Summary: This post brings together a variety of thoughts and insights into the impact of Novell’s actions, which promote Microsoft and demote GNU
Microsoft-esque and Microsoft-funded/inspired software (see Wiki pages on Mono and Moonlight) continues to fragment and separate the community of Free software users. Recently we saw hostility towards GNU in GNOME [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It came from the same guy who had started a banner meme to protest against Stallman’s stance on Mono.
Now that the Director of GNOME is a Novell Employee, there are those who believe that if Microsoft decided to buy Novell, it would have even more control over GNOME. From ECT (Linux Insider):
“I [imagine] Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is very pleased with this new direction with Gnome,” wrote Stumbles on Slashdot, for example. “I predict in 5 years, perhaps less, Microsoft will have maneuvered these short sighted individuals to accepting Microsoft to buy Gnome.”
Novell is increasing focus on Mono and its vice president has called developers to program for Microsoft's Silverlight (XAML). He once said that they could “refresh the look and feel of the entire desktop with Moonlight.” He seems to be ignoring the conditions under which access to Moonlight is granted.
Simon Phipps argues that “Microsoft desperately needs a clueful open source leader to fix this stuff.” Put in context:
There is still a strong thread of thought at Microsoft that imagines open source is purely the domain of solitary programmers of private means. This is yet another “covenant” from them that gives no assurance whatsoever to the average FOSS developer. Microsoft desperately needs a clueful open source leader to fix this stuff.
These are unacceptable conditions for Free software users. As one person put it:
Moonlight 2 sounds good but they still need the licensed codecs.
Bernard Swiss writes:
“Covenant” appears to be a marketing term that means:
“If you only do what we say we’ll let you do with our stuff, we think we’ll let you use it. For now, anyways. But we can still take it all back if we happen to change our mind.”
This isn’t a “covenant”; it’s an advert for a “free trial offer”.
Steve Stites agrees with Bernard, whose analogy is a valuable one.
derp sarcastically puts it liks this: “thank you for not suing me. MS decided not to persecute #moonlight users.” Later he wrote to me: “best part is that they can break the agreement any time they want. so nothing matters. except for de icaza”
eWEEK spoke to Novell’s de Icaza, who had interesting things to say (also here).
But de Icaza explained to eWEEK that this model was not so “open-source-y.” Yet, he assured readers that “Microsoft’s intention was to expand the reach of Silverlight, but the original covenant was not a good cultural fit.” And, “The new patent covenant ensures that other third-party distributions can distribute Moonlight without their users fearing … getting sued over patent infringement by Microsoft,” he said.
It is possible treat it like freeware, not Free software, but it’s even worse (and there is an expiry date to worry about). Watch this new article bearing the headline “Download New Moonlight For Free!”
They pretend it’s about price. But Microsoft's “promise” to Moonlight has at least 10 holes in it (some are seeing more). We wrote about it just before Christmas kicked in and Slashdot covered one aspect of it shortly afterwards (the part about MonoDevelop licensing).
rysiek writes “A few days ago, Miguel de Icaza wrote on his blog that the whole of MonoDevelop is now ‘free’ of GPL-licensed code. ‘MonoDevelop code is now LGPLv2 and MIT X11 licensed. We have removed all of the GPL code, allowing addins to use Apache, MS-PL code as well as allowing proprietary add-ins to be used with MonoDevelop (like RemObject’s Oxygene).’”
Boycott Novell apparently brought this to light for more people to see. They begin to realise Novell's ambivalent approach when it comes to the GNU GPL. It’s an important wakeup call.
To say that Microsoft and Novell have a muddy history when it comes to open-source projects and the GPL would be an understatement. Things were looking up, with the release of the open-source implementation of Silverlight, Moonlight 2, last week, but today things took a turn for the worse: Novell has just cut all the open source code from MonoDevelop.
Despite warnings from the FSF, Novell continues to promote C# and servers too are being stuffed with it. Not good. From this week’s news:
Novell stacks Linux and Mono for mainframes
Novell doesn’t just want mainframe shops to put SLES 11 on their boxes and run Linux workloads, it wants them to take the commercially supported Mono clone of the .NET runtime environment and use that to move Windows workloads over to mainframe boxes. So Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Consolidation Suite (SLECS) bundles roll Linux and Mono software together and provide a single support package for the stack.
Kicking Novell out of the mainframes would be a case of reducing Microsoft’s ammunition. Fred Williams writes about another area that Mono and Moonlight have reached:
Along with Mono, I see Ubuntu including this on the live CD as well. Microsoft writes such good software and has such excellent standards that we should all embrace whatever Microsoft wants. Besides they have never done anything that would harm any potential competitor.
So, people in charge of what gets included in Ubuntu, bring it on.
On the same subject:
Microsoft just doesn’t change. No matter what they say.
As always the best course is to avoid them. There is no longer any real need to use any of their technology. You may try to convince yourself otherwise, but you are just wasting your time. Rather, look forward and embrace the new world that is before you.
Subject: And let’s not forget the Microsoft trolls..
Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold own companies that buy many patents. They are not bound by any Microsoft covenants. Both of these individuals serve their interests today by working to Microsoft’s benefit.
And note the covenant doesn’t apply to old versions. This pressures existing users to stay on the treadmill investing in Microsoft standards over and over to avoid patent problems from Microsoft.
Charles Hixson writes:
I’ve read the analyses of the most recent promise, and it’s not good enough. I don’t care how “nifty” people think this new software is, because with that license/promise I’m never going to even look at it.
P.S.: Miguel was, apparently, recently so proud of removing “all GPL components” from MonoDevelop. Makes me quite glad I removed the installation as soon as I noticed it…and all other mono components with it.
Neko Nata concludes with:
Maybe I should say “good riddance” to him… but that’s not ok.
What is better is that Miguel does what he wants and Linux folks do whatever they want. If that means parting ways, I see it as a good thing for both parties.
I really should say to Miguel “goodbye”. And “thanks for all the fish”.
What if Novell starts selling some kind of *BSD? Maybe they can start selling something without the Linux kernel?
That would be highly unlikely, but if Microsoft bought Novell, then it would at least become a possibility. Several other people brought this up in 2007. █
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Summary: Novell’s development of Mono steps outside the sandbox defined by Microsoft’s Community Promise
AS WE noted 5 days ago, the Mono developers (of which there are not many) are making Sqlite easier for Microsoft to embrace and extend (if Microsoft ever wishes to do so). Miguel de Icaza is just one among several who rave about this and yesterday he wrote about C# 4 and Mono, confirming the worries that Microsoft’s useless Community Promise (MCP) will be rendered “not applicable” as .NET continues to evolve.
“This is why projects such as Banshee are also stepping in areas of .NET which the MCP simply does not cover.”In essence, Novell already knows that Microsoft’s MCP is limited to particular packages/components and versions of C#/.NET (and their Mono equivalents). Novell can totally ignore this because it has a special and exclusionary deal with Microsoft (regarding software patents, to be more specific). This is why projects such as Banshee are also stepping in areas of .NET which the MCP simply does not cover.
For the time being, Novell’s new release of Evolution seems unencumbered by Mono, but this changes as soon as Evolution is put inside distributions and gains plug-ins [1, 2, 3]. The same goes for Novell’s Go-OO, which happens to share the same “go-” prefix as “go-evolution” and “go-mono”. It is almost as though they are all part of the same dynasty.
As another new article puts, “Microsoft [is] wary of [the] Linux threat.” It does not give .NET away as a ‘gift’ — no more than the town of Troy enjoyed the gifting of a large wooden horse. █
“The patent danger to Mono comes from patents we know Microsoft has, on libraries which are outside the C# spec and thus not covered by any promise not to sue. In effect, Microsoft has designed in boobytraps for us.
“Indeed, every large program implements lots of ideas that are patented. Indeed, there’s no way to avoid this danger. But that’s no reason to put our head inside Microsoft’s jaws.”
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The Battle of Trafalgar
Summary: Microsoft releases — via CNET — information about its secret patent “projects”
WE HAVE BEEN AWARE for a couple of years now that Red Hat too was discussing patents with Microsoft but no deal was ever signed other than the recent virtualisation collaboration. It involves no patents at all. This issue is entirely off the table, so what came to fruition is inherently different.
Microsoft now boasts a sort of PR placement. This was seeded in CNET, which has just broken the news about Microsoft unleashing its story about patent deals and their secret history.
The story has a lot to do with Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps, who wrote a book on his patent strategy. He was not fired but instead he took some time aside to write this book, apparently. It’s a book on how to burn GNU/Linux, but it’s titled “burning the ships” — a phrase that Matt Asay recited very frequently (he said “boats” though, also in a separate context).
Here is an interesting portion of the new article:
The Novell deal, though, is the most interesting tale and the one to which Phelps and co-author David Kline go into the most detail. It began as “Project Summer”–an effort to get at least one major Linux vendor to sign a pact with Microsoft by the summer of 2004. It began with a well-regarded salesperson, Susan Hauser, being tapped to confidentially meet with customers and see how much support there was for some sort of Microsoft-Linux partnership.
The customers were game, Phelps and Kline write, but unwilling to become a party in the negotiations themselves. As the effort took longer than Microsoft wanted it became “project next summer,” the authors quip. The company met with Red Hat, starting in the fall of 2004, as part of “Project Bridge Builder,” though talks broke down after a year and a half. Just as those talks were collapsing, in June 2006, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner got a call from Novell’s then-president, Ron Hovsepian. A few days after that, Brad Smith called Hovsepian back and a new effort, “Project Blue,” was born.
The sides first met face to face two weeks later at a Hyatt near the Chicago airport. That meeting took place amid a convention of female bodybuilders. Another meeting took place in September, this time at Microsoft’s outside counsel’s office–in the same conference room where several months earlier Microsoft had hammered out an agreement with Sun Microsystems.
“Given the challenges of coming together with Novell,” Smith says in the book, “I thought it made sense to meet in the same conference room… Plus, since the room had been lucky for us once before, I figured that couldn’t hurt either.”
Talks progressed, but had not reached a conclusion. Smith suggested the two sides set an October 31 deadline for reaching a deal. Novell agreed that the deal would be “done or dead by Halloween.” After the last-minute end-run around the GPL, the two sides got the deal done and announced it to the world on November 2, 2006.
Pamela Jones added (in reference to that last sentence): “So it was a deliberate end run around the GPL, with a Microsoft goal of getting paid for each copy of Linux sold — just like SCO — but thanks to GPLv3, it was an end run that led straight into a brick wall.”
The story about Red Hat agrees with something that we already knew, but Red Hat was given a lot of flak recently because of its attitude or at least its approach towards software patents [1, 2, 3, 4]. Heise offers a very detailed analysis that we recommend reading.
The disclosure that Red Hat have applied for a patent on what might strike some as an obscure corner of the software ecosystem has caused others to re-evaluate how open and collaborative Red Hat actually are. As the AMQP 1.0 standard entered into its final phase, a 2007 Red Hat patent application, the company now refers to as a “defensive” patent, on an obvious extension of AMQP, was automatically disclosed and caused quite stir. What is AMQP, why is it important, what has Red Hat done to cause a ruckus within the AMQP community, and what does it mean to open source in general.
Red Hat could probably do a lot more to help the fight against software patents in Europe because now is a crucial time.
WMGarrison has just told us that he had “been studying Red Hat’s position on software patents [...] basically, they seem to be in favour of software patents, against business methods, and mainly for interoperability protection.”
The summary of Garrison’s long article goes like this:
In this article we revisit the historical 2005 Software Patent Directive, the most heavily lobbied European law ever, and look at Red Hat’s public policy statements regarding this law. Our conclusion: Red Hat Instead, they endorsed the propaganda term “Computer Implemented Invention” and they lobbied for amendments that would legislate for, not against, software patents across Europe where the letter of the law still forbade them.
As we respect and very much value the opinion of the FFII, giving the benefit of the doubt to Red Hat would be hard in this case. Can Red Hat make a formal clarification about its stance on software parents? Uncertainty helps not at all and it’s beneficial neither to Red Hat nor to Free software; it’s beneficial to Microsoft. █
“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”
–Marshall Phelps, Microsoft
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Fraudulent minds think alike; sign software patent deals
e have been through this more than once before [1, 2]. Samsung was caught in the midst of a huge scandal and even its chairman was personally involved. He not only quit the company but he is now going to prison.
The ex-chairman of South Korean firm Samsung, Lee Kun-hee, has been found guilty of tax evasion in Seoul and given a three-year suspended jail term.
The charges followed a three-month investigation into alleged corruption at South Korea’s biggest conglomerate.
Lee, one of South Korea’s richest men, had headed Samsung for two decades before his resignation from the chairmanship in April.
Remember that Samsung signed a Linux-hostile deal under Kun-hee’s leadership.
A noteworthy thing is the similarity between Samsung’s business practices and those of Microsoft. For instance, information about Microsoft’s tax evasion you’ll find in [1, 2]. Lest we forget other mischiefs, including the recent crusade of corruption, all in the name of lock-in. There are some other questionably-criminal activities here and here. Windows Vista too is still blushing at the courtroom after collusions.
It almost seems as though there is more justice in Korea than in supposedly ‘more civilised’ parts of the world. Had justice prevailed in the west, governments would not handle Microsoft so submissively and cowardly. Then again, enforcement of the law typically boils down to political manipulation (or corruption). █
“Did you know that there are more than 34,750 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., for just 435 representatives and 100 senators? That’s 64 lobbyists for each congressperson.”
Disclosure: My father traded with and distributed Samsung electronics almost exclusively for 20 years, so there hardly any bias against the company.
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Unsurprisingly, the anti-Red Hat deal [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] which Microsoft and Novell had signed did not leave Red Hat too happy. Nevertheless, the new CEO has not said much about Novell. In the following new article he finally explains the difference between Novell’s approach and Red Hat’s approach (as Charles recently did).
Tell me more about the settlement.
What was impactful and important about it was we not only protected ourselves and our customers, we protected all upstream and downstream use of the technology. A lot of times, not to pick on anyone in particular, but Novell in the Microsoft settlement didn’t protect all their upstream and downstream users. We’re not just protecting ourselves, we’re protecting everyone who uses that technology.
Are patent disputes a common problem for you?
It’s always one of the issues, how do you handle patents with open source, because of the necessity in open source to protect up and downstream. It’s a complex set of legal issues. We generally don’t run into it that much because open source is really good at working around patent issues. It doesn’t take up a lot of my time.
Red Hat seems to be tuned in to developers’ needs a lot more than Novell is, the latter being a mixed-source company [1, 2, 3, 4] with a non-Free (non-libre) mindset. As such, this self-serving attitude is only to be expected in the future. Remember:
“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”
–Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO (2008)
If the following comparison is anything to go by, Novell is to Free software what Nokia is to open source.
SUSE used to be a solid and stalwart promotor of free and open source software. The commercial boxsets had the best and most extensive collection of manuals and tutorials in the field, showing it understood the need of new W2L migrators. For Novell it was good thinking to buy SUSE and use it to salvage it’s declining Netware business. Corporations are driven by other sentiments than the communities of developers, as the recent remarks of Nokia’s VP show. Corporations will enter into strategic partnerships to protect or expand their market share and thus the partnership between Microsoft and Novell does make sense. But I am also raising my eyebrows at the attempts spearheaded by Novell to port Microsoft-based technology (.Net and Silverlight) to Linux (Mono and Moonlight).
Speaking of Mono, Nokia’s gadgets and Microsoft sellouts, never forget Samsung + Microsoft, which we last mentioned yesterday. Samsung is one of the companies that pay Microsoft for Linux in its gadegsts. It’s better to avoid it. Mono is believed to be part of this deal [1, 2, 3], but there’s insufficient evidence. █
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At this current pace, the USPTO will be falling down the wastebasket pretty soon (Grand Implosion™), so it remains important to ensure it does not take the EPO down along with it [1, 2]. Here are some highlights from the news.
All Your Typos Are [sic] Belong to Us
VeriSign got criticised out of this planet for profiteering from typos. Now it get the nerve to get a software patent on it.
VeriSign wins patent for Internet typo redirection
If VeriSign tries to demand licensing fees from others, patent lawyers could claim that similar services existed before Verisign’s was patented. In fact, VeriSign had cited those pre-existing services in justifying Site Finder.
All Your Curve Balls Are [sic] Belong to Use
Will you have a look at this one? It relates to Bilski [1, 2, 3, 4].
So is a curve ball patentable? No one really seemed to want to answer Judge Bryson’s question, and when they did answer the question there was not a lot of intellectual honesty. The answer, of course, should be that a “curve ball” is not patentable because it is still a baseball. There has been no transformation of the baseball in a physical way, so there is nothing new and/or nonobvious.
Microsoft’s Crusade for Intellectual Monopoly
It’s always rather amusing to find articles which speak of “export” when referring to imaginary things that they try very hard to characterise as “property”. All it deserves to be called is a “monopoly”, which in this case applies not to a complex process or a physical product but to human thought — imagination even. The other day we mentioned and commented on Microsoft's latest patent deal. A day later, Microsoft lovers take their shot at it as well, seemingly trying to create some fear (just what Microsoft needs). Here comes CNET to market some more patent deals:
With Microsoft’s announcement of yet another patent cross-licensing deal this week, it would seem nearly everyone has a deal with Redmond.
CNET has just been acquired, but it also has some promotional arrangements with Microsoft and you must be careful when reading anything from Ina Fried because it’s filled with bias. The reporter is apparently (almost evidently) close to Steve Ballmer. Mary Jo Foley, by contrast, can’t get anywhere near him because she occasionally ‘dares’ to criticise Microsoft (she told me so). Microsoft plays ‘reward and punishment’ with journalists, thereby encouraging them to say positive things, i.e. have more of that existing Microsoft bias. It’s just something to bear in mind, making it a rule of thumb. If you thought that press control in Russia was bad…
Hypocrisy at its finest, yet again.
From Digital Majority
Gratitude goes to Benjamin who has accumulated some good new finds. Here we have what seems like software patent troll du jour.
# May 12
# Fotomedia Technologies LLC vs. American Greetings Corp. et al
# Fotomedia Technologies LLC vs. Fujifilm USA Inc. et al
Plaintiff Fotomedia has filed two separate complaints for patent infringement against 50 different defendants.
According to the original complaints, Fotomedia owns the rights to three patents:
U.S. Patent No. 6,018,774 for a Method and System for Creating Messages Including Image Formation, issued Jan. 25, 2000.
U.S. Patent No. 6,542,936 B1 for a System for Creating Messages Including Image Information, issued April 1, 2003.
U.S. Patent No. 6,871,231 B1 for a Role-Based Access to Image Metadata issued March 22, 2005.
The first complaint names two dozen defendants that offer photo sharing Web sites which the plaintiff alleges infringe the patents, including American Greetings, DotPhoto, Phanfare, PictureTrail, BetterPhoto.com, Kaboose, BubbleShare, Printroom, Scripps Networks, Photogra, Fotki and Zazzle.
Reading further you’ll also find continued attempts to change patent laws in Europe. Typically, reappointments play a role and Sarkozy comes to mind as an example [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. The OOXML scandal was filled with such examples, as was last mentioned yesterday. At the moment in fact, Microsoft appears to be playing a similar card in a proxy fight against Yahoo’s board. But anyway, watch this from the news: (our highlights are in red)
Despite the hard work put into reforming the intellectual property landscape during its presidency of the EU in the first half of this year, Slovenia has admitted there won’t be a breakthrough under its stewardship.
The only country to oppose this idea is Spain, which has fought hardest against plans to simplify the linguistic requirements of the patent system. The country argues that Spanish is a more important language than both French and German, two of the official languages of the European patent system (the other being English), because of its use in Latin America. It fears that if patents aren’t available in Spanish, then Spain will become an economic backwater.
Spain to the rescue?
But the arrival last month of a new Spanish minister in charge of science and innovation, molecular biologist Cristina Garmendia, gives reason to hope for a change in the Spanish position, Konteas said.
“The Spanish government seems ready to change the focus of the economy from tourism and construction towards innovation-led pursuits. They seem to be going in the right direction.”
Talk about ‘agents for change’. The term is typically used with a positive connotation, unlike “crusader”, which is more imperialistic.
Lastly, have another look at these recent moves in the UK
[PDF]. It’s not news, but it’s summarised thusly:
The Intellectual Property Office has revised its guidance on claims relating to computer programs, reflecting the more permissive stance taken by the High Court in the recent Astron Clinica case. The High Court has made a further pro-patentee ruling, this time in the case of Symbian’s application for an improved method of accessing a dynamic link library.
As reported in our last technology update, the practice of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) of flatly rejecting patent claims to computer program products has recently been overruled. The case law in the area, formulated in the 2006 Aerotel and Macrossan decisions (see our Internet & E-Commerce Update of November 2006) was clarified in January 2008 by the decision of the High Court in Astron Clinica & Ors (see coverage in our last Updated dated February 2008).
It is without doubt that the United States will relentlessly continue trying to ruin the European system until it’s ‘equally ruined’, which passes US disadvantage onto competing economies. To use the hypothetical analogy Peter Gutmann made up to explain DRM in Windows Vista, it’s like cutting off the legs or Olympic athletes and seeing who hobbles best on crutches. Still, better than having the Olympic games delivered via the DRM-crippled Silverblight/Silverbullet/Silverfish, right?
Need it be mentioned that Microsoft has many software patents on this technology? And if Mono’s patron and Microsoft partner Novell likes it, should everyone else accept it also? You ought to see the ‘warm’ welcome Moonlight receives at Digg (mind the comments in particular). █
“One Free Software Foundation-backed group–aptly called the End Software Patents Project–is using the [Bilski] case as a platform to argue that no form of software should ever qualify for a patent. Red Hat also argued that the “exclusionary objectives” of software patents conflict with the nature of the open-source system and open up coders to myriad legal hazards.”
–Court case could redefine business method, software patents
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Novell rolling, rocking, and bridge-building
A reader has sent us a pointer to this new article from Glyn Moody at Linux Journal. The article described just what Microsoft intends to achieve using its deal with Novell and why many software developers get exploited in the process. It’s all self-explanatory really, but here is the ‘meat’ of the argument which speaks about Brad Smith’s explanation of the Novell deal (shades of OSBC again [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]):
…as well as all the respect and appreciation that Brad wanted to express, he also has an interesting explanation of Microsoft’s current world-view:
we believe in the importance of building a bridge that makes it possible for the different parts of our industry to work together. We believe it needs to be a bridge that respects the diversity of different business models. We believe in a bridge that is scalable, that is affordable, that is workable, and that doesn’t try to move people from one island over the bridge to another but let’s everybody do what they love to do and respects that.
Live and let live: what could be more reasonable?
But let’s listen to Brad again as he explains what that means in practical terms:
That is a hard bridge to build, and yet I will say I believe today more than ever that it is a bridge we need to build. And I very much value the work and the conversations we were able to have at Novell when we started to build that bridge in November of 2006.
Ah, Novell. And what lies at the heart of that joint bridge-building with Novell?
we believe that patents are best sorted out by industry leaders so that developers and customers don’t have to deal with these issues themselves. We as industry leaders should take it upon ourselves to sort these things out.
When we worked things out with Novell, we did it with an eye towards succeeding in ensuring that the developers who were creating the software for Novell would not have to worry about this set of things, nor would their customers.
So there we have it. You shouldn’t worry about those silly old software patents because Microsoft and Novell have sorted everything out for you: all you have to do is carry on coding.
Except that it’s not quite that simple. Microsoft’s vision of “live and let live” is predicated on its continuing use of software patents, and of the open source side letting Microsoft and Novell handle all the tiresome implications for open source. In effect, though, this amounts to recognising Microsoft’s patents, and accepting its “solutions” for the open source community. “Live and let live” turns out to be tantamount to accepting Microsoft’s right to file, own and use software patents, which, in its turn, means accepting they apply to the open source world.
This “live and let live” promise surely excludes all those whose wallet hasn’t the Microsoft strings attached to it? Although the author does not say this directly and explicitly, it seems evident that he condemns this deal and suggests that we continue to combat software patents. Here is how it’s summarised and concluded:
Above all, it will send a message to the company that the open source world is not falling for the old “embrace, extend and extinguish” trick, and that if Microsoft really wants collaborate, “live and let live” is simply not enough, because of the asymmetric bargain it implies. As a basic pre-condition of working together with open source, the company needs to accept free software’s absolute foundation – the ability to share all its code in any way and with anyone – and that, by definition, means no software patents whatsoever.
Microsoft will most likely hope to find comfort in precedence (Novell’s blessings), resting in its government-imposed monopolies, to use Richard Stallman's description of software patents.
Interestingly enough, going as much as a decade back, you can find a similar term being used to describe this, namely a “government-granted authority.” Whatever term gets used, it’s always interesting to associate it with the context, antitrust action in this case.
…the federal government of the United States of America has intervened in the free market by granting Microsoft a legal monopoly through the patent and copyright processes. On numerous occasions, agents of the U.S. Department of Justice — the same DOJ that right now is taking shots at Microsoft in the courtroom — has intervened to arrest and penalize businessmen who attempted to ignore the federally-created right known as intellectual property. This right is a federally-mandated fiction, not a process of the free market. Copyrights were not invented by business, but by the government, who grants them and enforces them as a form of federally-sponsored monopoly.
Since Microsoft’s economic and intellectual property derive directly from government-granted authority, it is only reasonable for governments to have the power to review and modify how the beneficiaries of their shared power use that authority. Antitrust is one means by which governments attempt to reel in some of the power they delegated to companies and individuals.
It is rather ironic that the same establishment that grants monopolies is also the only means for undoing and regulating them. It’s like asking a gun shop to enforce the law in a barbaric nation. Something more effective will be needed to encourage fair competition which serves the customer. As things stand, Novell and Microsoft override laws proactively, using deals and deeds. █
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Image from Wikimedia
Matt Asay has just weighed in on this debate that was mentioned here before. It’s centered around the mixing of Free software and software patents. His post is long, he has many insightful things to
share rant about and here is just a fragment.
Dual-licensing with patents: It’s bound to happen
The problem with this sort of distinction (which we and virtually every open-source company of which I’m familiar espouses, in terms of a “community” and “professional” version) is how easily patent protection could creep into the one but not the other. When the open-source world starts selling the same FUD that the proprietary world does we have lost.
I care far less about hybrid models that depend on a mixture of proprietary extensions and an open-source core, as MySQL is contemplating, than I do about hybrid models that are a blend of “open source and very risky!” and “proprietary and oh so safe!”. If we slip into this sort of a model, open source loses its potency. It loses its character. It loses its integrity.
The downstreaming problem which he speaks of is represented by Novell's Moonlight. Novell already steps further than this, e.g. by separating Mono into 'chunks' depending on Microsoft’s R(seanable)AND, which is only as unreasonable as it wants and needs it to be. If you wish to witness Microsoft’s mis-comprehension of ‘open source’ (or “open minus source”, i.e. open-source), then take a look at Ozzie’s remarks which we intentionally only alluded to earlier but never took seriously. The ‘news’ was so insignificant that it was hardly comment-worthy. Microsoft is still all “patents, patents, patents!”
The concessions Microsoft makes are merely a case of public image — saving face on the face of it. If you need another more contemporary glimpse at Microsoft’s attitude, get a load of this latest analysis from the 451 Group.
There was general agreement that large IT vendors, including software giants such as Google, Oracle and even Microsoft, all see a need for involvement in open source. What also emerged as a common theme during our panel was that no big vendor could afford not to be in open source in some way or another. Basically, it’s been competitive necessity and cost effectiveness that has led vendors to open source, and this helps explain why we see open source all over the place. There was also a recognition that we were not talking about what vendors might be doing or when they might be making moves around open source. We were talking about the things these vendors are doing today and where they are looking next to push the ideas and advantages of open source further.
As you know, Google and Oracle just adore Free software. Yes, they love using it. They love receiving updates. They love the fact that Red Hat builds a platform for them and in the case of Oracle, lots of support money can be extracted at the developers’ expense. What’s not to love when you’re a freeloader?
“Microsoft’s legacy assets (secret code) become increasingly redundant as equivalent and often superior Free software is made available…”As for Microsoft, it wishes to believe that open source as a whole will become yet another Windows ISV that brings profits to Microsoft. In many other cases, it’s a tad unfortunate to find how they turned Free software into just visibility of source code as a marketing distinguisher if not a self-serving ploy.
Microsoft’s legacy assets (secret code) become increasingly redundant as equivalent and often superior Free software is made available for download, use, and redistribution. Microsoft knows all of this. What can it brag about? Probably just piles of papers, fueled by the very same laws it aggressively lobbies for. It shapes market rules to suppress emerging threats, to hinder natural progression, sometimes perceived as “disruption”. In response, we, as Free software supporters, must protest to keep the law in tact or restore it to a state of sanity. Digital slavery and a modern-age feudal system is good for nobody.
Oh look! The press is buzzing about another Microsoft intellectual monopoly. Watch carefully what you do with your hands now.
Right and left mouse buttons are placed on the side in a thumb-accessible position, and the design is unobtrusive enough to allow for easy typing when it’s on. We’d love to get a hand-on with the mouse if it ever comes out. It looks great and the ability to surf the internet without keeping our hand close to the computer is very conducive to our leisure time activities.
The gist of it all: a combination of prior art fitted onto A4-sized white paper sheets. Can’t have too many of these though! Word on the street is that Microsoft has run out of paper, so it can’t let Linux know what it’s allegedly infringing on. █
“Most people who are familiar with patents know it’s not standard operating procedure to list the patents… The response of that would be administratively impossible to keep up with.”
–Jim Markwith, Microsoft patents attorney
(after saber-rattling against Linux)
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