[FSFE PR][EN] How to make Microsoft respect European Authorities - FSFE recommends permanent monitoring

Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) press at fsfeurope.org
Fri Apr 1 10:59:13 CEST 2005

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and the Samba Team have
presented terms explaining how Microsoft could be brought into
compliance with the decision of the European Court of First Instance
of December 2004. 

"In order to write interoperable software, developers use so-called
Interface Definition Language Files (IDL). These are currently held
secret by Microsoft, so no one else can write interoperable software.
In order to comply with its obligations, Microsoft should have to make
these available, along with a description of the encryption methods
they have employed, under a license enabling them to be implemented in
Free Software. This is the only way to make sure the Samba Team is
given a real chance to compete and interoperate with Microsoft," Georg
Greve, president of FSFE explains. He continues: "Given past
experiences, we also recommend to the Commission that it set a strict
delivery date for these specifications."

Last December, the European Court decided that Microsoft should not be
granted more time to expand its monopoly by withholding
interoperability information from competitors, requesting that the
antitrust decision of the European Commission be put into immediate

"Microsoft can no longer hide behind bland statements such as 'we will
comply', FSFE attorney Carlo Piana pointed out. "Now it is time to see
how committed they are to compliance. Our proposal is very balanced
and does not request more than the Samba Team could achieve by
'network analysis', but it forces the disclosure of the protocols in a
timely manner. We have asked the Commission to submit our proposal to
a reliable independent expert".

In the recent proposal from the FSFE [1], Samba developer Jeremy Allison
pointed out that : "IDL definitions are purely a way to describe an
interface - they describe a protocol." In order to develop
interoperable products is it necessary to have access to these
specifications. "It is similar to needing to know the grammar and
spelling rules in order to write in a language", Allison concludes.

Regarding encryption, Allison says: "Encryption of network traffic is
a well established practice and is not a Microsoft innovation. But to
successfully interoperate it is necessary to know what kind of
encryption is used, under what circumstances, and with what kind of

Regarding any compensation Microsoft feels it is entitled to, Carlo
Piana said: "The information we request is not secret because it is
valuable, it is valuable because it is secret. Additionally, we are
convinced that Microsoft has been over-compensated many times by its
monopoly position. Their extraordinary large operating profit
demonstrates that. Such profits have been made possible because of the
effects of and technological lock-ins and tying together of clients
and servers."

The only reasonable compensation that would not entirely defeat the
purpose of the European Commission decision would be a one-off fee for
obtaining a copy of the protocol documentation. A reasonable benchmark
for this fee might be the cost developers pay to get access to the
Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN), which contains much similar

As with the MSDN terms and conditions, it would not be unreasonable to
also charge developers for updated and revised versions of the
protocol documents. However, these would have to be supplied in a
complete and timely fashion, the FSFE and the Samba Team emphasized.

"The Free Software world has once again shown how it is capable of
providing high-quality work even under adverse circumstances," Georg
Greve summarizes. "With the input of FSFE and the Samba Team to the
European Commission, they now hold in their hands what is needed to
make their decision have consequences. Taking into account how
Microsoft struggled to 'comply' with the decision, however, we 
recommend that they constantly monitor Microsoft's behaviour."

Background: The FSFE has been involved as third party in the
  original investigation and also the European Court case. It was
  originally admitted to the court to defend the interests of the
  Samba Team and is now permitted to bring up any aspect relevant to
  Free Software. The Samba Team and FSFE worked as one team during the
  entire proceedings and Samba representative Jeremy Allison spoke on
  behalf of FSFE at the European Court.

[1] http://www.avvocatinteam.com/repository/request.tar.gz

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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