February 25, 2001

Microsoft: stop whining!

Author: JT Smith

- by Jason Reeves -
In response to Microsoft's "clarification" of Jim Allchin's comments about Linux and Open Source: So, Jim Allchin of Microsoft didn't
that the Open Source movement was evil after all. It's just that pesky
GNU Public License that is
the real "threat" to intellectual property. Microsoft specifically
cites GPL paragraph 2B:

"You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole
or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof,
to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the
terms of this License."

Then Microsoft warns that this translates to this: "anyone who adds or
innovates under the GPL agrees to make the resulting code, in its entirety,
available for all to use ... [which] might constrain innovating stemming
from taxpayer-funded software development."

Apparently spin is more important to Microsoft than actual facts (gasp!).
Microsoft's interpretation of paragraph 2B of the GPL is incorrect.
They forgot to pay attention to the clause "that you distribute or

If, for example, the CIA wants to hack the Linux kernel to do some
super secret stuff, they don't have to publish the source code they
add to the kernel as long as they don't publish the binaries.
It's that simple. And no, the resulting code doesn't automatically
become GPLed. Why? Because they didn't release or publish it to
anyone. It's internal, and they're not required to do so.

As for the US government using open source software, I don't see
what the problem is, except that maybe the government is their
biggest customer. And what has the government (and summarily all
US citizens) reaped from this close relationship with Microsoft?
One example is the USS Yorktown, which was forced to use Microsoft
software on its internal systems. You can read about it
If we were at war and one of our ships was dead in the water because
of a Blue Screen of Death...well I'm sure Microsoft could find a way
to spin that positively, too. Personally, I can't think of a better
expression of democracy than to have the government of the people,
by the people doing its work with tools built by those same people.

An organization called
Heifer Project International,
based in Little Rock, AR has for years been giving pairs of farm animals
(male and female) to poverty-stricken families in Third World countries.
The one rule that the recipients of this gift must follow is that they
must give one of the female offspring to another family, so that the
gift might continue. Would Microsoft argue that Heifer Project International
is "stifling barnyard innovation" and "threatening livestock property laws"
by making this requirement?

Microsoft is upset because it sees software that is GPLed that is better than
their own, and they are not allowed to steal it and proprietize it because of
the GPL. They look at the millions and millions of dollars they've spent
on Win32 API development, and wonder why it isn't better than code
written freely by volunteers. They just don't get it.

But the GPL isn't the only game in town. There's the
LGPL (Lesser, or Library GPL),
the Mozilla Public License,
the Apache Software License, and the
BSD License
that all allow for redistribution of modifications without source code. There
is quite a bit of quality software written under those licenses that
Microsoft can use and make proprietary (and you can bet that they already
have done this to some degree).

I'd like to personally thank
Richard Stallman
for having the foresight to form the
Free Software Foundation in 1984.
Otherwise, the GPL might not be as prevalent as it is today, and Microsoft
would own Linux. Heh. They wish.

All Content Copyright © 2001 Jason Reeves


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