01.05.10

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OSS Watch Pretends That Microsoft’s Attacks on Free Software Do Not Exist

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Novell at 1:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Criticism of a new writeup from OSS Watch, which grossly whitewashes some of Microsoft’s behaviour and instead focuses on PR gestures and corporate spin

OSS Watch has released a controversial new essay, whose arrival received some lukewarm reviews. It deceives through omission and slant. In their own words:

During our research for this article OSS Watch have been accused, by an OSI board observer and ASF Member, of being “surrogates” for Microsoft, whilst Tony Hey (Corporate Vice President of External Research, Microsoft) privately expressed concern that OSS Watch was “encouraging academics to use the GPL.” Simultaneously, various free software representatives have pointed out how “naive” they believed us to be by even considering the idea that Microsoft may have genuine intentions with respect to engaging with the free and open source community.

[...]

Furthermore, whilst Microsoft may be making concessions to open source and are happy to play with open source when it suits their needs they are also willing to use other methods where it best suits their business. For example, on patents Darren Strange (Head of Open Source Engagement, Microsoft UK) says “Patents drive innovation and they drive openness actually.”

Let us politely remind OSS Watch that Microsoft uses a routine known as “embrace and extend” in order to extinguish — not advance — Free/open source software. It’s the same as in history and we wrote hundreds of posts filled with evidence to show this. Even Microsoft sometimes admits this. Microsoft is spending a lot of money deceiving people and OSS Watch might be a victim of Microsoft — not a “surrogate” for Microsoft — as “an OSI board observer and ASF Member” (it’s easy to determine who that is) impolitely put it.

Here is the questionable essay whose provocative title says that Microsoft may end “open hostilities” (increasingly we find hidden hostilities because Microsoft keeps getting caught [1, 2, 3] and then forced to pay the price [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]).

The essay includes the following bit:

Indeed, at least as far as IP is concerned, Darren Strange, Head of Open Source Engagement, Microsoft UK, maintains that the company is right to continue to argue strongly for the value of software patents as part of the innovation process and that companies need the protection of intellectual property rights in order to feel secure in their investment in research and development. He says: ‘It is an important area and I think people kind of get it the wrong way around a little bit — patents are a good thing and they help to fuel the industry. Patents drive innovation and they drive openness actually, and they drive an industry where people can then build on those patents in a legal way, everyone mutually respecting the same rules. We need to use patents to drive innovation and we can do that just as well with open source vendors.’ He argues that a mutual respect for such rights will allow everyone, including open source developers, to work and flourish together.

Sadly, much of the rest is conveniently using Microsoft and Microsoft reporters (spinners) as a source. The one comment from the 451 Group is not impartial either because 451 Group receives funding from Microsoft for all it seems (there are many sources of revenue), so it has to be nice to Microsoft and convince itself that it’s okay. [see comments regarding this omission]

To give examples of ways in which Microsoft continues to attack Free/open source software, see EDGI. Microsoft is increasing its effort on that predatory front [1, 2], it is also trying to sue GNU/Linux using patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and less than a year ago it sued TomTom. In several large shops such as Best Buy, Office Depot, and Staples Microsoft also distributed slanderous material about GNU/Linux [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Addressing again this issue of software patents, let’s remember what Microsoft has just done in the EU [1, 2, 3, 4]. Here is April formally complaining about it. From the statement:

[I]n its press release the Commission indicates that Microsoft revised their proposals on the disclosure of interoperability-related information. Microsoft continues to brandish its software patents, which makes their stance on interoperability considerably less convincing.

The documents clearly show that Microsoft excludes the Free Software ecosystem from accessing its formats and protocols. Most of Microsoft’s formats and protocols are indeed patented, and licensing agreements rely on so-called “reasonable and non-discriminatory” conditions (RAND). These licenses impose royalties for any commercial distribution, which favours monopolies over SMEs and de facto excludes all Free Software developers.

Document “Annex E – Patent Pledge for Open Source Developers” clearly states that any commercial distribution of Free Software will require the acquisition of a patent license in exchange of royalties. These conditions are incompatible with Free Software licenses: Free licenses do not discriminate commercial from non-commercial uses, and thus enable both volunteer communities and companies to contribute together to Free Software projects. Furthermore, patents on software formats and protocols have no legal basis in the European Union and continue to be a grey area in current USA legislation; therefore they should not be part of interoperability agreements.

Microsoft is still scheming to legalise software patents in Europe, but a lot of Free software proponents choose not to pay attention. OSS Watch seems rather apathetic. May some more information about Apache, for instance, be of use [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]?

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23 Comments

  1. your_friend said,

    January 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Mr. Enderle was calling GNU/Linux advocates Nazis in 2004:

    In college, both graduate and undergraduate, I was fascinated with human behavior. I watched the tapes of the Nuremburg experiments that showcased how people put in positions of authority could be ordered to torture and kill other people … how does the behavior of the Linux attack force that has been focused on SCO and Microsoft really differ from other hate groups?

    This was his 2004 SCO keynote speech. He was insulting volunteers from Groklaw as deluded spies, bullies and Nazis. It is interesting that a paid Microsoft TE would have the hypocritic nerve to do that, but the man obviously has no moral scruples and will say anything.

    This hall of shame article goes on to smear free software advocates with domestic violence, 911, Columbine, the east coast sniper, hang’em high bigots, vigilantes, Zealots, subversive religion and to call them flunkies for big companies, wage slaves, zombies who’s lives lack a cause, strip miners, people who slept through economics class, pyramid schemers, careless swindlers, a threat to cancer and AI research, and the titular “idiots”. There are probably more insults in the article but I’m tired of looking at it.

    While people like Enderle have crashed SCO into complete ruin with a fraudulent lawsuit, other companies have gone on to make trillions of dollars with free software. I can only wonder what someone trying to earn a living at SCO must have thought about being called a “wage slave” devoid of cause by Enderle. Let’s hope they found an employer that had more respect for them.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    That’s hardly surprising. In an actual article he published, Enderle compares FOSS users/proponents to 9/11 terrorists.

  2. mattaslett said,

    January 7, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Gravatar

    The 451 Group does not “receive funding” from Microsoft.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    That’s why I wrote “for all it seems”. Last year I inquired about it several times and your colleague (Jay Lyman, IIRC) just said that no single company accounts for more than something like 2% of revenue (I’d have to check the number to be sure).

    It would help to have a disclosure policy like that of RedMonk, especially as we know the impact money can have.

    mattaslett Reply:

    Roy,

    The use of the phrase “for all it seems” does not make the claim that The 451 Group receives funding from Microsoft any less false, especially as you go on to suggest that the apparent funding influences our actions and opinions.

    It is particularly disappointing to find you implying that any single vendor has undue influence on our opinions and our research as it directly contradicts your knowledge of our business from our
    previous communication on this issue.

    The statement we made was: “The 451 Group derives its revenue from subscription relationships with vendors, end users, investors, consultants and miscellaneous other industry sectors. 451 Group does not do any custom consulting work. No single customer represents more than 3% of the 451′s revenue.”

    Matt

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I see what you mean. I’ll cross out that part.

    your_friend Reply:

    Nonsense, Microsoft calls all the shots, directly or indirectly, in the Microsoft ecosystem so all participants are suspect. Roy has published multiple letters and policy statements from Microsoft and partners proving this in general. He’s presented TE training material that proves Microsoft’s goal of creating false “independent” praise from all manner of sources, academic and commercial. He’s also reprinted email where Microsoft brags about analysts and reporters not “bashing” obvious problems. Microsoft also brags about how little all of this actually costs them, so we can imagine that almost none of their puppets ever receives more than 3% of their income from Microsoft. It’s the indirect presssure that Microsoft exerts through its monopoly that carries the day. Pretending this is not so, regardless of the level of funding, is wishful thinking.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Let’s not jump the gun.

    But what triggered my suspicion (and the reason I repeatedly contracted the 451 Group until receiving an answer) is that they visited Redmond to give a talk, later citing Microsoft ‘open source’ in their blog more often then before. That’s all.

    I’m glad and relieved to hear that none of those companies that pay under 3% of the group’s income is Microsoft (or Microsoft departments/subsidiaries like Waggener Edstrom).

    As Professor Lessig demonstrates, money one’s table rightly destroys trust. And we know that Microsoft did bribe journalists, bloggers and analysts before; it’s not speculation alone, we have a lot of evidence.

    clayclamp Reply:

    Following your_friend’s logic here, we can write a blurb that goes like this:

    Opinions that support content in Boycott Novell should be discarded offhand because Roy Schestowitz is associated with nymshifters and spammers (there are many sources of shilling). Schestowitz also brags about how little all of this actually costs him, so we can imagine that almost none of his puppets ever receives more than 3% of their income (e.g., links to their blogs) from Shestowitz.

    This is rather tortured logic, but it seems to be the norm around here.

    The reality is that if Schestowitz had even the slightest shred of actionable evidence around the 451 Group “receiving funding” from Microsoft, that paragraph wouldn’t have been crossed out, ever. The obvious conclusion is that he simply made that unsupported and blatantly false claim based on nothing more than his tainted perceptions, and unfortunately someone noticed and called him on it.

    If more people bothered to do that (assuming their accounts were not summarily deleted while they were at it) this blog would be mostly made up of strikethrough text.

    And of course strikethrough does not prevent search engines from indexing phrases like “451 Group receives funding from Microsoft”, which is probably the whole point of doing that.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    clayclamp,

    I have not been proven wrong (yet), but I understand now that it could be seen as ambiguous.

    your_friend Reply:

    More nonsense, now taken ad hominem. It is fair to say that Microsoft has disgraced itself, all non free software and much of the computer industry to such an extent that anyone advocating their causes is either ignorant, corrupt or afraid of crossing a bully. Microsoft’s disgrace has been documented in dozens of court cases using their own words and letters. The only tortured logic here is comparing that disgrace with the second rate smear jobs you link to. 451 is in bad company and Microsoft “Open Source” is bad business.

    Pointing to Microsoft smear jobs only helps prove the point I was making, that money is only a small part of Microsoft’s influence. People who don’t do as Microsoft wishes are relentlessly stalked and harassed. There are so many examples, from Richard Stallman to Petter Quinn and people trying to do business with Walmart. Everyone left in the Microsoft ecosystem is aware of this, but it is nice of you to point it out to others.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    your_friend,

    You muddy the water for no reason. I like the 451 Group and follow it closely (I’ve followed Matt since back in the days of OBR).

    I am just trying to figure out why it cannot be denied that some incentives arrived from Microsoft (and/or affiliates) some time along the way.

    I refer back to this excellent talk that I’ve cited about 100 times.

    As for “clayclamp”, it’s either the vibrator salesman or one of his buddies/nyms who defame me on a daily basis. He has about 20 attack sites that target individuals whom he abuses for disagreeing with him.

    clayclamp Reply:

    I have not been proven wrong (yet)

    Nonono. That’s not the way it works. Let me explain, although it’s rather bizarre that simple concepts like these escape you.

    You are making an accusation. An accusation requires evidence carry weight validity. So for example, if I said “water is wet”, I would have much evidence to back that up.

    On the other hand, your allegation that “the 541 Group receives funding from Microsoft” evidently has no basis in reality, otherwise you would have provided supporting evidence. If that had been the case, you would have rejected mattaslett’s argument offhand and never crossed out the text.

    The problem here is that you make the negative allegation and then claim it’s OK because no one has proved to you that it’s not true. Let me give you an example:

    Roy Schestowitz is spammer.

    This is my allegation. Do you deny it? Does it anger you? Then why don’t you go ahead and spend some time proving to me that it’s false?

    This is known as a logical fallacy — you claim that your allegation is true simply because it has not been proven false.

    But since I can’t bring myself to believe that you lack the intelligence to realize this, people who read things like these must be coming to the conclusion that you are engaging in intentional deception. And since in this case you’re questioning the core competency of a company, it must be that you’re trying to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about what they do. Which probably explains why one of their employees (I assume) bothered to call you out on it.

    You operate like this and then claim people who complain or comment are “defending Microsoft” because they’re “shills” and “astroturfers” when most of the time they’re just pointing out you’re way flat wrong or simply lying. Or you insult them (vibrator salesman? really?), which means their message must be getting hard to dismiss.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    You’ve lied through distortion and omission. I wrote “for all it seems” because I inquired about it and did not receive a denial. I did check first.

    Or you insult them (vibrator salesman? really?),

    Yes, he confirmed this to me.

    clayclamp Reply:

    I wrote “for all it seems” because I inquired about it and did not receive a denial.

    Oh, sorry. My bad:

    Roy Schestowitz is spammer, for all it seems. I inquired about it above and did not receive a denial. I did check first.

  3. mattaslett said,

    January 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    As you know from our previous communication, our company policy is that relationships with our clients are confidential and it is not our policy to confirm or deny whether any company is or is not a client.

    I neither confirmed nor denied whether Microsoft is “of those companies that pay under 3% of the group’s income”. What I denied is that the 451 Group “receives funding” from Microsoft, which is a phrase that was deliberately used in an attempt to demonstrate that Microsoft has direct influence over the actions and opinions of the 451 Group,

    This is an allegation that is demonstrably false and had already been addressed by the company in our previous communication.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    So wait, are you not able to confirm that Microsoft and its associates never gifted your employer in some way? That would be simple to deny, it’s not an issue of semantics.

    As Glyn Moody and others whom you know always argue, secrecy typically implies something needs to be hidden (well, obviously), which means that there is room for criticism in case the knowledge is made openly available.

    clayclamp Reply:

    Can you confirm that Netscape Corp. does not bankroll your 24/7/365 operation? That would be simple to deny, it’s not an issue of semantics.

    mattaslett Reply:

    Roy,

    The 451 Group does not receive gifts, or incentives or funding (or however you want to characterize it) from any vendor. What we have is paying customers (vendors, end users, investors, consultants etc), who subscribe to our published research and strategic counsel.

    That research is written independently of any commercial relationship we have. It is company policy http://www.the451group.com/about/overview.php to maintain “a strict wall of separation between the activities of sales and of analysis. There is no, ‘pay for play,’ and Research Directors and analysts pursue their research agenda completely independent from our sales and marketing departments.”

    It is also our policy http://www.the451group.com/scope_of_research/overview.php that “451 research is never sponsored, nor is it produced to promote a particular vendor’s agenda.”

    In any case, as we have previously discussed, no single customer represents more than 3% of the 451’s revenue.

    However, it is also our policy that customer relationships are confidential, so we are not going to confirm or deny anything with respect to a specific vendor.

    I would personally make the following observation, however: in the two and a bit years that I have been at The 451 Group, BoycottNovell has consistently linked to and referenced our research and opinions. At the same time, according to your own credibility index, The 451 Group and Jay Lyman have a credibility rating of 4/5 while I have a credibility rating of 5/5. So I think it’s safe to say that during that period The 451 Group research has been seen as valuable and credible by BoycottNovell. Would knowing whether Microsoft has or hasn’t been a customer of The 451 Group alter your perception of The 451 Group’s value and credibility during that period? When we are performing research on vendors, should we judge a company on its products and its actions, or who its customers are?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, I value the work of your group, but one loopholes that I had identified and wrote about last year is one where the subscriber — by paying for a research paper after it is published (some are sold for thousands of dollars) — can exert pressure in the form of self-censorship. That’s what worried me. Burton Group is one example.

    your_friend Reply:

    Gartner has a similar business structure and policies but they are obviously corrupt. This what Microsoft does to business partners, especially analysts. I do not agree with Microsoft’s assessment of analysts, except for those that have indeed sold out and made Microsoft their business model.

    I hope that 451 remains honest and is not destroyed as many other good companies have been. Time wasted on “Microsoft Open Source” is time that can’t be spent on things of more value to software freedom, so a there is already trouble. The truth comes out every five to ten years when Microsoft is sued again and emails are published. The loss of a valuable resource will be felt sooner if things go that way.

    It is comforting to think that people eventually figure things out. Look what’s happened to the once mighty Wintel press, and corporate controlled publishers in general. More honest publishers, like Google, are doing well.

  4. rgardler said,

    January 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Gravatar

    Lets get this right –

    You claim OSS Watch are pretending there are no attacks from MS on Free software, yet the article conclusion includes “Richard Stallman’s take on it is that this kind of activity is akin to what he calls ‘freewashing’, a term he coined by analogy with ‘greenwashing’, to describe a situation ‘in which a company makes small contributions to freedom in the hope of evading criticism for much larger actions that are detrimental’.”

    Your claim that the article “deceives through omission and slant.” is nothing more than defamation. Where’s the evidence for this outrageous claim?

    The text you quote implying some kind of support for this claim does not do so. In fact the following paragraph in the original says: “As a non-advocacy advisory service we tend to think that if all sides in a debate believe we are in the wrong, yet all are still talking to us, we are probably doing something right. Certainly none of them can claim us as their own.”

    [ interesting that the link for the quote is not clickable and browser somehow fails to cut an paste it – it’s http://osswatch.jiscinvolve.org/2010/01/04/treading-the-thin-line-between-free-proprietary-and-open-source-software/ ]

    Next you claim that “Sadly, much of the rest is conveniently using Microsoft and Microsoft reporters (spinners) as a source.” I’ll skip your slant against 451 Group (now struck out), since they were never consulted during the research for this article (a fact that has nothing at all to do with the claims you make here).

    Instead lets count up the people who are quoted in the article: 3 MS folk, Stallman, Erenkrantz (ASF) and Mary Jo Foley (ZD Net).

    Now count up the people quoted in the Stallman interview linked from this article – just Stallman – no reply from MS or any other Free software “enemy”.

    You never complained about us “conveniently using FSF and FSF reporters (spinners) as a source” on that occasion. I can’t think for a moment why that would be the case as clearly you expect a balanced and informed article to speak to more than three sides in a debate.

    As for OSS Watch needing “more information about Apache, for instance”. I hardly think so (see the disclaimer at the end of this comment). I’m more concerned about the impression your links give me about the research behind posts on this site, for example:

    “Some days ago we wrote about Microsoft paying $100,000 to Apache [1, 2], Groklaw’s response to which is: “As long as it gets its money’s worth, I suppose?” To Microsoft, this is a simple case of buying influence ”

    Sponsorship of the ASF buys no influence, none at all. The terms of the charitable status and the structure of the foundation enforce this. The only way to get influence in the ASF is to contribute code under the Apache Licence, a permissive free software licence with a patent retaliation clause.

    I’m afraid you really need to do more research before posting opinion pieces like this. People want verifiable facts first. Once you have gained peoples trust by providing verifiable facts they will start to value your opinion. But then, my own research shows that your new years resolution is to understand this process more fully (http://schestowitz.com/Weblog/)

    Perhaps next time I visit the University of Manchester we could discuss the issue of trust and bias over a beer.

    [DISCLAIMER: as well as being manager of OSS Watch I am a Vice President of the ASF]

    your_friend Reply:

    Only a person who thinks Microsoft is the center of the computing universe could think impartial advice could be formulated by “balancing” Microsoft opinion with facts or reality. The FSF and Richard Stallman are balanced and informed by definition. They are community organizers and technical experts not tied to any commercial interest. Their criticism is well considered before it is published. Your description of your your group as a “non advocacy advisory service” implies a fundamental misunderstanding of community advocacy, the FSF and the subject of the article. Indeed it is a smear on honest people. The rights guarded by the FSF are well thought out principles that should no more be “balanced” with particular commercial entities than free speech or assembly. I have to agree with those who say that this is a whitewash.

    Microsoft and Microsoft partners are the opposite of impartial sources of information. There is a long history of litigation against Microsoft to prove this point and anyone that works with them is justifiably suspect. Seeking out Microsoft representatives for “balance” is as self defeating as consulting a box of broken compasses. The company’s work to influence and corrupt ZDNet and other otherwise independent publications is also well documented. They are not a school of thought, an academic institution or any other kind of impartial authority, they are a particularly dishonest corporate interest.

    This article is a case of wishful thinking, exactly the kind of “emotional response” it claims to avoid. Microsoft is only interested in one thing: revenues derived from software ownership. This kind of ownership can not be reconciled with software freedom. It would be easy enough for Microsoft to grant their users software freedom but they would rather dissipate their ill gotten gains trying to convince the world that the non free software business model enough life left in it for everyone to buy into the massive interface disruption, technical inferiority, digital restrictions and security problems of Vista and Windows 7. What kind of impartial author would try to balance that with software freedom? Perhaps this is what “non advocacy advice” is. It looks suspiciously like an apology for criminal behavior.

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