[FSFE PR][EN] FSFE: "Microsoft locks in customers and pushes
software patents to prevent competition."
press at fsfeurope.org
Fri Apr 21 12:37:08 CEST 2006
FSFE: "Microsoft locks in customers and pushes software patents to prevent
"Microsoft's software locks in users and now the company is lobbying to get
this lock-in effect legalised by software patents" is the basic message of a
feature article Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has published on its
website  today.
The article - written by FSFE's vice president Jonas Öberg and FSFE's lawyer
Carlo Piana explains: "Any Business - regardless whether it is a small
startup, a global car manufacturer or a public authority - regularly runs a
net consisting of GNU/Linux-, Unix- and Apple-based machines on the one hand
and Windows on the other. Communication works fine within these two worlds.
But not in between. There, co-operation lacks - n ot due to a law of nature
but Microsoft does not want Windows to be understood by other operating
The European Commission at present is trying to force the software giant to
publish interoperability information that allows seamless communication
between these two worlds. FSFE supports the Commission as third party since
the original investigation in 2001. Monday, April 24th a five-day trial - the
longest in European history - starts in Luxembourg.
The outcome of this suit will be seminal for the future information society:
"Developers have been struggling to use reverse-engineering to replicate the
behaviour of a Windows server, but this is a very cumbersome method and it
has its limits: Without proper documentation of the protocols and
specifications, any competitor will always lag behind the company that can
introduce arbitrary changes of the interface language, as Microsoft has been
doing," FSFE president Georg Greve explains. "Software patents could add a
whole new dimension to this problem: Not only would any competitor find
themselves in an extremely disadvantaged position in trying to compete with
the monopoly. If patents are granted on these interfaces, implementing
interoperability constitutes potential software patent infringement.
Competition itself could de-facto become illegal."
So while Microsoft is still fighting to not publish specifications and
protocols to enable equal grounds for competition, at the same time it
lobbies hard to establish a legal basis for the software patents it has filed
throughout the past years. Paradoxically, the same European Commission that
fights so hard to even the grounds for competition in European Court supports
this quest that threatens to make competition itself de-facto illegal.
The feature artice points it out: "Even if the company is forced to publish
its secret software protocols or leave key features out of Windows, a
European software patent law might eventually let it stamp out competition
from Free Software. Though two previous attempts at enacting a European
software patent were defeated, Charlie McCreevy, Europe's commissioner for
Internal Markets and Services could well resurrect the project this year."
Translations of this feature article can be found in Spanish, French, Italian
and German early next week.
About the Free Software Foundation Europe
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSF Europe) 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
of these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and
giving people freedom by supporting development of Free Software are
central issues of the FSF Europe, which was founded in 2001 as the
European sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation in the
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