Microsoft-sponsored lobbyist to the EU: It's a mistake to floss us

Microsoft-sponsored lobbyist to the EU: It's a mistake to floss us

Summary: TechWorld's Matthew Broersma writes:A leaked letter to the European Commission has revealed the extent of lobbying by proprietary software groups to prevent the widespread adoption of open-source software....Sent in response to a recent report on the role of open-source software in the European economy, Microsoft-funded pressure group, the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) warned of potentially dire effects if too much encouragement was given to open source software development....

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TOPICS: Open Source
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TechWorld's Matthew Broersma writes:

A leaked letter to the European Commission has revealed the extent of lobbying by proprietary software groups to prevent the widespread adoption of open-source software....Sent in response to a recent report on the role of open-source software in the European economy, Microsoft-funded pressure group, the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) warned of potentially dire effects if too much encouragement was given to open source software development....The ISC is an organisation created to oppose government efforts in Europe, the US, South America and elsewhere, to give preference to open-source or open standards-based systems. According to critics such as Bruce Perens, the ISC largely pursues a pro-Microsoft agenda, though the group itself emphasises that it has more than 300 members....Lueders sent the letter on 10 October to leaders of the Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry, in response to an EC-commissioned study into the role of open source software in the European economy (referred to by Lueders as Free/Libre/Open Source, or FLOSS).

Techworld has posted a PDF of the letter and I transcribed some of it into text.  As I read the letter, I found myself wanting to transcribe the entire thing. You should read the whole thing but here are just some of the noteworthy excerpts:

The "Initiative for Software Choice" (ISC, www.softwarechoice.org), is a global coalition of over 300 information and communications technology (ICT) firms and associations offering a wide range of hardware, software, and services. Our purpose is to promote an open and competitive market where companies may do business without fear of discrimination.

While we believe the study does add more information to this complex issue, it does not holistically reflect the full dynamics now occuring in the vibrant software marketplace. To this end, we offer our expertise and stand ready to meet with the authors of this report to help them gain added insight into the narrow role governments play in promoting software development.... 

Furthermore, the study illustrates that Europe is leading the rest of the world in terms of FLOSS market penetrate and development. Given the success of this FLOSS business model, the need for measures to develop further support for a model that is already flourishing on its own accord seems unnecessary. 

The ISC is concerned that the report's approach fails to consider the achievements of other forms of software licensing and business models. This is to some extent understandable since the report is a study primarily on the FLOSS model. Yet the FLOSS model cannot be extricated from the environment in which it exists - it is not an island unto itself. Where the report seemingly recognises this, it acknowledges other models in a denigrating manner, that they only contribute "headaches to FLOSS" instead of informing the competitive dynamic. Alternative software distribution models - such as proprietary, hybrid models - produced great products, but that success has been greatly obscured and distorted. Balance in this regard is missing, casting, we believe, aspersions on the overall findings and making the study look more like a marketing document than a serious survey of this exceedingly complex and dynamic matter....

...In practice, the market so far has largely opted for the proprietary model, a choice which should not be ignored, regadless of the purported advantages that the FLOSS system offers....

....A variety of different standards must be maintained so as to provide for the most efficient and workable technological solutions to be developed. At present a range of standards are currently in place throughout various and government platforms [DB's note: since it wasn't mentioned, we can assume that not all of these standards are open. The statement is broad enough to include defacto proprietary standards] which have been developed to most efficiently meet the needs of specific operational requirements. More specifically, licensed and non-licensed (FLOSS-friendly) standards (ie: non-RAND standards) must take this into account [DB's note: RAND stands for "reasonable and non-discriminatory" and it's a form of royalty-based licensing that is associated with proprietary (neither "open" or "unencumbered") technologies]. Taking action that could potentially dislodge such standards would disrupt the entire software ecosystem.

It's that last excerpt that will likely frost advocates of open standards and open source (two very different but often related things). If I read it correctly, the authors are taking issue with the chance that free or open source software could dislodge certain defacto-but-proprietary standards and that this would be harmful for a variety of economic reasons. Is the assumption that technology decision makers (governments, businesses, or otherwise) can't decide for themselves whether or not it's time to dump something proprietary for something a bit more open? 

Anyway, the letter makes some interesting points and could easily serve as the inspiration for a thesis on the balance between proprietary technologies, open standards, and free/open source software (note: free software and open source software are not necessarily the same thing). 

Topic: Open Source

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5 comments
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  • Thanks for the silver bullet...

    ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • Intelligent and Elegant

    shills . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • and the losers lobbying EU, thats considered fair

    Its pretty evident the business tactics used by IBM.

    SUN the other big loser who cant compete along with Symantec and McAfee, Adobe (who cant think straight and shoot themselves in the foot).


    They lobbying the EU is perfectly fine. Cant compete in the market place and so lets get the EU to do our dirty work.
    They werent called by the EU. Instead they approached the EU. All this is find and dandy with you.

    How about providing a fair and balanced report. Its pretty evident that all you care about is Microsoft losing.
    zzz1234567890
    • So is this more Abramoff-style lobbying?

      How about a comparison of the techniques used by Abramoff with those used in the EU supporting Microsoft.

      Remember that Brad Smith Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft worked at Covington & Burling and closely with Bill Neukom.

      Smith and Neukom are peas in the same pod. Perhaps even clones.

      Neukom, while wearning the hat Brad Smith now does, apparently hired lobiests recommended by Abramoff while Abramoff was at Preston Gates and Ellis and this is how Microsoft avoided the sanctions Reno's DOJ was trying to have implemented.

      So lets see how it might work.

      Money is laundered into a trade association with strings attached. That money is designated for salary of key persons in the association who can be counted on to hold Microsoft's interests and make it appear there is member support for Microsoft initiatives. (Appearance is Reality use to be Bill Gates' motto).

      The money might even be conditional on the hiring of the Microsoft faithful. Thats Abramoff-style (really Preston Gates and Ellis style) likely Covington & Burling style lobbying.

      I say... secret ballot the membership. See if the membership really believes what it is said to.

      Frank L. Mighetto CCP
      mighetto
  • Patent link

    Although this does not directly link to patents, one of the factors faced by the anti-patent movement was that patents could have been very damaging to FLOSS. During the anti-softwarepatent campaign in the EU last year a lot of "dodgy" lobby groups were found to be operating. One good example was the Campaign for Creativity (C4C).

    This supposedly represented artists & creatives across Europe but was actually a paid lobbyist called Simon Gentry who admitted that [i]"the campaign is ?supported by? corporations including software multinationals Microsoft and SAP"[/i]. See here for more details
    http://www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/prc4c.html

    Now we have it again. Another dodgy lobby group trying to close down FLOSS from a different angle. I don't care what anyone says about Microsoft not being worried by FLOSS, their actions tell a very different story.

    I shall forward the letter to my MEPs and to other interested parties.
    bportlock