06.29.14

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Microsoft and the BSA Play Hardball, Accelerating a Much-Motivated Move to Free/Libre Software

Posted in Microsoft at 4:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The alliance of proprietary software giants and software patents proponents (BSA) is seen bolstering Microsoft’s war of aggression against its own ‘clients’

AOL got the patents of Netscape and Microsoft later took those patents (quite a disaster in its own right). According to this new article (published in a site financed by the man behind Netscape), Microsoft makes billions of dollars from “patented technology” (the figure probably referring to the Web browser or something related to it). To quote: “From a suburb of Philadelphia, a man named Rob Morris watches Microsoft collect $3 billion in licensing fees from a patented technology he feels is ultimately his.

“The BSA’s position has been merely identical to that of Microsoft over the years.”“At the peak of Microsoft’s browser war with Netscape in 1996, a small two-man team by the name of V_Graph approached Microsoft with a novel browser component that could integrate web content into custom applications. They called their product “web widgets.”

“Though appreciated, their offer was rejected and eventually returned to them. However, months later Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 3.0, and officially reigned supreme with the world’s first fully componentized browser — a technology conspicuously similar to V_Graph’s.”

There is something truly disturbing here because Microsoft, based on some leaks (dodging NDA trickery), uses browser patents to extort Android, various other Linux-based operating systems, browsers etc. It is possible that Microsoft is not at all entitled to these patents. Never mind eligibility of software patents in general, there’s likely prior art; we just need to identify it and cite it.

The other day we found this article about the recent SCOTUS ruling (more on that in a later post) and the article stated: “The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alice v. CLS Bank could make many of the ridiculous business-method and software patents invalid … eventually.”

But meanwhile, looking at the article “No Unanimity in Reactions to SC’s Unanimous Software Patent Decision” (from ECT), we sure found something curious. Watch the response from Microsoft’s lobbying arm, the BSA, which appears as involved in the following way (also mind the revolving doors Victoria Espinel just went through): “When the U.S. Supreme Court issues a unanimous decision, it’s easy to conclude that it must be right on the facts, right on the law, and right in applying the law to the facts. So what’s not to like about its recent 9-0 ruling in a software patent case?

“The decision was spot-on — or at least nearly spot-on, according to Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of the Business Software Alliance.

“”This decision is a victory for innovation,” she said.

“The Court confirmed existing law that views abstract ideas as ineligible for patent protection, noted Microsoft.”

The BSA’s position has been merely identical to that of Microsoft over the years. Both the BSA and Microsoft choose to portray this judgment as limited, celebrating what they perceive as strengthening Microsoft when it fact it can invalidate Microsoft patents, including many which allude to Web browsers.

Speaking of the BSA, watch what it does right now to further fracture society for profit. “The paid informants program of the Business Software Alliance,” says Torrent Freak, “is a great success. The group recruits informants through Facebook and other venues, offering them hard cash in return for a successful tip. According to a BSA executive, this approach has put a dent in software piracy rates.”

At whose expense? And how is that a “great success”? “Microsoft is playing hardball with the NHS,” says this other new article, noting that Microsoft is “threatening trusts and authorities with drastically increased software payments over claimed licence violations.”

“For many years the BSA lobbied for Microsoft in Europe, trying to spread software patents into everything including standards (recall FRAND).”This is the kind of aggression we recently wrote about. Thankfully, based on inside knowledge that I have (in my job), the NHS is gradually moving to FOSS in some areas, with expansion in terms of scope over time. The “great success” that the BSA brags about is more likely a success for FOSS, at least in the long run. People just don’t want to pay for proprietary software anymore. A lost client pays $0 and is not locked in anymore.

The British press says: “The tough talking comes more than a year after an organisational shift began across the NHS (April ’13) saw some Primary Care Trusts and strategic health authorities abolished and clinical commissioning groups taking their place.”

Well, the NHS should tell Microsoft (and the BSA) to go where the Sun doesn’t shine. All we have here are a pair of patent and EULA bullies, who wish to make money out of fines rather than licences, locking in people and forcing them to pay for stuff that they never produced (extortion through patents). For many years the BSA lobbied for Microsoft in Europe, trying to spread software patents into everything including standards (recall FRAND). It’s truly time to make a statement and take a tough stance, abandoning Microsoft and other proprietary software as soon as possible.

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