Need campaign for MS EU anti-trust licences to be Free, not RAND

James Heald j.heald at
Tue Feb 3 12:49:38 UTC 2004

I suggest there is a campaign here we need to urgently get off the
ground, asap, right across Europe.

As has been all over the press recently,
the EU competition directorate is very keen to settle with
Microsoft before May, so as not to have to co-ordinate with 10 more
accession states which would make everything much more complicated.

Mostly the case is about what to do with Windows being tied with Windows
Media Player; but as the Economist reported, there is also the allegation

> that Microsoft was trying to extend its desktop monopoly into the market for workgroup servers (file, print, mail and web servers) by keeping secret the communications protocols that enable its desktop and server products to talk to each other. “Without such information, alternative server software would be denied a level playing field, as it would be artificially deprived of the opportunity to compete with Microsoft's products ontechnical merits alone,” [as] the commission warned in 2001.

According to the Economist, Microsoft is facing a fine, specific
remedies over Windows Media Player, and also

> Microsoft would be required to license its server-communications protocols to rivals on a “reasonable and non-discriminatory” basis. This isconsistent with the settlement that Microsoft reached in America, which also requires it to license some of its protocols.

This despite the fact that in the States, the licensing program became a
total non-event because of the conditions Microsoft imposed:

> Critics had complained that its previous licensing terms were so complicated that only 11 companies had signed up for them... Following a reviewof the progress of the American settlement, on January 23rd Microsoft agreed to simplify and extend its licensing programme to encourage wider use. After the announcement, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is overseeing the American settlement, declared herself satisfied with the company's efforts to comply with the settlement.

For more detail, see this IDG story at:

I suggest that there is a need for an urgent all-Europe campaign that
the protocols should *not* made available RAND, but that the measures
can only have any chance of being an effective remedy if the protocols
are released Public Domain, no strings attached.

Cf, for example, the outcome of the US antitrust remedies, where
developers on WINE to avoid any chance glimpse of the MS documents for
fear that they might be tainted by the license conditions.

Presumably over here the EU measures are intended to prevent MS bullying
SAMBA.  The protocol information must be released Free, or it will be
completely useless.

It would also be very useful in the argument over Article 6a
(Interoperability) in the Patents Directive, if we could get the
Competition directorate to understand why Free rather than RAND makes
all the difference.

The Economist even suggests it might be in MS's own long term best interest:

> In other words, Microsoft may some day conclude that the costs of constant regulatory battles—legal costs, fines, bad publicity, and bad relationships with governments—exceed the benefits of its Windows monopoly... One approach would be to hand some of its Windows protocols over to an independent standards body... This seems unimaginable now. But unless governments find the political will and legal arguments needed to break the firm up, it may be the only way its legal battles will ever end.

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