11.18.10

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RAND Mobbyists, Lobbyists, and Microsoft AstroTurfers in IP 2010 (Brussels)

Posted in Deception, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents, RAND at 5:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Rand Pauls of RAND

Rand Paul portrait by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Summary: Rough tactics used to promote Microsoft’s scheme wherein Free software gets taxed by Microsoft, even in places like Europe where software patents are in principle not legal

THE CONSENSUS that Microsoft is decreasingly a technology company (far fewer products) and increasingly a patent troll and political movement is gradually getting a foothold. As more and more Microsoft products get axed, the company will qualify as a patent troll (non-practicing entity) in more areas where it’s just extorting its competition which won.

In order for Microsoft to become more effective as a patent troll, Microsoft will need to modify some laws. Microsoft cannot do this directly as it would get blasted for attempting it. So Microsoft hires and bankrolls several front groups that do he lobbying. We wrote well over a hundred posts giving examples of this type of activity as we hope to document and to map the vectors of lobbying (which in turn weakens them or sometimes forces them to nymshift).

The Microsoft agenda du jour is pushing RAND into Europe. Microsoft apparently failed to do this in India. Simon Phipps, a Brit, has just explained why RAND is “Not So Reasonable”. It’s a decent new essay on this old subject:

Fair, Reasonable, Non-Discriminatory – surely that all has to be good stuff? RAND sounds so good, and it’s been showing up in all sorts of news lately. It’s a key part in the negotiation of licenses for patents that apply to standards, and it stands for “Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory”, excellent words that it’s hard to criticise. Sometimes it shows up as FRAND, with “Fair” in front making it sound even better, or as RAND-z, with the Z indicating that whatever the license terms are they will have a zero pounds price ticket attached.

RAND appears in the rules and procedures of most standards organisations and actually does a great job in most of them. It’s far better than the alternative, which is for patent holders to be able to either license their patents at whatever price each victim will pay, or to make the standard almost impossible to implement by anyone they don’t want to be able to by selectively withholding a license. You can understand why a standards group would want to mandate RAND, FRAND or RAND-z, given the alternatives.

Of course, there is the obvious question of why any standards body would allow something to become a standard in the first place if one of the companies contributing to it holds a patent on a technique essential to implementing it.

Simon Phipps tells Carlo Piana (another person who stands for Europe’s interests, not Microsoft’s): “Want to make any bets on how long it will be before I get a troll comment?”

Well, guess what? Yes, it didn’t take long for mobbyist Microsoft Florian to hit this piece with a troll comment promoting RAND, as usual. His position on this subject is virtually identical to that of Microsoft lobbyist Zuck (and his fellow minions). How predictable it must have been for Simon Phipps. He probably knew exactly who it would be with the “troll comment”. Just mention RAND and this mobbyist will soon show up. Just about any piece against RAND is being heckled/trolled by Microsoft mobbyists other than him, but that’s what we ought to expect given the billions of dollars Microsoft has at stake. Professionally speaking, Florian is all about Microsoft (.NET developer, never using GNU/Linux, proudly using Vista 7 while pretending to be a FOSS person who opposes software patents). We’ll come to more of that in a moment.

“RAND describes a superset of behaviours. Some RAND requirements lead to RF terms. The existence of trivial counterexamples where RAND standards have GPL implementations allows trolls to thus discredit this position.”
      –Simon Phipps
Glyn Moody gets involved in this debate as well (in Identi.ca). He tells Bradley Kuhn (FSF) for example: “generally, yes, but it [RAND] an be crafted in abnormal ways to be compatible.” Kuhn does not quite agree. To Phipps he writes: “I may have misread. My take-away was: “sometimes, #RAND works out for FLOSS, but usually doesn’t.” I don’t agree w/ nuance.” To Phipps and Moody he later writes: “It’s tough to get FLOSS hackers to follow patent licensing nuances, so simplifications help, ala “#RAND = #problematic” [...] my 1st yr CS teacher said: “We must lie a little here” b/c the nuances required prereqs we didn’t have. Similar here.” Phipps tells Kuhn: “RAND describes a superset of behaviours. Some RAND requirements lead to RF terms. The existence of trivial counterexamples where RAND standards have GPL implementations allows trolls to thus discredit this position.”

The mobbyist has already resumed badmouthing Android, spreading misinformation about a Vertical lawsuit against Samsung and LG (he closed all the comments in his blog after he had been exposed repeatedly by commenters, so nobody can correct him where he leads journalists whom he mass-mails). He characterises it as an anti-Android lawsuit even though it is slightly more complex than that. But never mind accuracy. The mobbyists are supposed to confuse people who don’t know better, making absurd statements that may capture gullible bystanders who curiously pass by.

Watch what the mobbyist did with Nancy Gohring, who covers a lot of Microsoft since years ago. She took this one assignment/story for IDG and was possibly fed by one of Florian’s pseudo-personal E-mails (he personalises identical messages which he pushes to many journalists while presenting himself as an opponent of software patents). Gohring wrote:

Android faces a new threat with a lawsuit that Vertical Computer Systems filed Monday against Samsung and LG.

Vertical alleges that certain Samsung and LG Android-based phones infringe two of its patents that describe systems for generating applications. In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Vertical names the LG Ally, four Samsung Galaxy models and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet computer as products that use the patented technologies.

She is then linking to the mobbyist, who is mass-mailing journalists to get his version of the story told (and it’s Linux-hostile). We don’t know for sure if Gohring was fed by the mobbyist, by judging by the way it is written (with his own fake introduction to himself), it’s very likely to be the case. He is still pretending that he is against software patents because this is how a lobbyist should present himself to journalists (for credibility, even if it’s bogus, like fronting for a monopoly while pretending to speak for small businesses). We do not appreciate his active-aggressive approach towards journalists, wherein he pressures them (with unsolicited mail for the most part) to get his version of the story told, then brags about it as though he was spontaneously quoted for being more accurate or insightful. Then again, that’s just how lobbyists in general work. ACT works like this. They are media subvertors, who try to sway public opinion. The mobbyist also copies and pastes a lot, posting identical or nearly identical comments in many sites and forums such as Slashdot, Ars Technica, and LWN. As usual, he received aid from Dana Blankenhorn, whom he met some weeks ago. Blankenhorn mentions us in a negative way because he refuses to listen to many other FOSS proponents who repeatedly explain to him Florian’s agenda. He should read his comments more carefully and reflect. Maybe one day he’ll realise and admit that he got bamboozled.

Anyway, not only the mobbyists are actively promoting RAND right now. Watch this new schedule for IP 2010 and scroll down to ACT, the RAND lobbyists (with software patents inside). Under “6C Software Patents, Open Source” we found “Jonathan Zuck”, who pretends to stand for Belgium (who is he kidding really?).

Glyn Moody says that “EC & EPO want to explore “tensions” between ICT standards and patents” (in reference to this). He rightly asks (in Identi.ca), “isn’t it decided?”

You can tell just by its framing: this is “a conference to address some specific issues on patents and ICT standards”. ICT is mostly about software, and yet software cannot be patented “as such”. So, in a sense, this ought to be a trivial conference lasting about five minutes. The fact that it isn’t shows where things are going to head: towards accepting and promoting patents in European standards, including those for software.

That’s not really surprising, given who are organising it – the European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO). The European Commission has always been a big fan of software patents; and the EPO is hardly likely to be involved with a conference that says: “you know, we *really* don’t need all these patents in our standards.”

Of course, the opposite result – that patents are so indescribably yummy that we need to have as many as possible in our European ICT standards – must emerge naturally and organically. And so to ensure that natural and organic result, we have a few randomly-selected companies taking part.

This sort of fake debate (like the one we find in climate change) is summoning the fake controversy which the mobbyists and lobbyists work so hard to create. They want to distract with questions which ought to be trivial and instead put disinformation at the centre of it all.

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