07.30.15

Gemini version available ♊︎

Microsoft’s Mouthpiece Mary Branscombe Tries to Shoot Down Free Software, But Fails Miserably

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GPL, Microsoft at 7:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Summary: At the CBS-owned ZDNet, which is Free/Open Source software-hostile, new FUD surfaces, but the FUD is so flawed that a full rebuttal is easy and almost imperative

Microsoft still chronically hates Free/libre software (especially classic copyleft) and it is desperately craving for some ‘dirt’ on it, no matter how hard it is to find. Microsoft propagandist (for nearly a decade now, or at least half a decade, both at CBS and at IDG) Mary Branscombe decided to pick on Free/libre software. The result is laughable. It’s a terrible piece. ZDNet, part of CBS, published this nonetheless. The editor (probably Larry) was apparently OK with that.

With fair use in mind, we are going to deconstruct everything in Branscombe’s article and show that it’s just a pile of baloney. Let’s start with the headline:

“Open source: Free as in speech, beer – or puppy?”

Not even original. Sun’s old CEO used this analogy (“puppy”) a very long time ago, before Sun defected to Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and got a new CEO. Branscombe is just copying or even ‘stealing’ the analogy without any attribution.

“It’s hard to give developers more control over how their work is used and still keep it open source.”

That’s an insane talking point. It’s like saying that the needs of the developers to oppress the users outweigh the needs and the interests of users. Branscombe encourages and advocates user-subjugating software. How ethical does it make her seem? Moreover, as we shall explain later, this affects all types of software, including proprietary software. It’s not a FOSS issue at all.

“When you put your code out under an open source licence, how much control can you expect over what it’s used for?”

Free software developers are developing because they want people to use their software. If Branscombe had spoken to any developers (even those of proprietary software), she would quickly realise that exercising control over the users is not the goal of these developers. Exploiting users is often the job (or the goal) of non-technical managers, who sometimes share users’ data with marketers, spies, etc.

“Open source has often been described as ‘free as in speech, rather than free as in beer’. Yes, it’s software that’s free to use, but the lack of a price tag isn’t always the main point.”

That’s quoting Richard Stallman without naming him. But to say that free software means “free to use” is to show lack of comprehension of his points. Free/libre software isn’t about “free to use”; the four freedoms which Stallman speaks about are what it’s really about.

“For some it’s about not being encumbered by limiting commercial licences or patents and royalties, for others it’s about the importance of being able to see and modify the source code of what they’re running (or distributing source so users can see it).”

By “commercial licences” she means proprietary licences. That’s a different thing. Regarding “patents and royalties”, this may inadvertently refer to software covered by the terms described under the text of the GPLv3.

The point about “distributing source so users can see it” is bizarre because visibility alone does not make software “Free software” or even “Open Source”. That’s just how Microsoft fraudulently openwashes a lot of its software. Branscombe helps this villainous mirage.

Now comes some of the more horrid stuff, as Branscombe probably believes that she kindly introduced FOSS in a fair and balanced fashion.

“And as I’ve long said, open source can also be ‘free as in puppy’; you take on the responsibility of care and keeping when you start to depend on open source software.”

Right, because nobody ever comes to depend on proprietary software? Whose stewardship and maintenance are both monopolised by people whose agenda differs from yours? This, if anything, is a point against proprietary software.

“You can run into problems if the project is no longer developed, or pulled suddenly when the company is bought by Apple and you discover you were using open source components that depended on a closed source core like FoundationDB, and that core is no longer available.”

Because proprietary software companies never get bought? Or discontinue a product? Oh, wait, they do. And often. If it’s Free software, then you can at least take charge or rely on others to take charge (e.g. forks or newly-created successors). Again, if anything, this is a point against proprietary software. Branscombe twists a problem with proprietary software as one exclusive to Free software. We saw other examples of that shameless spin very recently, as recently as one week ago.

“That makes it vital to always look carefully at the licence for open source software, especially if your business is involved (that’s part of the care and keeping of the free puppy).”

Right, because proprietary software licences never change? Or the EULA (see how Vista 10 trashes privacy this week)? You don’t even get to vote on or reject those. If a Free software project diverges from a licence in a way that people are opposed to, they can then fork while maintaining the more desirable licence. This, in turn, puts more pressure on the developer to obey the needs of the users. It keeps developers honest and obedient to their users; they cannot merely ‘occupy’ and thereby mistreat users. Isn’t that a positive thing in a moral society?

“But for some software developers, the free speech comparison is getting more relevant.”

The example she thus provides is irrelevant to free speech:

“Take the GIMP project, which stopped using SourceForge to distribute the Windows installer for its open source image editor in 2013, because of the ads that started appearing on the site featuring download buttons for alternative versions of the software.”

Advertising is not a matter of free speech and denying advertising is not a matter of free speech, either.

“GIMP left the site up because there were so many links to it online, but stopped updating the installers there. SourceForge deemed the product abandoned and started mirroring the releases from GIMP, but it also ‘experimented’ with wrapping the GIMP installer with adware.”

Therein lies the problem. Adware. It’s not just about ads on a page. It’s proprietary garbage that is not wanted and is improperly bundled.

“The GIMP team wasn’t happy (and SourceForge stopped wrapping the installer, although it didn’t stop mirroring it). But because GIMP is under the GPL and LGPL licences SourceForge did nothing wrong: those licences allow software to be repackaged.”

Nobody ever alleged that SourceForge had violated any software licences, so it’s unclear where Branscombe is going with this. No point is being made except the fact that developers can revoke endorsement (not distribution) of some piece of software if inappropriately packaged. GIMP developers packed up and moved. That’s a good thing. Some call it “free market”.

“Android tool developer Collin Mulliner was equally upset to discover that Hacking Team (an Italian company that sells surveillance tools to governments) had used his Android framework to build their Android voice call monitoring software.”

That is a licence violation. So what’s her point?

“”For the future I will use a license for all my software that excludes use for this kind of purpose,” he said in the blog he wrote to make it clear that he didn’t work on the Hacking Team tool. But that might be hard: writing a licence that lets people use your code freely means they can use the code for anything they want.”

But Hacking Team violated the terms of the GPL. Therein lies the main issue. Proprietary software would not have done any better at preventing use for malicious purposes, so how is this even relevant?

“Douglas Crockford famously added a line to his licence for JSON that said it couldn’t be used for evil (and just as famously said that IBM had asked for a variation because they couldn’t guarantee that their customers wouldn’t use it for evil).”

Is that a bad thing?

“Yes, the GPL has repeatedly been used in court, but mostly to force companies to comply with the rules about open sourcing their own code if they’ve published software based on GLP-licenced code.”

The typo/bad English aside (the verb has an “s” in it, but maybe this poor pieces was composed in a rush), is Branscombe trying to insinuate that honouring a licence is a bad thing?

“Commercial use is easier to police, but anyone who is going to use open source code for evil is unlikely to pay much attention to licences that say they can’t, and having people use your code for purposes you don’t approve of is pretty much the definition of free speech.”

Proprietary software (commercial software as Branscombe calls it) has exactly the same issues, so what is her point anyway? Where is that “free puppy” point ever coming into play?

“It’s going to take some careful writing of licences to give developers more control over how software they open source is used in the ways they want, without stopping the open uses they want to enable.”

Again, nothing to do with “Open Source” (Free software) at all. Branscombe takes an issue that applies to all software and frames it as one pertaining to Free software. But why? Just look at Branscombe’s history of badmouthing Microsoft’s competitors.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

Decor ᶃ Gemini Space

Below is a Web proxy. We recommend getting a Gemini client/browser.

Black/white/grey bullet button This post is also available in Gemini over at this address (requires a Gemini client/browser to open).

Decor ✐ Cross-references

Black/white/grey bullet button Pages that cross-reference this one, if any exist, are listed below or will be listed below over time.

Decor ▢ Respond and Discuss

Black/white/grey bullet button If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

DecorWhat Else is New


  1. Links 19/10/2021: MyGNUHealth 1.0.5 and Ubuntu 22.04 Now Developed

    Links for the day



  2. [Meme] [Teaser] Thrown Under the Bus

    Tomorrow we shall look at Danish enablers of unlawful EPO regulations, Jesper Kongstad and Anne Rejnhold Jørgensen



  3. The World Needs to Know What Many Austrians Already Know About Rude Liar, the Notorious 'Double-Dipper'

    Today we publish many translations (from German) about the Austrian double-dipper, who already became the subject of unfavourable press coverage in his home country; he’s partly responsible for crushing fundamental rights at the EPO under Benoît Battistelli‘s regime



  4. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XVI: The Demise of the Austrian Double-Dipper

    Friedrich ‘Rude Liar’ Rödler is notorious in the eyes of EPO staff, whom he was slandering and scandalising for ages while he himself was the real scandal



  5. Links 18/10/2021: Porteus Kiosk 5.3 and Ventoy 1.0.55

    Links for the day



  6. [Meme] [Teaser] More to Life Than Patents

    Greedy sociopaths oughtn’t be put in charge of patent offices; this is what’s dooming the EPO in recent years (all they think about is money



  7. Microsoft GitHub Exposé — Part II — The Campaign Against GPL Compliance and War on Copyleft Enforcement

    Microsoft contemplated buying GitHub 7.5 years ago; the goal wasn’t to actually support “Open Source” but to crush it from the inside and that’s what Microsoft has been doing over the past 2.5 years (we have some details from the inside)



  8. Links 18/10/2021: Linux 5.15 RC6 and 7 New Stable Kernels

    Links for the day



  9. [Meme] The Austrian School of Friedrich Rude Liar

    With reference to the Austrian School, let’s consider the fact that Friedrich Rude Liar might in fact be standing to personally gain by plundering the EPO‘s staff by demonising them while helping Benoît Battistelli crush them



  10. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, October 17, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, October 17, 2021



  11. How (Simple Technical Steps) to Convince Yourself That DuckDuckGo is Just Spyware Connected to Microsoft, Falsely Advertised as 'Privacy'

    In recent days we published or republished some bits and pieces about what DuckDuckGo really is; the above reader dropped by to enlighten us and demonstrate just how easy it is to see what DuckDuckGo does even at the client side (with JavaScript); more people need to confront DuckDuckGo over this and warn colleagues/friends/family (there’s more here)



  12. Austria's Right-Wing Politicians Displaying Their Arrogance to EPO Examiners

    The EPO‘s current regime seems to be serving a money-hungry lobby of corrupt officials and pathological liars; tonight we focus on Austria



  13. [Meme] Friedrich Rödler's Increasingly Incomprehensible Debt Quagmire, Years Before EPO Money Was Trafficked Into the Stock Market

    As it turns out, numerous members of the Administrative Council of the EPO are abundantly corrupt and greedy; They falsely claim or selfishly pretend there’s a financial crisis and then moan about a "gap" that does not exist (unless one counts the illegal gambling, notably EPOTIF, which they approved), in turn recruiting or resorting to scabs that help improve ‘profit margins’



  14. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XV: Et Tu Felix Austria…

    Prior to the Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos regime the EPO‘s hard-working staff was slandered by a corrupt Austrian official, Mr. Rödler



  15. Links 17/10/2021: Blender 2.93.5, Microsoft Bailouts

    Links for the day



  16. Links 17/10/2021: GhostBSD 21.10.16 and Mattermost 6.0

    Links for the day



  17. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, October 16, 2021

    IRC logs for Saturday, October 16, 2021



  18. [Meme] First Illegally Banning Strikes, Then Illegally Taking Over Courts

    The vision of Team Battistelli/Campinos is a hostile takeover of the entire patent system, not just patent offices like the EPO; they’d stop at nothing to get there



  19. Portuguese Network of Enablers

    Instead of serving Portuguese people or serving thousands of EPO workers (including many who are Portuguese) the delegation from Portugal served the network of Campinos



  20. In Picture: After Billions Spent on Marketing, With Vista 11 Hype and Vapourware, No Real Gains for Windows

    The very latest figures from Web usage show that it’s hardly even a blip on the radar; Windows continues bleeding to death, not only in servers



  21. [Meme] [Teaser] Double-Dipping Friedrich Rödler

    As we shall see tomorrow night, the EPO regime was supported by a fair share of corrupt officials inside the Administrative Council



  22. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XIV: Battistelli's Iberian Facilitators - Portugal

    How illegal “Strike Regulations” and regressive ‘reforms’ at the EPO, empowering Benoît Battistelli to the detriment of the Rule of Law, were ushered in by António Campinos and by Portugal 5 years before Campinos took Battistelli’s seat (and power he had given himself)



  23. Links 16/10/2021: SparkyLinux Turns 10 and Sculpt OS 21.10

    Links for the day



  24. “Facebook Whistleblowers” Aside, It Has Been a Dying Platform for Years, and It's Mentally Perverting the Older Generation

    Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission



  25. [Meme] Microsoft Has Always Been About Control Over Others

    Hosting by Microsoft means subjugation or a slavery-like relationship; contrary to the current media narrative, Microsoft has long been censoring LinkedIn for China’s autocratic regime; and over at GitHub, as we shall show for months to come, there’s a war on information, a war on women, and gross violations of the law



  26. EFF Pushes for Users to Install DuckDuckGo Software After Being Paid to Kill HTTPS Everywhere

    Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission



  27. The Reign in Spain

    Discussion about the role of Spain in the EPO‘s autocratic regime which violates the rights of EPO staff, including Spanish workers



  28. [Meme] Spanish Inquisition

    Let it be widely known that Spain played a role in crushing the basic rights of all EPO workers, including hundreds of Spaniards



  29. Why You Shouldn’t Use SteamOS, a Really Incompetent GNU/Linux Distribution With Security Pitfalls (Lutris is a Great Alternative)

    Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission



  30. IRC Proceedings: Friday, October 15, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, October 15, 2021


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts