Bonum Certa Men Certa

European Commission Unable to Defend Free Software from Microsoft Patent Racket

"Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering."

--Mark Shuttleworth



Charlie McCreevy portrait



Summary: The European Commission is either unwilling or unable to understand how Microsoft uses software patents against Free software, even in Europe where such patents are illegal

ACCORDING to Charlie McCreevy's (shown above) vision of Europe, one unified patent law might soon become a reality that incorporates software patents. The European Commission is being either totally bamboozled or simply lobbied to death. It's already manned by the wrong people. André Rebentisch has this little update about McCreevy's folly (he is no longer one among candidate Commission heads whom André is watching):

Issue 56 features the outgoing Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. McCreevy’s pet project financial market deregulation was cratered last year together with the Irish model and won’t come back in the new portfolio. He assumes an ideological mission to defend the single market for his successor:

The job of the next Commission, I believe would be to stand against those who, for a variety of political reasons, some of them may be ideological or philosophical, whatever they’d be, block the Single Market. To not allow the Single Market, the European markets to be interfered with.
Indeed, there are such forces, for instance those who prefer protection of geographical indications or the member states patent offices which obstruct the creation of a community patent for the single market.


Microsoft front group ACT is lobbying for this as it enables Microsoft to bypass the law. It is more or less the same with EIF, which we mentioned in:

  1. European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Corrupted by Microsoft et al, Its Lobbyists
  2. Orwellian EIF, Fake Open Source, and Security Implications
  3. No Sense of Shame Left at Microsoft
  4. Lobbying Leads to Protest -- the FFII and the FSFE Rise in Opposition to Subverted EIF
  5. IBM and Open Forum Europe Address European Interoperability Framework (EIF) Fiasco
  6. EIF Scrutinised, ODF Evolves, and Microsoft's OOXML “Lies” Lead to Backlash from Danish Standards Committee
  7. Complaints About Perverted EIF Continue to Pile Up
  8. More Complaints About EIFv2 Abuse and Free Software FUD from General Electric (GE)


Microsoft is meanwhile patenting everything under the sun. Yesterday in Slashdot there was another new example:

"A newly disclosed Microsoft patent application — Avatar Individualized by Physical Characteristic — takes aim at fat people, proposing to generate fat avatars in gaming environments for individuals whose health records indicate they're overweight, limiting their game play, and even banning them. From the patent application: 'An undesirable body weight could be reflected in an overweight or underweight appearance for the avatar. Only requisite health levels are allowed to compete in a certain competition level. A dedicated gamer could exercise for a period of time until his health indicator gadget shows a sufficiently high health/health credit in order to allow reentering the avatar environment.' Linking one's gaming avatar to one's physique, explains Microsoft, will produce healthy and virtuous behaviors in individuals. Microsoft also proposes shaping gaming experiences by using 'psychological and demographic information such as education level, geographic location, age, sex, intelligence quotient, socioeconomic class, occupation, marital/relationship status, religious belief, political affiliation, etc.'"


We have already shown that using a new deal with the EU Commission Microsoft is trying to ban commercial use of Free software. The 'Microsoft press' is working to distract or to hide it, but Simon Phipps, whom we mentioned in the previous post, writes the following words about the Microsoft-sponsored blogger who was speaking to Brad Smith for the Microsoft spin: "Well worth reading to understand Microsoft's world-view. Sadly Smith wasn't asked about the "patent promise" I mention below, but this interview helps us understand why Microsoft believed IE was important (developer APIs) and why they love "interoperability" (because it was the keyword for release from 12 years of investigation)."

“[T]he Microsoft "patent promise" is roughly useless for open source communities as it only gives protection for non-commercial uses...”
      --Simon Phipps
In reference to the FSFE's complaint, Phipps writes: "The long war is finally over, without really correcting any of the injustices but with a few small concessions from a Microsoft that wants us to think it is contrite and changed. But the FSFE is right - the Microsoft "patent promise" is roughly useless for open source communities as it only gives protection for non-commercial uses; the very essence of open source is the alignment of fragments of (usually commercial) interest by many community participants. This should be the first thing Microsoft's new head of open source addresses on appointment, but to do it will be tough since it will take air-cover at the highest levels to address."

It's not about the browser ballot screen (which is no justice, either), it's about Free software. Some reporters like Paula Rooney wrongly describe the Web browser case as though it is related to Free software, even though Opera (case originator) is proprietary. In fact, too few publications wrote about the stunt Microsoft has just pulled on the "interoperability" front.

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