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Red Hat's Deal With Microsoft Resurrects Fears of Software Patents Against GNU/Linux and Introduces 'Triple-Dipping' of Fees

Microsoft's vision of patent/usage tax on GNU/Linux is becoming a reality

Red Hat and Microsoft



Summary: Microsoft can charge GNU/Linux for alleged patent violations, for server resources (per CPU or per day), and additionally make money from spying on users' data and passing it around

RED HAT'S terrible deal with Microsoft ruins what started as a quiet and relatively happy day. It also poses a threat to every GNU/Linux vendor other than Red Hat (and maybe SUSE too, as it signed a Microsoft patent deal a very long time ago). Microsoft Peter does not mention the part about the patents, nor do the puff pieces and press releases. There is also nothing about the severe privacy implications.



This is how the Wall Street Journal covered the deal, merely stating that "Red Hat’s version of the Linux operating system to be available to users of Microsoft Azure cloud service" (for Microsoft to spy on and to tax using patents). Inside Microsoft's Azure, RHEL has something even worse than back doors. It has built-in file-by-file surveillance, so any claims of security are simply not applicable. Remember that Microsoft already admits (quite openly) that in its so-called 'cloud' every single file is being scanned. Pedophilia is a common pretext for doing this. This isn't hosting but spying. Where does that leave software freedom?

Microsoft is quickly finding that there's no money in proprietary software like Windows (see Vista 10 pricing and force-feeding), so it sells people's private data and now adds infuriating charges to that (breaking a promise). As pointed out here before -- and even earlier today -- it all comes down to patents (also recall the two articles from the day beforehand, i.e. yesterday) and paid-for surveillance. It's an attack on general-purpose computing, on privacy, and many other things. It's an abomination.

Even a Microsoft booster, Tim Anderson, admits that there's trouble ahead and says: "Most people have at least 30GB of free OneDrive storage: 15GB as standard, and an additional 15GB bonus easily obtained by setting the camera roll on a mobile device to use OneDrive for image backup. An additional 100GB was available for $1.99 per month."

"In this age when software patents are a dying breed in the US we now have the largest GNU/Linux vendor basically giving Microsoft's patent war on GNU/Linux legitimacy."Microsoft now wishes to tax GNU/Linux twofold. It will charge patent fees and at the same time charge GNU/Linux for server space and capacity. On top of it, Microsoft will subject these GNU/Linux instances to the usual surveillance, which Microsoft can of course monetise, as it already does (we covered this on several occasions before).

Since our site is primarily focused on the impact of patents on Free software, what bothers us is that Red Hat, despite the Alice case, is agreeing to a software patents deal with Microsoft. This is inexcusable and it doesn't take an absolutist on this matter to see what's wrong with that. Steve Ballmer once said that “people that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us.” Ballmer's wishes may have just come true. The Alice case has already served to prove that software patents hold little weight in the US, yet Red Hat goes right into this trap. Incidentally, Web sites of patent lawyers continue to only ever write about software patents and Alice in the rare occasion of them surviving (the exception, not the form). Here is the latest example which concludes with: "Unfortunately, the court did not expand on its reasoning for finding the invention to be patent eligible. The two sentences above show the court presumably agreed with the arguments presented by Versata, but that hardly means any invention that solves a problem is eligible for patent protection. Versata stressed the technical components of the invention – that it was directed to a “technical objective” within “the more limited display screen of a mobile phone, pager, PDA, or similar mobile device.” It is therefore possible that the court was persuaded that the invention was drawn to a more technical, and less abstract, invention."

In this age when software patents are a dying breed in the US we now have the largest GNU/Linux vendor basically giving Microsoft's patent war on GNU/Linux legitimacy. Only time will tell the magnitude of this mistake and its impact on other players such as Debian.

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