The Be Very Afraid Tour

by on May 16, 2007 · 26 comments

An excellent explanation by Eben Moglen about why geeks are so outraged about Novell’s agreement with Microsoft:

Our friend Mark Blafkin objects that free software partisans have often claimed that Microsoft patents were a threat to free software when it suited them. This is true, but it’s kind of beside the point. The problem with Microsoft’s behavior isn’t what they say about their patents. The problem is the implicit threat their statements embody.

When Microsoft says “Linux infringes 245 patents and they’d better pay up,” that’s entirely different from a potential litigation target saying “Linux infringes 245 bogus patents and so we’d better change patent law to make sure we don’t get sued.” It’s kind of like the difference between a shopkeeper saying “I’m worried the Mafia breaking my store’s windows so we need increased police protection” and a Mafia don saying “that’s a nice shop you’ve got, it would be a shame if something happened to it.”

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    I would argue that the Free Software and anti-patent partisans have done MORE than Microsoft ever could to spread FUD about Microsoft’s patents. Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes. If MS really has the intention of creating FUD, the FSF and Microsoft conspiracy theorists are enablers and promoters of the cause. For them to then feign resentment and surprise at Microsoft’s announcement, reeks of hypocrisy…among other things.

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    I would argue that the Free Software and anti-patent partisans have done MORE than Microsoft ever could to spread FUD about Microsoft’s patents. Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes. If MS really has the intention of creating FUD, the FSF and Microsoft conspiracy theorists are enablers and promoters of the cause. For them to then feign resentment and surprise at Microsoft’s announcement, reeks of hypocrisy…among other things.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Mark, are you claiming that Microsoft is not plainly hinting that people who develop and use free software might get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement some day?

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Oh Tim, don’t fall into the FSF FUD machine! You’re too smart for that.

    No, I actually do not believe that Microsoft is “plainly hinting” or outright saying they will sue “people who develop and use free software.” Companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software that infringes on MIcrosofts patents (or MS says infringes),however, would be right to see this as a “hint.”

    I believe they said that have no intention of suing anyone in the Fortune piece, and they really have no incentive to. As for individual developers, I believe they would be covered by the non-assertion provision that came out of the Novell deal.

    It is a clever strategy, however, to gin up the base by saying “Microsoft is going to sue for working on the Samba project at night.” The Microsoft paranoids will immediately believe it despite the fact that it makes no logical sense at all.

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    I would argue that the Free Software and anti-patent partisans have done MORE than Microsoft ever could to spread FUD about Microsoft’s patents. Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes. If MS really has the intention of creating FUD, the FSF and Microsoft conspiracy theorists are enablers and promoters of the cause. For them to then feign resentment and surprise at Microsoft’s announcement, reeks of hypocrisy…among other things.

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    I would argue that the Free Software and anti-patent partisans have done MORE than Microsoft ever could to spread FUD about Microsoft’s patents. Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes. If MS really has the intention of creating FUD, the FSF and Microsoft conspiracy theorists are enablers and promoters of the cause. For them to then feign resentment and surprise at Microsoft’s announcement, reeks of hypocrisy…among other things.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Mark, are you claiming that Microsoft is not plainly hinting that people who develop and use free software might get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement some day?

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    No, I actually do not believe that Microsoft is “plainly hinting” or outright saying they will sue “people who develop and use free software.” Companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software that infringes on MIcrosofts patents (or MS says infringes),however, would be right to see this as a “hint.”

    I’m confused. Aren’t “companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software” users or developers of said software? And why would anyone pay Microsoft royalties if they were certain Microsoft wasn’t going to sue them?

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Oh Tim, don’t fall into the FSF FUD machine! You’re too smart for that.

    No, I actually do not believe that Microsoft is “plainly hinting” or outright saying they will sue “people who develop and use free software.” Companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software that infringes on MIcrosofts patents (or MS says infringes),however, would be right to see this as a “hint.”

    I believe they said that have no intention of suing anyone in the Fortune piece, and they really have no incentive to. As for individual developers, I believe they would be covered by the non-assertion provision that came out of the Novell deal.

    It is a clever strategy, however, to gin up the base by saying “Microsoft is going to sue for working on the Samba project at night.” The Microsoft paranoids will immediately believe it despite the fact that it makes no logical sense at all.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    No, I actually do not believe that Microsoft is “plainly hinting” or outright saying they will sue “people who develop and use free software.” Companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software that infringes on MIcrosofts patents (or MS says infringes),however, would be right to see this as a “hint.”

    I’m confused. Aren’t “companies that are raking in cash as a result of free software” users or developers of said software? And why would anyone pay Microsoft royalties if they were certain Microsoft wasn’t going to sue them?

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Tim, come on…you used the term “people” suggesting individual developers working on the projects at night, for free. It is a nice rhetorical trick, but it is totally innacurate. IBM, RedHat, etc. don’t make appealing victims, so it’s better to make it seems like Microsoft has poor defenseless individuals and small companies in its sights. Not likely as I’m sure you’re aware. There is no incentive for Microsoft to sue them individually. It’s not like the RIAA who wants to send a message to individuals.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes.

    Mark, Mark this is so hysterical! “Pure unadultetrated evil” really, you go overboard with the superlatives.

    As one who just believes in freedom, I don’t like it when MS tries to take it away, but I like very much somethings MS is doing, like funding the Gates Foundation–that’s very good stuff.

    Just because the FSF opposes some things MS does, does not make them raving lunatics.

    Quite the contrary; your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    Tim:
    Good clip.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    OK, so if I develop free software on my own at night, I won’t get sued. But if company hires me to work on free software for them, Microsoft might sue my employer? That’s supposed to make me feel better?

    In any event, you seem to be agreeing that Microsoft is plainly hinting that companies–if not individuals–who develop and use free software might get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement some day. Since the GPL is designed to protect the freedom of all free software users, not just non-corporate ones, I don’t see what’s misleading about the FSF’s warnings.

    I don’t think I’ve seen Eben Moglen or anyone else in the free software camp express surprise at Microsoft’s threats. They certainly express resentment, but that’s not surprising, is it? Wouldn’t you be resentful if someone publicly accused you of stealing their “property,” but refused to disclose any details on what was stolen?

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Tim, come on…you used the term “people” suggesting individual developers working on the projects at night, for free. It is a nice rhetorical trick, but it is totally innacurate. IBM, RedHat, etc. don’t make appealing victims, so it’s better to make it seems like Microsoft has poor defenseless individuals and small companies in its sights. Not likely as I’m sure you’re aware. There is no incentive for Microsoft to sue them individually. It’s not like the RIAA who wants to send a message to individuals.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Their belief that Microsoft is pure unadulterated evil leads them to wild delusions about the malevolent intentions behind every move Microsoft makes.

    Mark, Mark this is so hysterical! “Pure unadultetrated evil” really, you go overboard with the superlatives.

    As one who just believes in freedom, I don’t like it when MS tries to take it away, but I like very much somethings MS is doing, like funding the Gates Foundation–that’s very good stuff.

    Just because the FSF opposes some things MS does, does not make them raving lunatics.

    Quite the contrary; your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    Tim:
    Good clip.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    OK, so if I develop free software on my own at night, I won’t get sued. But if company hires me to work on free software for them, Microsoft might sue my employer? That’s supposed to make me feel better?

    In any event, you seem to be agreeing that Microsoft is plainly hinting that companies–if not individuals–who develop and use free software might get sued by Microsoft for patent infringement some day. Since the GPL is designed to protect the freedom of all free software users, not just non-corporate ones, I don’t see what’s misleading about the FSF’s warnings.

    I don’t think I’ve seen Eben Moglen or anyone else in the free software camp express surprise at Microsoft’s threats. They certainly express resentment, but that’s not surprising, is it? Wouldn’t you be resentful if someone publicly accused you of stealing their “property,” but refused to disclose any details on what was stolen?

  • SailorRipley

    Mark,

    you can shill all you want (actually, while reading your article on the site you link to, I almost spit my cola out), but seriously, you really should try to use some better, and less easily debunked arguments…

  • SailorRipley

    Mark,

    you can shill all you want (actually, while reading your article on the site you link to, I almost spit my cola out), but seriously, you really should try to use some better, and less easily debunked arguments…

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Enigma, please forgive my rhetorical flourish, but it was fun wasn’t it? But, come on…

    your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    says the guy who was calling me a proto-fascist just a few short days ago:-)

    I do apologize, however, because I didn’t mean to attribute those delusions to the FSF in particular (although the correlation is probably pretty high given their belief that proprietary software is immoral in itself), but many Free Software and Open Source community members. You know the type that fill up the Slashdot with conspiracy theorys and “Bill Gates is a @ss!” rhetoric. Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there. Just follow the responses to Bill Hilf’s recent post and this story about how the history of Port 25.

    Enigma, I did not call you a raving lunatic. You clearly are not, even when you get all worked up and write things you clearly don’t mean. There are many in the Free Software community, however, whose judgement is clouded when the subject of Microsoft is involved.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Enigma, I think your new tagline should be “engibma_foundry: clearly not a raving lunatic.”

  • http://blog.actonline.org Mark Blafkin

    Enigma, please forgive my rhetorical flourish, but it was fun wasn’t it? But, come on…

    your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    says the guy who was calling me a proto-fascist just a few short days ago:-)

    I do apologize, however, because I didn’t mean to attribute those delusions to the FSF in particular (although the correlation is probably pretty high given their belief that proprietary software is immoral in itself), but many Free Software and Open Source community members. You know the type that fill up the Slashdot with conspiracy theorys and “Bill Gates is a @ss!” rhetoric. Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there. Just follow the responses to Bill Hilf’s recent post and this story about how the history of Port 25.

    Enigma, I did not call you a raving lunatic. You clearly are not, even when you get all worked up and write things you clearly don’t mean. There are many in the Free Software community, however, whose judgement is clouded when the subject of Microsoft is involved.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Enigma, I think your new tagline should be “engibma_foundry: clearly not a raving lunatic.”

  • Brian Moore

    The problem isn’t Microsoft being evil, the problem is the patents (and the system for challenging patents).

    Companies act in their best interests. When a company’s IP lawyer calls one of their technology C-level people and says “you have this patent and company X is infringing on it, and if you don’t threaten them, we won’t be able to defend this patent in court” they don’t care what’s on the patent, they threaten. Because that’s what their lawyers tell them to do, and you have to listen to your lawyers, because you hired them to provide legal advice. That’s the entire point of having a patent, being able to threaten people.

    But all of that is irrelevant to the rest of the world, because we look at the patent and say “that’s a really stupid patent.” It’s like any law — we want to be able to threaten to punish people who break good laws, but we should get rid of bad laws. I am deliberately ignoring philosophical objections to the idea of patents in general, for simplicity’s sake.

    Two steps will help:

    1) The people who grant patents (especially software ones) need to be better. The number of patents that have prior art obvious even to the most pedestrian of technology users is shocking. There are a vanishingly small # of people who actually validate the propriety of patents, and it’s getting to be obvious they are just rubber-stamping them.

    2) Start challenging these ridiculous patents. Some of them are so laughably wrong that it should be easy to get them dismissed — as the speaker in the clip said, even Microsoft doesn’t want to actually analyze the content, because they’re smart enough to know its crap.

    Bad patents are the real problem here, not Microsoft or the FSF.

  • Brian Moore

    The problem isn’t Microsoft being evil, the problem is the patents (and the system for challenging patents).

    Companies act in their best interests. When a company’s IP lawyer calls one of their technology C-level people and says “you have this patent and company X is infringing on it, and if you don’t threaten them, we won’t be able to defend this patent in court” they don’t care what’s on the patent, they threaten. Because that’s what their lawyers tell them to do, and you have to listen to your lawyers, because you hired them to provide legal advice. That’s the entire point of having a patent, being able to threaten people.

    But all of that is irrelevant to the rest of the world, because we look at the patent and say “that’s a really stupid patent.” It’s like any law — we want to be able to threaten to punish people who break good laws, but we should get rid of bad laws. I am deliberately ignoring philosophical objections to the idea of patents in general, for simplicity’s sake.

    Two steps will help:

    1) The people who grant patents (especially software ones) need to be better. The number of patents that have prior art obvious even to the most pedestrian of technology users is shocking. There are a vanishingly small # of people who actually validate the propriety of patents, and it’s getting to be obvious they are just rubber-stamping them.

    2) Start challenging these ridiculous patents. Some of them are so laughably wrong that it should be easy to get them dismissed — as the speaker in the clip said, even Microsoft doesn’t want to actually analyze the content, because they’re smart enough to know its crap.

    Bad patents are the real problem here, not Microsoft or the FSF.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Enigma, please forgive my rhetorical flourish, but it was fun wasn’t it? But, come on…

    your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    says the guy who was calling me a proto-fascist just a few short days ago:-)

    Mark:

    Actually, unless you and Cord Blomquist are the same person (which is a possibility I can’t entirely discount) I will assert that I have called you no such thing.

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/05/06/microsoft-copies-an-old-playbook-from-pravda

    E_F
    clearly NOT a raving lunatic

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Enigma, please forgive my rhetorical flourish, but it was fun wasn’t it? But, come on…

    your hysterical denunciations of FSF call your own level headness into question.

    says the guy who was calling me a proto-fascist just a few short days ago:-)

    Mark:

    Actually, unless you and Cord Blomquist are the same person (which is a possibility I can’t entirely discount) I will assert that I have called you no such thing.

    http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2007/05/06/m

    E_F
    clearly NOT a raving lunatic

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