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Richard Stallman Explains Why Microsoft is 'Infiltrating' Free/Open Source Software Events

"I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?"

--Microsoft's chief evangelist



Summary: The freedom of the software we all sometimes use is under attack, in part thanks to companies like ACCESS and Microsoft, which found a partner in Tim O’Reilly and others who take money to change the direction of Open Source (taking it further away from Free/libre software)

FREEDOM is essential for GNU/Linux to actually achieve something in the market. Lacking the values of freedom, we may end up with kill switch-enabled Android devices which self-destruct upon modification (yes, we are looking at you, Motorola). The Free Software Foundation (FSF) -- and Richard Stallman prior to this foundation's inception -- has spent literally decades preaching to people all around the world the importance of digital freedom (autonomy, independence, liberty, equality). Attacking Stallman we've seen hostile companies such as ACCESS, which allegedly spreads its tentacles to other platforms like GNOME (claims that are somewhat harder to back now that they run to Android for rescue). DigiTimes indicates that LiMo is dying this week:



As Vodafone has decided to forgo the planned launch of the LiMo-based 360 H2 and will not offer any LiMo handsets, the future development of LiMo has turned pessimistic and the best choice for the LiMo Foundation is to merge with the Linux Foundation, Taiwan-based handset makers have commented.


Is anybody surprised at this point? One discouraging aspect of LiMo is that it promoted/endorsed software patents. It disregarded freedom even more than Google, at least based on its representatives. This brings us to the main point of this post, courtesy of the wonderful folks at The Source. In recent months we wrote a great deal about Microsoft's attempt to "infiltrate" (Microsoft's word) Free/open source software events, even Linux events such as LinuxTag [1, 2]. The Source lists some important points regarding another Microsoft sponsorship of a Free/open source software event:

[A]lthough Mr. Savluc defends Microsoft’s sponsorship role, he simultaneously confesses that:

* Microsoft is “not right” * Microsoft’s speakers “lack passion” * Microsoft “is wrong” * Microsoft speakers “pretend they love FLOSS” * Microsoft “will try hard to slow down FLOSS adoption” * Microsoft “will not change if we talk to them”



The Source has also spoken to Stallman, who offered insightful, concise, and toned-down remarks about Microsoft sponsorships. Stallman says:

Accepting the money from Microsoft would, in itself, do not harm. But Microsoft typically demands a price for its sponsorship, a price that implies a change in the nature of the event.

The price might be, let someone from Microsoft give a speech. The price might be, don’t say that proprietary software is evil. The price might be, present Microsoft sponsorship in a way that inhibits you from denouncing Microsoft’s software as unethical.

One way or other, Microsoft wants us to stop saying the most important thing to say: “Proprietary software is an injustice and we want to help you escape from it.”

This issue does not arise for OSCON because that is an open source event. “Open source” is the term used by those who do not wish to take an ethical stand against proprietary software. OSCON did not need to sell out its principles in order to accept Microsoft’s money because it never had such principles. I heard that O’Reilly Associates distributes manuals with Digital Restrictions Management. which can only be read using nonfree software. I don’t know for certain if that is accurate, but it would not conflict with any principles ORA ever stated.

OSCON is the sort of event Microsoft would like our community to have, one that avoids raising the issue of the injustice of proprietary software. If eLiberatica is to live up to its name, it must not take OSCON as a model.


As another example of the harm of proprietary software, consider this ripoff from the news:

The days of finding Windows discs nestling at the bottom of a PC box are fast coming to an end.

Current practice does away with backup discs, with vendors instead taking the cheaper option of installing recovery software on a hard disk partition, leaving the buyer with no physical copy of the operating system they paid for.

[...]

Beneath an offer to buy backup media for €£15 the company says, “a recovery disc is the single most important accessory to have with your new laptop”.


The world needs less proprietary software and more Free software. Some people inhibit this. Tim O’Reilly ought to be thinking what vision of the world he helps promote because the last time he commented in Techrights he expressed no regrets about taking money from Microsoft to help Microsoft. He shifted the question to other companies in order to cover up selfish, misguided deeds.

"We cannot hope to own it all, so instead we should try to create the largest possible market and insert ourselves as a small tax on that market."

--Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft at the time (now a patent troll)



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