Bonum Certa Men Certa

Human Rights Require Software Freedom

Woman using computer



Summary: A few takes and clarifications about what Microsoft et al. are attempting to do to NGOs by giving them 'free' (gratis) copies of binaries without long-term commitment

Environmentalists and activists are rarely Microsoft-tolerant. To them, Microsoft represents many of the things which they actively work against and over the weekend I received mail from one such group whose entire facilities were possibly being moved to Free software for idealogical reasons. It is necessary for independence, no surveillance, and denial of hypocrisy. It's not just about cost at all. Philosophical folks can tell apart freedom from free (zero cost).



The New York Times has just published this poorly-researched piece which seems more like Microsoft PR. No wonder mobbyists love this piece. Well, Slashdot too picked this story and posted it under the headline "MS Gives Free Licenses To Oppressed Nonprofits". Glyn Moody called it a "stunningly naive headline: this is pure self-interest"; he also referenced Marco, who says that software "is like depleted uranium weapons" and he explains why (or what this analogy actually means):

Note to all NGOs: please don't make a mess with Microsoft donations



[...]

Many non-profit, non government organizations (NGO), including those who try to express dissent in authoritarian regimes, use popular software like Windows or Microsoft Office for their activities without paying for a regular license, because they have no money. Therefore, charging these organizations for software piracy is an effective way to shut down disturbing voices. They are violating laws, after all. According to the New York Times, "Microsoft is vastly expanding its efforts to prevent governments from using software piracy inquiries as a pretext to suppress dissent." This is good, but there are a few things that any NGO should know about plans like this.

[...]

And if you are thinking "My NGO can't switch to OpenOffice because it messes up the formatting of lots of MS Office documents that we already have, or can't run Office macros"... well, you've just proved my point. Your NGO is an Office drug addict. The very least it should do in order to fulfil its own mission is to not spread that disease to others. Please.


Many activists use GNU/Linux for other reasons and cost is rarely one of the stated factors as gratis proprietary software is made available to them routinely. As Robert Pogson puts it:

If I were a non-profit/advocacy/freedom-promoting organization, I would be running GNU/Linux just for the cost-savings.


See the good comments there, too.

“If they’re going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else”

--Jeff Raikes, now heading the Gates Foundation



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