Explaining FSFE's antitrust work

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at fsfe.org
Fri Oct 24 15:01:36 UTC 2008

I've often thought that FSFE's involvement in the MS antitrust case was
unclear.  The mainstream media generally focussed on the fines, so when FSFE
was associated with the case, it might have looked like a simple exercise in
MS-bashing.  It was actually about helping Samba and free software
developers in general, so here's my attempt to explain it:
(pasted below)


I wrote it now because we've just put online our new PDF on this:

And then I saw that the Samba developers are very happy with what they're
getting due to Microsoft's compliance:

                    FSFE's antitrust victory with Samba

FSFE's role in the antitrust case was to ensure that free software
developers would be able to use any interoperability information that
Microsoft would be forced to publish. After 5 years of work, the last court
case was won last year. There were always doubts about whether Microsoft
could really be pinned down, but from Samba developer Andrew Bartlet's
blog, it seems the Samba team are now loving the interoperability

I didn't do much on this case. For FSFE, it was mostly Georg Greve and Carlo
Piana. From Samba, they worked with Andrew Tridgell, Jeremy Allison, and
Volker Lendecke.

There were other organisations involved, but FSFE played two key roles.

First, we represented the interests of free software developers. Others had
interests such as the ability of their private company to compete with MS,
or lowering the price of X or Y, or fining MS, etc. These organisations were
on our side, but they could have accepted a solution that excluded free
software. FSFE was there to constantly argue that free software must benefit
from the outcome, and to explain what this required.

The second key role was persistency. The case began with many companies
bringing evidence against Microsoft, but one-by-one they made business deals
with Microsoft and withdrew from the case. This could never happen to FSFE,
so FSFE was a reminder that the European Commission would never be left
alone on this case.

There are two other organisations worth mentioning. SSII is the only other
organisation that, like FSFE, stayed in the case from start to finish. And
ECIS is worth a mention because although they joined late, they added a lot
of strength to what we were supporting.

The antitrust case was sometimes misunderstood. The mainstream media - with
its love of simplifying topics down to numbers - constantly reported about
how much Microsoft were going to get fined. That's a pity. The fines were
never important for us. Helping Samba and other free software projects was
the important part. Done.

Some interesting links

    * Our leaflet: FSFE and the antitrust case against Microsoft
    * Our project page: Microsoft against free competition
    * Seán Daly interviews Georg, Carlo, Volkere, and Jeremy, September 17th
    * Seán interviews Georg, April 27th 2006
    * Seán interviews Carlo, March 31st 2005


Ciarán O'Riordan, +32 477 36 44 19, http://ciaran.compsoc.com/

Support free software, join FSFE's Fellowship: http://fsfe.org

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