Bonum Certa Men Certa

Moonlight: Patent Bait Inside Your GNU/Linux Distribution

Why sue? Just cross-licence. Same thing, looks better.

We have been denouncing and protesting against Moonlight's legal baggage since the very beginning. Miguel de Icaza joined in, but he woke up to smell the coffee when it was a little too late. He had already implemented the little monster. He trusted Microsoft and wanted us to trust his deceptive friends from Microsoft, too.



Head over to Groklaw and find out just why Moonlight is poison inside your GNU/Linux box, unless you're a paying Novell customer. The concluding sentence:

My conclusion now, after having reviewed it, is the same as I predicted. This is worthless and potentially harmful vapor-speak.


Fortunately, adoption of Silverlight is poor, so whichever desktop environment or distribution you're using, you might never require Mono. You can vocally object if Webmasters use this technology, which excludes Microsoft's #1 competitor (as confirmed by Ballmer back in February and implicitly acknowledged by Ray Ozzie only yesterday). Don't permit Microsoft to tax the Free Desktop.

“Without a fight, let alone a disclosure, it's even worse to surrender if you have counterparts like Mandriva, Ubuntu, Red Hat, etc.”As a side note, the term "Linux tax" seems to be used spuriously at the moment. It talks about the cost of PCs with GNU/Linux preinstalled. Can you sense an ambiguity here? Should "Linux tax" not be a referral to the equivalent of "Windows tax", wherein Microsoft uses mythical software patents to threaten vendors until they pay for GNU/Linux (thus the term "Linux tax")? These are two separate things.

NetApp's lawsuit against Sun ought to teach us about the risk of allowing Free software to be taxed; there are lessons to be learned here. As the latest development shows, software patents may be moot in the court of law (see fragment below), so the worst one can do is give up and pay up like Novell did. Without a fight, let alone a disclosure, it's even worse to surrender if you have counterparts like Mandriva, Ubuntu, Red Hat, etc. Novell should work with them, not against them (with Microsoft).

Portfolio Media, New York (May 27, 2008)--A judge has partly stayed software company Network Appliance Inc.'s patent lawsuit against rival Sun Microsystems Inc. over Sun's ZFS technology, pending the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's re-examination of one of the patents in the suit.


One reader wrote to us just moments ago. He explains this situation better than we have:

"I saw it mentioned that Microsoft has "never sued anyone for patent infringement." Some even go so far as to make the silly assumption that they do not like patents. That may have been true in the beginning, when Bill Gates wrote his now-famous memo on software patents in the early '90's. Now, Microsoft has made their peace with patents.

“They are in a bind at present, but they certainly are not suing out of benevolence. As Bill Gates said, "if you can't make it good, at least make it look good."”"I can recall generally an instance several years ago where there was a free software project which aimed to be able to play Windows media files. It was shut down due to patent threats from Microsoft, when the author decided he couldn't afford to defend a possible suit in court. In recent times, their attitude could well be summarised with "why sue when you can generate FUD and cross-licensing deals with threats?" Also, there are some good reasons for Microsoft to hold fire and not try to assert their patents in court.

"The first is that they may get a negative outcome in that their patent would be ruled invalid and they would be faced with a countersuit. Another reason is anti-trust related. I doubt the anti-trust authorities would look favourably on it if Microsoft tries patents as a further method to exclude competition. They are now testing the waters with their appeal of the latest EU sanctions to see if the court will see things their way and somehow rule that, yes indeed, intellectual property rights do trump anti-trust laws. Finally, Microsoft is making all of these soothing noises about "openness" lately, which include "covenants not to sue." They may be afraid of a negative public relations backlash if they were to sue an open source project at this time. They are in a bind at present, but they certainly are not suing out of benevolence. As Bill Gates said, "if you can't make it good, at least make it look good." If they wanted to make it good, they wouldn't sue *and* they wouldn't make patent threats in the first place."

Related readings:



Monopoly

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