[FSFE PR][EN] FSFE: "Microsoft seeking to bypass decisions of European Court"

Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) press at fsfeurope.org
Fri Feb 11 16:20:59 CET 2005

FSFE: "Microsoft seeking to bypass decisions of European Court"

"My local shop has a rule that they don't serve women. This is not
discriminatory because the same rule applies to both males and
females equally." Software giant Microsoft seems to behave similar
to the shop owner after a decision of European Court.

Spring last year, EU Commissioner Mario Monti imposed a penalty of 
nearly 500 million Euro on Microsoft, as well as some additional 
conditions. One of those conditions are the publication of so called 
software interfaces.

Software interfaces determine how computers communicate with each other 
to exchange information. This information is important for several Free 
Software projects. One of these is SAMBA, which connects the UNIX and 
GNU/Linux world with Microsoft's operating system and works against the 
monopoly that Microsoft has established on the operating system market.
Without access to the software interface information, SAMBA will have a 
hard time keeping up.

Microsoft appealed against this decision in front of European Court of
Justice and asked to suspend the decision until the proceeding has come
to a final decision in possibly four years. European Court refused this
suspension December last year. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
supported the European Commission throughout this procedure. Officially
Microsoft says it wants to cooperate with the Commission and to comply
with the conditions. 

Microsoft has published an agreement which allows Free Software projects
like SAMBA to use the software interface information, but bans it from 
publishing the software as Free Software.

"That is not even complying with the wording of European Court's 
decision - not to mention its spirit!" Stefano Maffulli, Italian 
Chancellor of FSFE says. Microsoft requests a "Per User Royalty" from 
Free Software projects: "Obviously, while paying royalties is not
impossible in principle as una-tantum, with Free Software nobody knows
exactly how many copies use a certain program are circulating, as Free
Software is allowed to be copied as often as necessary, freely.",
Maffulli says.

FSFE Lawyer Carlo Piana adds: "It seems that Microsoft has misunderstood
the actual meaning of the decision. I cannot enter into details, but it
has offered a license as though it would have to license its software,
while all which is demanded is to release certain information as to the
'language spoken' by its applications." 

This is the same kind of information that any software company is
entitled to acquire and use by reverse engineering, to produce an
independent product or buy buying a license to standards like POSIX.

Piana adds: "Moreover, the license offered only applies to the European
Economic Area (but it is governed by the laws -- and put under the
jurisdiction -- of the USA.) Not to say about the agreement requested
for evaluating the licensed software, which is incredibly burdensome and
only allows inspection for total 48 hours. According to Microsoft
testimony, the inspected documentation would pile up 'tens of thousand
pages', you can do the math! It took more than four hours to me just to
study the contracts... And those who have inspected the information
loose the possibility to work on the development of similar products for
one year.  We cannot even start a discussion on this basis."

"We have communicated our concerns to the Commission and we are full of
confidence that Brussels will bear them in mind: for European consumers
it is a must that SAMBA and any other Free Software developer is allowed
to publish Free Software on the basis of the given interface
information.  Secondly nothing else than a single payment is acceptable
to us. And thirdly we have to take care that Microsoft does not try to
protect its monopoly with software patents on these interface
informations. It is really difficult to follow all the dodges they do",
Maffulli says, "but FSFE will be awake to avoid Microsoft making paper
tigers out of decisions of the European Court!"

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

   The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charitable
   non-governmental organisation dedicated to all aspects of Free
   Software in Europe. Access to software determines who may participate
   in a digital society. Therefore the Freedoms to use, copy, modify and
   redistribute software - as described in the Free Software definition-
   allow equal participation in the information age. Creating awareness
   for these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and
   giving people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are
   central issues of the FSFE.  The FSFE was founded in 2001 as the
   European sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation in the
   United States.

   Further information: http://www.fsfeurope.org

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Thank you very much for your interest.

Joachim Jakobs <jj at office.fsfeurope.org>
Press Speaker - FSF Europe (http://fsfeurope.org)
Heinrich-Heine-Str. 3, D-67134 Birkenheide (Tel: +49-179-6919565)

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