FSFE engages in the EU browser case

Bernhard Reiter reiter at fsfeurope.org
Wed Mar 25 08:03:26 UTC 2009

Hi Florian,

On Sunday 22 March 2009, Florian Weimer wrote:
> * Bernhard Reiter:
> > What is the difference of Microsoft integrating IE into Windows
> > to Mandriva integrating Konqueror into KDE?
> Yes, this is a less provocative way of putting it.
> Actually, I'm mainly concerned about Debian.  I would like that the
> Debian Project is free to decide what to put on the installation media
> (and what to include in the main distribution).

yes, Debian and other GNU/Linuxdistributions can do as they like
and FSFE likes to keep it this way. (I think we've mentioned this in the last 
press release.)

> > One difference is obvious, and this is market share.
> > Microsoft's very large market share has put them in a unique position
> > to do misschief in other areas.
> Dominant market shares lie well below historic Microsoft-like levels.
> I have trouble with arguments along the lines, "it's okay when we do
> it because we're so much smaller".  We don't really know how small or
> big we are, and I think the FSF is the dominant licensing organization
> in quite a few areas.

I think each antitrust case is unique, that is why it is considered. 
FSF's licensing position is completely different to Microsoft's Desktop vendor 
situation, even when the GNU GPL is the most dominant license used. So it is 
not just size that makes the difference here.

I also would have had a problem if our only argument would be size,
but it is not.

> > As far as I can say Microsoft has done deliberate technical (and other)
> > decisions for the sole purpose of obstructing their competition in the
> > browser market.
> "Sole purpose"?  I think this point can be made with regard to the OEM
> distribution agreements in the mid-90s.  But beyond that, I think
> there are valid technical concerns as well, such as reduced support
> overhead and more manageable regression testing, and questions of
> technology licensing.

Well, that is the point that need to be shown to the commission.
Maybe on a few of these actions there can be arguments for a double purpose.
It will needed to be determined for each point. 
In any case IT-technology is so important for society now that even if there 
is a theoretical double purpose, society has a strong interest to repair the 
market failure which lead to less competition, thus less innovation and worse 
software than what we could have had.

> > Because there is Free Software like Iceweasel and Konqueror
> > competing with Microsoft's offerings, supporting the EC is useful
> > for FSFE.
> Even if they don't comply with open Internet standards?  (Note that in
> this context, as used by the Commission, "open" does not exclude
> RAND-licensed patents.)

Yes, all browsers have pushed the envelope in allowing stuff
and the current "web" standards are so complicated that there is probably no 
software being completely in compliance with it.
Mainly the standard is what small page providers need to address,
and this is set by the dominant browser.

> I also don't see what's in this for the FSFE.  I understand that for
> some companies, extorting money from a market leader is a viable
> business, and the EU seems to like this approach, too.  However, none
> of this strengthens the EU software industry, or promotes free
> software.  And any strong precedent against bundling will likely harm
> free software distributors in the long run (and distributors in the
> embedded space are probably affected in the short term).

It is not about bundling per se nor about money directly. It is about using 
the bundling to unfairly promote your own business and to exclude competitors.
If this "abuse" stops, Konqueror or Iceweasel 
will have better chances to compete.
And money is one of the way to put pressure on a company, maybe the only 
effective way in the end to punish them for unlawful behaviour.

You can see a noticable difference in Microsoft's behaviour regarding protocol 
documentation after the last actions of the EU commission. This was a step 
forward for the competition and Free Software. FSFE enages in the browser case 
because we believe it is possible to reach another step forward.

FSFE -- Coordinator Germany                                   (fsfeurope.org)
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