April 11, 2002

Microsoft attacks Free Software developers with new license

Microsoft, in its new "Royalty-Free CIFS Technical Reference License
Agreement", unequivocally targets Free Software developers who choose
copyleft licensing terms. Microsoft's new license directly attacks
the GNU General Public License (GPL) and the GNU Lesser General Public
License (LGPL)----licenses published by the Free Software Foundation
(FSF) and used prominently by numerous Free Software projects
worldwide

Microsoft has veiled this attack in the trappings of a "gift".
Microsoft agrees to grant royalty-free permission to use and exercise
their CIFS patents in Free Software, but only to a limited set of
developers. Under the guise of fulfilling its obligations under the
anti-trust settlement, Microsoft has singled out developers and
companies who choose copyleft licenses (such as GPL and LGPL).
Software distributors of copylefted software are forbidden from
exercising the patents royalty-free, and thus are effectively
forbidden from exercising the patents at all under copyleft. In
effect, Microsoft has vindicated the warnings FSF
set forth in its Tunney act filing for the Proposed Revised Final
Judgment in United States vs. Microsoft
. Namely, the settlement
terms are not in the public interest because it places insufficient
requirements on Microsoft to give Free Software developers equal and
fair access to its APIs.

Microsoft's tactics were of no surprise to Bradley M. Kuhn, executive
director of the FSF, who pointed out: "Microsoft's new assault follows
a year's worth of rhetoric aimed at slandering the GPL and those who,
in the name of software freedom, advocate the use of GPL. Now, that
war of words has been followed up with a legal attack. As Mundie's
speeches tried and failed to do last summer, Microsoft seeks to
pressure existing GPL'ed projects to give up copyleft. Microsoft
loves non-copylefted Free Software; it allows them to benefit from the
commons without contributing back. In copylefted Free Software,
Microsoft now faces a rival that they cannot buy nor run out of
business. As expected, they've turned to their patent pool as their
last resort to assail us". Fortunately, developers of GPL'ed code
stand united in rejecting this anti-competitive act by Microsoft. The
FSF is also encouraging key industry leaders who distribute and rely
on GPL'ed software to stand against Microsoft on this matter.

This situation exemplifies the dire threat software patents have
against software freedom. Fortunately, software patents do not exist
in every country. The FSF urges citizens in software-patent-free
countries to demand that their governments categorically reject
software patents. Kuhn noted: "the best way to fight Microsoft as
they offensively assert their patent rights is to convince your
government not to recognize software patents as a legitimate use of
patent law". The fight against software patents is particularly
urgent in Europe, as the European Union may decide to permit software
patents soon. Europeans citizens are encouraged to support efforts
opposing software patents for the EU. For more information, see
www.freepatents.org.

Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as
in freedom) software---particularly the GNU operating system and its
GNU/Linux variants---and free documentation for free software. The FSF
also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of
freedom in the use of software. Their web site, located at
http://www.gnu.org, is an important source of information about
GNU/Linux. They are headquartered in Boston, MA, USA.

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is
permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Contact Bradley Kuhn, pr@fsf.org

Click Here!