02.18.10

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Business Software Alliance (BSA) is Not Good for Free Software

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer at 5:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Response to a new claim that the BSA is good for Free Software (the reality is more complex than it may seem)

WHEN does the BSA cross the line and become helpful to Free software in the same sense that banks running Windows provide an advert to GNU/Linux (due to Windows’ failings)? We previously showed that BSA lobbying played a role in characterising Free software as illegal. Setting aside the Microsoft/Gates (senior) roots in the BSA [1, 2], one might reach the conclusion that the BSA not only enforces the rules of proprietary software; in order to defend its existence, the BSA also attacks the right of Free software to exist.

Nonetheless, here is an opinion piece which insists that the BSA is good for Free Software because of the intimidating crackdowns.

There are a few good reasons why open source fans should support the Business Software Alliance.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I dislike the Business Software Alliance (BSA). It’s questionable statistics and its sweeping generalisations make for annoying reading at the best of times. But recently I’ve been thinking that perhaps open source advocates should get behind the BSA.

The reality is not that simple and the main question is, does the benefit of BSA aggression outweigh the negatives? It’s an open question.

Jon “maddog” Hall has also just written about the subject, although less directly:

Several times I have written about “Software Piracy”, and I think a lot of my readers get a little tired of hearing about it, but something happened this week that started me thinking about Software Piracy again.
Microsoft made Software Piracy Prevention a voluntary thing.

Of course Microsoft will probably pitch a different explanation, but what they actually did was post an “update” to Windows 7 that had lots of anti-piracy software in it, and told their customers that it was “voluntary” to install the anti-piracy software.

Now this was probably in response to another time when Microsoft tried to force down the throats, er….ah…”distribute” anti-piracy software for Windows XP, but that time they called it “critical bug fixes” and made a lot of their customers mad because they installed the “bug fixes” and ….hello! The “fixes” did not fix any bugs, and in some cases caused the customer’s systems to act in very bad ways. Very, very bad ways! And of course Microsoft’s customers then acted in very, very bad ways.

This is a subject that we covered some days ago, as well as last week. Generally speaking, pressure on users of proprietary software is always a good thing for Free software, but those who apply this pressure are also lobbying against Free software and the pressure they apply to users gives them money and thus more power to lobby (self enrichment). Microsoft’s “Under NO circumstances lose to Linux” approach shows how far they would go. Consider Munich for example. Slashdot reported that “Steve Ballmer’s recent trip to Munich to offer up to 90% rebates for the Microsoft Software Assurance and Licenses was in vain.” Microsoft is cracking down and pricing down selectively, so it’s not so simple after all.

Speaking of the BSA and preference for proprietary software, a Sirius employee implicitly calls for a boycott of UK ICT (maybe including BECTA):

Nearly forgot to mention the Microsoft-Cabinet Office’s latest Child Protection wheeze I blogged about last time.

Have a care if your children have access to IE8 and CEOPS; at a click you could be in the frame as a potential abuser.

This little list will do for the time being.

If I were still a teacher I would be mightily fed up with the above.

If we want to extend learning using modern technology, as most politicians seem to wish to do, then we need to sort out how it should be used.

Meanwhile teachers: band together and boycott ICT that’ll give them a fright.

This IE8 promotion from the government is quite a fiasco that we wrote about last week. But given the relationship we have witnessed between the UK government and the BSA, for example, none of this is terribly surprising. It’s a brutal pairing [1, 2, 3].

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2 Comments

  1. your_friend said,

    February 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Gravatar

    The BSA is bad for software freedom because it’s premise is that sharing is bad and they deflect criticism from non free software companies. They exist to keep people from making copies of non free software while promoting it’s use. This is fundamentally wrong and they spend lots of money promoting the fallacy of software ownership. Worse, Microsoft does not get blamed for BSA actions. This way, Microsoft can be as nasty to their customers as they like without directly offending them. Reporting on the BSA enforcement is almost as bad as reporting on “computer viruses” that don’t mention the root causes of people’s problems.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, BSA is the software equivalent of RIAA/MPAA (or MAFIAA™).

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