Bonum Certa Men Certa

Why Peter Murray-Rust Should Not Work With Microsoft

Peter Murray-Rust
Photo by jwyg, licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence



Summary: An open access hero asks whether or not he should work with Microsoft; Techrights responds

"Should I work with Microsoft?"



That is the question asked by Peter Murray-Rust, who sought a reply from readers. We'll come to this in a moment, right after providing some background.

“Microsoft loves artificial scarcity, on which its entire business model is built.”Peter Murray-Rust is an admirable person and a high achiever. He is at the forefront of the open access (OA) movement and he advocates strongly the sharing of knowledge. Here at Techrights we have great respect for this man, but circumstances at work seem to have led him to the biggest enemy of open source (and by extension one of the principal foes of OA).

Peter Murray-Rust is currently pressuring the British Library to drop DRM. What he may or may not know is Microsoft's role in opposition to his goals. What Microsoft is doing to the British Library is a subject that we covered some days ago (citing Peter Murray-Rust six times in the process). We quoted Microsoft's CEO as saying that "DRM is the future." One article worth reading comes from Forbes Magazine (2007) and bears the title "Microsoft: We Like DRM".

By this point, we pretty much get the picture. Microsoft loves artificial scarcity, on which its entire business model is built.

Peter Murray-Rust continues his fair and balanced struggle to rid the British Library of DRM. He speaks to an ex-Adobe person:

He’s no longer with Adobe and he has written a useful account of the way that scholarly publications should be managed – in the browser, not at the server. I like his analysis. I am not against access control per se, and it works well in most cases – certainly far better than DRM.


Here is his latest post in this long series:

Draft FOI request to the British Library (BL) on Digital Rights Management (DRM)



[...]

I shall be composing my freedom of information letter to the British Library today. A week ago I asked informally on the blogosphere and twittersphere for feedback from academic librarians on the implementation, use, and impact of digital rights management (DRM) systems on the supply of academic material from the British Library (inter-library loans, ILL). This post represents what I shall write to the BL under FOI unless I get more feedback today. (I am stunned by the passive acceptance of the UK academic library system to the BL’s DRM (and presumably DRM in general), but will retain that phrase unless they can show that they have taken action to challenge the system, even if unsuccessful. It also appears that they have no public views challenging any sort of DRM and they accept what is given them).


This is excellent stuff.

As we pointed out on some past occasions (11 separate posts in Techrights cite his blog), Microsoft occasionally works with Peter Murray-Rust's employer or affiliates, which makes it hard for him to have Microsoft estranged. Very recently he published this post which asks, "Should I work with Microsoft?"

These are serious concerns and I will address them. I have previously blogged about the relationship of me and my group to Microsoft (http://wwmm.ch.cam.ac.uk/blogs/murrayrust/?p=2249 ) where I have shown my reasons for working with them. The current concerns are different in that they relate to sponsorship but basically have the same concern that Microsoft are guilty of actions which put them beyond the bounds of acceptability.

I do not know Filippo, but I know Glyn Moody well. He and I share positions on the Open Knowledge Foundation advisory board and most of our views coincide. However he and I differ on Microsoft. I believe his view is that Microsoft is inherently “evil” in a way beyond the natural commercial orientations and activities of any large company. I do not take this view at present although as I have acknowledged some of Microsoft’s past actions were clearly unacceptable.


Let it be clarified that Microsoft is probably worse than before. It just employs a lot of PR agencies to embellish its image and bury criticisms. We have given a very large number of examples and it would require a long time to assemble a long list that convinces the reader/observer (a lot of unethical PR efforts, propaganda, bribed bloggers, and AstroTurfing as exemplified in the previous post are partly documented).

Microsoft's latest strand of offences is racketeering [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. People must not be misled by memes like "new Microsoft" because this new Microsoft is more aggressive than ever and more dishonest about its intentions (it's part of the PR spiel, along the lines of a green BP logo or Blackwater changing names).

No proponent of OA should befriend Microsoft. To repeat what we wrote yesterday, "dissociation from Microsoft is a survival skill, not intolerance."

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