[FSFE PR][EN] The MS message: Time to invest in Free Software

Joachim Jakobs press at fsfeurope.org
Fri May 18 10:50:58 CEST 2007

The MS message: Time to invest in Free Software

In an attempt to inspire fear, uncertainty and doubt in the hearts of
the financial world, Microsoft alledged massive patent infringement by
Free Software in a recent Fortune article. [1]

According to Microsoft the Linux kernel violates 42 patents, Free
Software graphical user interfaces violate 65 patents, OpenOffice.org
productivity suite violates 45 patents, Free Software email clients
infringe 15 patents and other unspecified Free Software programs
infringe 68 patents.

On the grounds of these hitherto unsubstantiated claims, Microsoft now
seeks to cash in on the work of all the companies and developers that
earn their living through Free Software.

"Microsoft has built an empire in which it benefits from every
transaction. It can bolster and break companies at will and each and
every inhabitant of their world needs to financially pledge their
allegiance in certain intervals," explains Georg Greve, FSFE's
president. "Now that they are losing market share to a free market
economy built on Free Software, they again try to impose their vig on
the work of others."

"This is a good example of the impact of software patents. The main 
effect of such patents is not innovation, but monopolisation and 
establishing a licence to sue, or at least to slander," comments 
Shane Coughlan, FSFE's coordinator for legal activities. "Unfortunately 
Novell has given these ludicrous claims false credibility by entering 
into an agreement with Microsoft, and paying Microsoft for a promise 
not to sue its customers."

FSFE lawyer Carlo Piana continues: "I understand why Microsoft insists 
on the Novell deal, but it is not a reliable example. If one examines 
the recent history of the agreements between the two companies, 
Microsoft does not seem to be the one selling something. Two years 
ago Microsoft convinced Novell to withdraw antitrust claims against 
Microsoft, and thus its support to the European Commission [2], for 
monetary compensation. On the most recent deal the money apparently 
went in the same direction. Paying your infringer nearly one billion 
dollars in two years is quite an odd way to show reliance on your 
patents portfolio."

Novells CEO, Ron Hovsepian, has indeed published a letter [3] in which
he contradicts Microsofts claims about violation of software patents
in Free Software. But since Microsoft paid good money for the deal
they apparently wanted some return on their investment and they
selected FUD.

"Companies that sign up with Novell as a result of this deal are
wasting their shareholders' money. There is no substance to these
claims, and no need to pay anything to Microsoft to use a system that
Microsoft had no part in," explains Georg Greve, FSFE president.

"If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is that Microsoft is
getting desparate and does not know how to counter Free Software with
innovation," continues Greve. "This is a good proof of the business
success of Free Software, which is extremely stable not only
technologically, but also legally. So if you are a smart financial
analyst, this is the time to invest in Free Software."

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

   The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
   non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
   involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
   participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation
   in the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
   Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
   furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
   modify and copy. Founded in 2001, 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.

[2] http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/press-release/2005q4/000118.html
[3] http://www.novell.com/linux/microsoft/community_open_letter.html

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