GOP-leaning site, tackles what’s titled “The Three Dumbest “Conservative” Objections to Patent Reform”. To quote the key argument: “You have to give the enemies of patent reform credit: They do love to hide behind the idea that they’re defending the free market. To hear them tell it, in fact, they’re the only thing standing between America and a lawless jungle where Google and Apple can step on inventors with impunity and then laugh in their faces as the courts’ hands are tied.”
Here is a useful and long list of reform supporters: “Patent reform enjoys a long tradition of intellectual support from a wide range of right-leaning think tanks and advocacy groups. Conservative and libertarian groups that have advocated for patent reform in one form or another include Americans for Tax Reform, the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the MercatusCenter, Americans for Prosperity, Frontiers of Freedom, the Independent Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Mises Institute, Institute for Liberty, Hispanic Leadership Fund, the Institute for Policy Innovation, the Latino Coalition, Independent Women’s Forum, Lincoln Labs,the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Individual Freedom, American Commitment, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, the Discovery Institute, Generation Opportunity, Citizen Outreach and others.”
With so much support from so many groups, how come there is still no change? See Think Progress with its new article “Why Patent Trolling Is So Hard To Fix”. As Think Progress puts it: “Software developers could have a hard time getting their next big idea patented thanks to new rules the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued, making some inventions, particularly innovative software and medical devices, unpatentable. ”
Think Progress makes it sound like a bad thing. We wrote about this an hour ago and it is definitely good news. It’s why so-called ‘reform’ might not matter after all. It’s already happening owing to the SCOTUS (Alice and § 101).
“It’s a fantasy, and just like all fantasies, sooner or later it will get shattered by reality.”Meanwhile, as revealed by Accounting Today, lobbyists’ media [1, 2], and Wall Street media [1, 2, 3, 4], the US want to introduce a ‘lower’ tax on invisible things, as if that makes any sense at all. The US is taxing immaterial things, ‘stuff’ like mere thoughts. A much later article from lawyers’ media framed this as “Tax Breaks”, stating that “proposed legislation would enable a company to deduct 71 percent of income derived from qualifying IP or 71 percent of their taxable income, if less.”
This helps prove how crazy a system we’re dealing with here, where mere ideas (misleadingly names “property”, the P in “IP” or “IPR”) are treated as taxable and the corporate media now celebrates tax “discounts” on ideas. The Alice case, which tackles a lot of these abstract patents, justifies the common reference to the case: “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s a fantasy, and just like all fantasies, sooner or later it will get shattered by reality. No country in the world deserves such a rubbish patent system. █
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SCOTUS changed everything
Summary: A comprehensive look at the past week’s news, including new cases that serve to weaken software patents in their country of origin
THE very existence of software patents is troubling. Not everyone can understand that because not everyone is a software developer. If the notion of a global patent system ever becomes a reality, then we must ensure that this system does not have any software patents. Therein lies the importance of the fight in the United States, by far the most influential country in international politics.
A couple of days ago some Microsoft-friendly media (paid by Microsoft for a lot of advertising) published the post titled “Copyright is enough for software”. It is not a bad post and it helps echo the feelings of many software developers. To quote the opening part: “Now I will fully admit that software patents are getting more restrictive, and the patent office, working with members of the community, has offered up a few ideas to make software patents less offensive and broad. This is a good thing, as in the past we’ve had some truly horrendous software patents issued for utterly mundane things that every developer uses every day.”
As we are about to show later in this post, the US patent office is indeed narrowing down scope in some areas (such as software) and courts support such a move, which they quite likely motivated in the first place.
Patent lawyers are, quite understandably, nervous. They try to lure people into conducting patent searches and fall into the wasteful trap which is software patenting. See this new article from the technical press, suitably titled “Patents: Exercises in Futility and Incomprehensibility?”
They are a waste of time and they achieve nothing but collective fear, which slows down development. “Learning anything from patent documents has to be one of the world’s least productive endeavors,” explains the author. “But there are a few techniques by which you can squeeze out what useful information may be hidden there.”
Better yet, never look at any patents at all. It only increases liability in case of infringement. This isn’t an act of civil disobedience but a matter of setting priorities correctly. Software developers should write code, not read patents. Imagine patents on recipes and cooking, leading chefs to endless reading of patents (instead of cooking), whereupon some forms of cuisine will be deemed too risky to do, making food more expensive and stale. Who benefits? Certainly neither chefs nor the public. Such a system would result in cooking ‘conglomerates’ and hoarding by their facilitators like lawyers.
In BRICS nations there is resistance to software patents, although based on this new article, China is allowing patents on software in some cases. China has been trying to artificially elevate the number of its patents for quite some time, even by lowering the threshold/bar of what’s patentable. It is, in part, a PR exercise. It’s part of the national agenda, seeking to rid this growing economy and great nation of the “knockoff” reputation.
Not many Western companies bother patenting their work in China (unlike, say, Korea and Japan, where companies also love to patent their stuff in Europe and the in US). Not many people or companies in China get sued over patents, at least not based on what we can see. Western companies very rarely get sued in China (over patents or anything else for that matter); there are only few cases that are seldom covered (on very rare occasions), usually involving some big brand like Apple because such stories ‘sell’ better.
Quoting the above: “The first [patent] is from the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office (No. 200880126543.0) entitled “Method, System and Computed Program for Identification and Sharing of Digital Images with Face Signatures”, while the second patent is from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office under the same title (No. CA 2711143).”
It is interesting that Chinese patents are sought by companies for the same ideas that are patented in Canada. Depending on which application was made first, we may be able to deduce or at least guess the intention. Not too long ago Apple was sued over patent infringement in China, where Apple is clearly losing to Android players like Xiaomi (now exceeding Apple in terms of sales). Before China was fighting back against patent aggressors like Microsoft Chinese companies like ZTE surrendered to Microsoft without a fight. It helped demonstrate the role of software patents in China. Microsoft can try to ban imports from China until or unless products are castrated (features removed), money gets paid to Microsoft, or Android is dumped in favour of Windows (or a Microsoft-centric version of Android, with a lot of Microsoft malware preinstalled). Overall, China has nothing to gain from software patents. It merely suffers from these. Thankfully, China isn’t falling for all these horrible ‘trade’ deals (misleadingly marketed to the public as “against China”), where increase in patents and their scope/range of applicability is paramount.
According to a new article from IAM, China’s ZTE is now fighting a battle with a US-based troll. It’s the Microsoft-backed Android/Google-hostile Vringo. Patent Buddy called this “ZTE’s Plan to Disparage Vringo and Change US Patent Law (to make it anti-patent)” (so again, US patent law is relevant here).
Over in India, another BRICS nation that does not in principle allow software patents, Google has just received a software patent. “Google has secured an Indian patent,” said the Financial Express, “for an invention regarding a method and system for transferring annotations associated with video files. ”
There seems to be some kind of confusion when Western companies come to BRICS nations and attempt to patent software. Are patent examiners aware at all of the fact that software is ineligible for a patent where they are? Perhaps we need to focus more on the source of this influence, which fools examiners into granting patents on software, gradually taking these global, even against the law.
USPTO Guidance ‘Reform’
The US patent office, the USPTO, is trying to keep up with the courts. It plays catchup with the law, keeping abreast of big judgments more than a year later (because the USPTO, like the court system, is far too slow). Here are the concerns of Barnes & Thornburg’s Intellectual Property Law Department (i.e. patent lawyers), among others. It’s about Alice and software patents (§ 101). This is again input from patent lawyers (Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP), also echoed here. What we basically see here is a lot of responses from patent lawyers to changes that are happening at the USPTO, based on new guidelines for patent examiners. Snow Christensen & Martineau (more lawyers) chose the title “New examination guidelines from the USPTO on subject matter eligibility: what it means for the patentability of your inventions” (the most desperate headline came from the most shameless promoters of software patents).
For the uninitiated, software patents are gradually dying in the US, for the courts repeatedly rule against them, invalidating a lot of patents in the process (even by extension, through precedence). The USPTO is just trying to keep abreast here and refrain from granting more patents that would later get invalidated because 1) it damages the credibility/reputation of the USPTO (granting patents in error) and 2) it lowers, in due course, the incentive to file/apply for patents at the USPTO, for they may not be honoured by the court system, deeming them a massive waste of time and money.
Courts Continue to Crush Software Patents
As another week goes by, another case serves to show that software patents are not potent enough for winning a case, not even in the US. Invaliding patents on invisible things (like algorithms) is the big trend these days and here again is a reminder of that in lawyers’ media. “It is very important to provide adequate disclosure when using “means-plus-function” claims in a U.S. patent,” says the author, “particularly in the field of software.”
According to this same publication, more software patents are about to get invalidated. To quote the opening paragraph: “On July 9, a judge in the district of Oregon granted two motions for summary judgment finding that the claims of United States Patent Nos. 7,346,766 and 6,728,877 fail to state an inventive concept sufficient to satisfy the Supreme Court’s test for patentability of an abstract idea under Section 101, and are therefore invalid. The patents-in-suit involve technology related to the migration of user configuration settings from a source computing system to a target computing system. In granting defendant’s motions for summary judgment, the court followed the Supreme Court’s guidance in the landmark Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank, Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) decision.”
No wonder patent lawyers worry. Alice has been doing this time after time. “The Supreme Court has made changes to patent law and how it’s interpreted, he says, which makes the interpretation of patent laws more uncertain, particularly where software is involved,” corporate media wrote the other day.
Here is another new article about this. “To be granted a patent for software,” it says, “the patent application had to overcome objections based on a 2014 US Supreme Court case holding that the mere computer implementation of a business method is unpatentable. The US patent examiner has judged Arria’s “Method and Apparatus for Configurable Microplanning” to be an innovation that contributes to the field of computer science. The innovations underlying this and Arria’s two other US patents enhance the quality and authority of the plain English narratives being written by the Arria NLG Software Engine without human intervention.”
We gradually get to the point where most software patents are worth $0 and no new ones (or very few ones) actually get granted. In this trend broadens in the US, then software patents will be universally (globally) dead. It’s only a matter of time.
The USPTO has been changed and perturbed over hundreds of years, with scope expanding to millions of patents on mere ideas (not physical, no mechanics), but some people live in the past and pretend that no correction is required. Martin Goetz, who has been making a career out of speaking in favour of software patents, is now enjoying support from patent lawyers who give him their platform. The man who started software patents (Martin Goetz got the first one) wants us to stop saying “software patents” as if trying to just dodge the debate by changing words will make these patentable again. CII? Computer-implemented inventions? That term never caught on. Just like “NPE” for trolls, or formerly patent sharks.
Patent lawyers are having an ‘ACTA moment’ right now, realising that what they tried so hard to defend has got a very bad name, so they try to rename. This basically means they lost.
It is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the world responds to the post-Alice status quo in the US. Software patents are in the process of rapid demise, but it may take half a decade for this plague to be totally eradicated. These systems are very slow to adapt to change. █
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Summary: Wipro cements its obsession with a proprietary mindset by putting patents — not sharing — at the centre of its strategy
IT HAS been quite a while since we last wrote about Wipro (see some posts from 2010, 2009, and 2008), but we have little reason to believe that the company changed its ways, despite using the term “Open Source” every now and then in the media (because the Indian government starts to require it and Microsoft must therefore pretend or lobby, even by proxy sometimes).
Based on numerous news articles [1, 2, 3, 4], patents hype and glamourisation is on the agenda at Wipro, so we seriously doubt Wipro will ever change. To quote one article: “Country’s third largest software services firm Wipro aims to significantly increase its rate of patent filing over the next three years.”
“Wipro must seriously think whether it wants to go down with Microsoft (as Nokia did) or join the future with Free software, meaning that patents should not be a priority at all.”I spoke to Simon Phipps, who now works for Wipro (they have hired him to boost some “Open Source” perception or change their actual strategy). I asked him about this in Twitter. He referred me to another department which did quite poorly at convincing me that this is benign. We already know what the likes of Wipro are doing to promote software patents in India and lobby the Indian government.
Wipro must quickly evolve in preparation for a post-Microsoft world where sharing, not patent monopolies, is paramount. Microsoft layoffs, which culminated earlier this month, show that Microsoft cannot be an eternal ‘partner’ to Indian IT firms. Redmonk’s take on this concluded that: “There’s the human cost of telling almost eight thousand people that they need to seek employment elsewhere, and there’s the public relations cost of telling the market the company you lead had effectively made a $7 billion dollar mistake.”
Wipro must seriously think whether it wants to go down with Microsoft (as Nokia did) or join the future with Free software, meaning that patents should not be a priority at all.
Here in the Indian corporate media we now see the World Bank’s propaganda being used to pretend that India needs more patents. What an utterly shameful lie. To quote this plutocratic piece: “Even official records of the Indian Patent Office cast a gloomy picture—while patent grants for foreign inventions increased by almost 300%, grants to Indian inventions grew by a mere 45%. In 2013-14, while as many as 42,951 patent applications were made, only 10,941 were made by Indian applicants. The Indian government spends less than five times of what China spends on R&D and the country attracts a mere 2.7% of the global R&D spend (China attracts 17.5%). India scores poorly in commercialising R&D from its universities, and its regulators often create antitrust and taxation hurdles in the effective exploitation of foreign-owned patents on Indian soil.”
They are basically trying to shame India based on some nonsense like patents. India is known worldwide for standing up against unethical patents, such as those that seriously harm life (medicine for example). It’s obvious why all sorts of oligarchs would want to disrupt India’s patent policy. In other news, published by the Washington Post three days ago, “Patents are a terrible way to measure innovation” (this is the headline).
“On the surface,” says the author, “patents provide an easy way to measure innovation. After all, patent statistics are readily available, they are objective and they are quantifiable, so you can quickly tally up the number of patents by company, city or nation, and immediately have a sense of how innovation varies by geography, industry or even time period. It’s no wonder patent data is often used as a leading indicator of innovation.”
It’s an indicator of how rich a country is, or how much time and money a country can spend on paperwork rather than real innovation. India shouldn’t be distracted by collection of patents — a practice which has become akin to amassing trophies in some Western (non-BRICS) nations. Wipro too would be wise to withdraw from these dumb statements which it made to the media the other day. Patents are not what Wipro needs. █
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Indian CEO, but still bullying India, just like Steve Ballmer
Superimposing Nadella and Ballmer
Summary: Microsoft continues to bully Indian politicians who merely ‘dare’ to prefer software that India can modify, maintain, extend, audit, etc.
Back in May we wrote about Microsoft's lobbying India (both directly and by proxy) because it ended up weakening a Free software policy. Microsoft is single-handedly attacking India’s independence, albeit it is sometimes assisted/accompanied by IBM, Oracle, Cisco, etc. Microsoft is by far most prominent in this line-up because it is even eager to go public in the press, trash-talking Free software in cheeky/sleazy ways (accusing/ridiculing messengers), whereas IBM is more careful not to be seen doing that. All of these companies are hoping to water down India’s Free software-favouring policy to just about nothing, but Microsoft now has the nerve to talk trash [1, 2, 3], including a quote that led to the headline “I am a firm believer of open source, says Microsoft’s Bhaskar Pramanik” (don’t laugh yet!).
This is the most misleading headline (click-bait) we have found, possible chosen by the editor for an interview that has nothing at all to do with “open source” and was already refuted by other sources in India anyway. Here is the key part:
Q. Your comment the government almost mandating open source technologies for projects? Any response from the government to your communications?
A. I am a firm believer of open source. I feel it creates innovation and leads to lots of opportunities for new startups. But it’s not the only solution and to believe that it is the only solution for India is, which the current policy seems to imply, I think is incorrect. My position is very clear – you go anywhere in the world the policy is all about technology neutrality. I think the challenge is to make it mandatory for somebody to used open source. While the government is saying we have not made it mandatory under the optional, they have said very clearly that if you don’t use open source, you have to justify. As far as the government is concerned, in this in this day and age, which government offices is going to say otherwise. There has been no formal response from the government so far.
Basically the quote in the headline is just a preparatory lie. The truth starts after the word “but”. He basically says that “the only solution” is to maintain the status quo of being prisoner of Microsoft (India as a client state, effectively colonised in the digital sense as if it lacks engineering talent). He would have us believe that allowing proprietary lock-in with no qualms would level the competition by continuing to assure Microsoft monopoly and Free software a few scraps (if anything). Microsoft keeps painting itself as the victim here, as if Microsoft has a God-given right to anti-competitively dominate the market and anything which challenges this is inherently anti-competitive.
“Microsoft keeps painting itself as the victim here, as if Microsoft has a God-given right to anti-competitively dominate the market and anything which challenges this is inherently anti-competitive.”Expect Microsoft to continue to bully the government of India, directly and by proxy (as it has already done so). Given how Microsoft was caught blackmailing British politicians only months ago (while Microsoft claims to have changed), expect much of the same to be at least attempted in India. Putting in virtual charge an Indian liar in chief without tact won’t be enough for Microsoft to win back India, perhaps the world’s biggest hub of software developers. Microsoft’s influence in the Indian government is quickly eroding because truly talented developers want code, not binary blobs with BRIC-hostile back doors. █
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Digital sovereignty gradually being restored
Summary: Despite Microsoft blackmail of British politicians, HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) moves to Google’s ODF-supporting office suite, dumping Microsoft’s biggest cash cow and notorious lock-in; India and Sweden too move in a positive direction with more Free software, despite Microsoft lobbying and bullying
THE BEGINNING OF this week has been great. It had lots to offer in terms of good news. It really started with a bang and hopefully it won’t end with a just a mere whimper.
Microsoft is evidently getting desperate in convincing people to sign its horrible deals (because fewer are willing to sign these) and it is losing some very major clients right now, including governments in wealthy and/or large countries. It’s not some home users and a company or two. It’s now a growing trend, including the world’s second population (by size) and the world’s biggest empire ever, in addition to a top GDP/capita economy. There are literally billions of dollars at stake.
Microsoft is still actively trying to derail Free/Open Source software (FOSS) in voting systems in the United States and it often gets away with it because it has plenty of influence in the United States government. Controlling the voting system and bribing political candidates (as it does, even personally) ensures interference in elections and thus government decisions regarding IT procurement. We are still seeing it in this new article from IDG, stating: “Microsoft’s new system not only provides for easy transmission of election results, but it also allows party administrators to view results as they come in and will automatically identify potential problem areas. Election officials can then contact the precinct representative to clear anything up. It also means that tech experts will be lending their security know-how to the process, which is a good sign since the Iowa Democrats’ press release announcing the system included spammy advertisements Friday for discount pharmaceuticals.”
We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements. Now our suspicions are further defended, seeing articles like “Revealed Emails Show How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”. This shows sick jokes, bribery, government capture, and how corporations (through their lobbyists) are writing the law. “One for Techrights stories,” wrote a reader to us regarding this news from TechDirt, summarising it with “How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”.
“Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement,” he wrote, “to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
Here is the direct quote: “Hi Barbara – John sent through a link to the P4 agreement. I have taken a quick look at the rules of origin. Someone owes USTR a royalty payment – these are our rules. They will need some tweaking but will likely not need major surgery. This is a very pleasant surprise. I will study more closely over the weekend.”’
TechDirt recalled: “Back in 2013, we wrote about a FOIA lawsuit that was filed by William New at IP Watch. After trying to find out more information on the TPP by filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and being told that they were classified as “national security information” (no, seriously), New teamed up with Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to sue. As part of that lawsuit, the USTR has now released a bunch of internal emails concerning TPP negotiations, and IP Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement, to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
“We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements.”Here is the original article. “Leaked TPP emails talks about software patentability,” Benjamin Henrion (FFII) noted about it.
To quote IP Watch: “While a full range of stakeholders would be affected by the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement under secret negotiation by the United States and a dozen trading partners, corporate representatives have had a special seat at the negotiating table, as shown by hundreds of pages of confidential emails from the US Trade Representative’s office obtained by Intellectual Property Watch. The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.
“Years into the negotiation, the TPP is said to be nearing completion and is the subject of a US congressional debate over renewal of fast-track negotiating authority for the president (limiting Congress to a yes or no vote). But the TPP text has never been made available to the public of the countries negotiating it, except through periodic leaks of parts of the text, making these emails timely for the debate.
“Through a US Freedom of Information Act request, Intellectual Property Watch has obtained some 400 pages of email traffic between USTR officials and industry advisors. Most of the content of the emails is redacted (blacked out), but they still give insight into the process.”
“The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.”
–IP WatchThis is significant because we recently found out about anti-FOSS parts in these agreements, likely to have been the result of lobbying by Microsoft or the likes of it. If so-called ‘trade’ agreements pass with the anti-FOSS sections and ISDS, then Microsoft can sue ones like the Indian government for choosing FOSS as a matter of policy. There is a lot of Microsoft lobbying in India, objecting specifically to this [1, 2, 3], but how about lobbying around trade agreements? Wouldn’t that be clever? It would demolish FOSS globally in one fell swoop, as long as corruptible politicians remain quiet enough and citizens are therefore too ignorant to prevent the signing of nasty (but secret) agreements.
India’s move to FOSS, or the increasing embrace of FOSS (with a FOSS-leaning procurement policy) was covered by Red Hat’s OpenSource.com the other day, noting: “The Government of India has implemented a remarkable new policy-level change for open source software (OSS) deployment. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has asked that open source software-based applications be included in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for all new procurements. Note there is not a plan at this time to replace existing proprietary systems with open source software.”
This is still going on while Microsoft fights back viciously. If the aforementioned ‘trade’ agreements pass, Microsoft might even be able to sue the government, not for discrimination but for not obeying so-called ‘trade’ laws (newly-introduced). It’s a back door trick, negotiated behind closed doors.
Here in the UK the government is now in a good position to move to GNU/Linux, despite Microsoft's blackmail of British politicians. Dependence on Windows is already being reduced because, according to this article, “HMRC ditches Microsoft in favour of Google Apps”. To quote some relevant bits:
HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) has become the first major government department to dump Microsoft in favour of Google.
The Register reported that 70,000 HMRC staff will adopt Google’s cloud-based productivity apps over Microsoft’s Office 365 offering, joining 20,000 government employees who already use Google’s Gmail service.
HMRC has since confirmed the move in a statement. A spokesperson said: “HMRC has an ambitious digital future planned. This contract will make it easier for staff to collaborate on internal documents, providing greater flexibility and efficiency while reducing costs.
HM Revenues and Customs (British tax) dumping Microsoft is huge news; blackmailing politicians didn’t work out and one wonder if there are more government offices poised to follow suit. Surely they’ll watch how HMRC gets along. It has become abundantly clear that Microsoft is so scared/worried about FOSS and ODF (also Google) in the UK that it’s willing to blackmail or bribe.
Meanwhile, as revealed by Andy Updegrove, Sweden follows the UK government’s footsteps by choosing standards, including ODF. This is why Microsoft was so scared and then became aggressive over the decision that might later spread to the rest of Europe. One might wonder about Swedish politicians who led to this; will Microsoft blackmail them too?
“While the current list of approved standards in Sweden is short,” wrote Updegrove, “it does (as in the U.K.) include the ISO standard PDF/A-1, for uneditable documents, and OASIS’s ODF 1.2, for editable text. The ODF standard (adopted in an earlier version by ISO in 2004) was the subject of perhaps the most vigorously fought standards war of the last 20 years, raging on a global basis for several years. The contest was sparked by the decision of the Commowealth of Massachusetts to approve ODF, but not Microsoft’s competing XML-based standard, referred to as OOXML. That standard was also adopted by ISO, following Microsoft’s contribution of the original text to another standards body, called ECMA.
“Massachusetts ultimately adopted OOXML as well as ODF after severe lobbying pressure. Since then, the question of whether ODF, OOXML or both meets with the approval of cities, states and nations making such determinations has continued to be a contentious and closely watched matter.
“For this reason, it will be interesting to see whether additional EU countries follow the lead of the U.K. and Sweden.”
Scandinavia as a whole (not just Sweden it seems) is ‘plotting’/’scheming’ (to use negative terms) to embrace standards and dump proprietary blobs. North Europe seems to be eager to emancipate itself from NSA-leaning, Empire-serving blobs. There is a shift to FOSS, fostering local jobs and improving trust (no back doors from across the Atlantic). Open standards, suffice to say, tend to lead to FOSS. █
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Photo from NASSCOM’s Web site
Summary: Microsoft’s covert efforts (lobbying with the help of public partners like NASSCOM) to eliminate an India-leaning software policy in India is finally paying off
After Microsoft lobbying (both directly and by proxy) against Indian sovereignty we seem to have ended up with a watered-down Indian policy, which briefly favoured Free/Open Source software (FOSS). This happened in many nations before (especially in Asia) and given Microsoft’s influence in the Indian government we pretty much expected this to happen once again. Let’s not forget that Microsoft is blackmailing British politicians (as it always did). If Microsoft can do this to the empire which ruled India, why not India too?
“It’s not just Microsoft doing it because one must recall OOXML pressure in India (usually done by proxy, as in this case, via NASSCOM).”The latest article from the corporate media in India (Business Standard in this case) makes it very clear that Microsoft leads in lobbying against the policy which favours Free software. “Government says open source software use not made mandatory” is the headline and Microsoft is all over it:
Business Standard had reported earlier this month that software firms such as Microsoft had expressed concerns over the policy, unveiled in March, as it had a clause that stated use of anything other than open source software had to be justified by the official concerned.
Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India, had said, “The government needs to be technology-neutral. You should be able to adopt the best technology, the most economical and the most appropriate technology for the problem at hand. Let’s not have biases one way or the other.” Because of this policy, he added, a company might end up choosing a technology solution that’s not the best and this might take the “country back”.
The corporate media is doing it again, relaying Microsoft talking points and using straw man arguments. Microsoft needs to maintain the illusion that it is not fighting FOSS while it actually does fight it. Here’s why we need to watch out. As Sir Humphrey Appleby famously said in Yes Minister: “It is necessary to get behind someone in order to stab them in the back.”
Indian politicians now come out with statements about the FOSS policy which suggest they either got intimidated or bribed by Microsoft et al. It’s not just Microsoft doing it because one must recall OOXML pressure in India (usually done by proxy, as in this case, via NASSCOM). To remind readers what NASSCOM has been doing:
Microsoft “loves Linux” and supports FOSS like BP loves nature and supports wind power. █
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Microsoft is like a political party
Photo from NASSCOM’s Web site
Summary: Some of the latest arguments against Free/libre software turn out to be arriving from couriers of Microsoft and its agenda
LAST NIGHT’S article about Microsoft's lobbying in India sure made a lot of a splash. It had impact. It has been widely circulated by now, even by former Microsoft managers who had grown tired of the company’s abuses. Upon further research we found out the role of NASSCOM.
For those who cannot recall the historic role of NASSCOM, here is a quick summary of posts of ours, covering NASSCOM:
NASSCOM is now pushing against the Indian government’s Free software-friendly policy. Techrights is unusually popular in India (based on various Web metrics like Alexa) and our Indian readers have often been cynical about the integrity of their officials/politicians. They probably recognise Microsoft’s influence in the Indian government and right now Microsoft appears to be doing its lobbying (against FOSS) in India using a group that is tied to Bill Gates (not just Microsoft) and masquerades as non-commercial. This is gross distortion of justice, even corruption.
“NASSCOM is now pushing against the Indian government’s Free software-friendly policy.”Another Bill Gates-backed (and Bill Gates-funded) group, the Gartner Group, recently spread a lot of FUD against FOSS and advertised Windows using lies (some Gartner staff came from Microsoft). One very recent piece of FUD against FOSS (there is some against containers, using ‘security’) says that there is a lack of skills. Gartner recently injected these claims into a lot of Web sites, assisted by gullible writers. Mike Olson, speaking to the media, shoots down Gartner’s latest FUD, noting that Gartner cites a non-existent dilemma. And to use his own words: “The reason I think Gartner’s report is off base, enterprises don’t need to build deep data science skills if they can buy solutions and applications that run on top of the platform that allows them to solve business problems.”
The problem with Microsoft is that it is well connected and a lot of the talking points against Free software come from buddies, partners, former staff and mouthpieces of Microsoft. This cannot be conveniently ignored and refuting the lies isn’t a case of shooting the messenger, just showing who the messenger works for/with. █
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