Get the Facts, Get the FUD, or simply Get Distracted?

An article in CNet by Martin LaMonica talks about how Microsoft is claimed to be learning to live with Free/Libre and Open Source. "Software Manufacturing" vendors such as Microsoft and IBM are making moves which on the surface look like they accommodating, but I believe this is a distraction away from the harmful political activism they are engaged in around technology policy.

While Balmer was quoted as saying "We compete with products. We don't compete with movements", the "software manufacturing" movement has changed its anti-competitive techniques away from technical work to the political and legal activism. Rather than trying to offer the best software at the best price, they are actively lobbing to change Patent and Copyright laws to favor (or mandate) "software manufacturing".

On the copyright front I have written about how Access Control TPMs and other forms of so-called "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) are tools to tie access to culture to the purchase/use of specific "software manufacturing" brands. On the patent front it needs to be recognized that while patents can benefit "software manufacturing" vendors, the best we in the FLOSS community can do is render them harmless. Software patents and FLOSS are incompatable, with patents used against FLOSS being considered both anti-patent (nothing is learned, licensing isn't possible) and anti-competitive (the policy favors specific vendors against all competitors).

While people like to talk about Microsoft, the most successful "software manufacturer", this issue is not unique to them. While Microsoft is being watched like a hawk by the technology industry, IBM has been quietly pushing for radical policy changes. When the Canadian Intellectual Property Office had an insiders "consultation" on expanding patent law to pure software, an IBM Canada lawyer was the only vendor representative to take part. All other participants were patent lawyers, and asking a patent lawyer if more things should be patentable is like asking a used car salesman if more people should buy cars.

I believe this appearance of accommodation from these vendors is just another form of the "Get the FUD" campaigns from the past. I believe the politics of these ideologues is getting better at delivering their message, partly because they finally realize it is two movements competing (those who want central control over IT vs. decentralized citizen empowerment), and that this fight never really was about technology.

Note: I use the term "software manufacturing" to discuss software vendors who produce, distribute and fund software using the same types of techniques used in the manufacturing, retail distribution and per-unit funding of physical products. I believe this is a more accurate term than "proprietary" given all software under copyright (meaning, all software not specifically released into the public domain by its author) has an owner (proprietor), including software where its owner has licensed the software under FLOSS licensing. It is also not correct to use the term "commercial" given FLOSS can be commercial, and "software manufacturing" can be non-commercial (given away for free with no profit motive).

See also: theRegister: Microsoft must woo partners, eWeek: Microsoft Surprises with Linux 'Hands-On Lab

Article referenced by: LinuxToday