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Media Contact: Free Software Foundation
Bradley M. Kuhn <pr@fsf.org>

Microsoft Attacks Free Software Developers with New License

Boston, Massachusetts, USA - Thursday, April 11, 2002 - 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 against the Proposed Revised Final Judgment in United States vs. Microsoft. As we there warned the Justice Department and the courts, the settlement terms are not in the public interest because they permit Microsoft to deny effective access to their APIs to Microsoft's most effective competitors--Free Software developers.

Microsoft's tactics were 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 http://swpat.ffii.org/.

About 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.

Copyright © 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110, USA

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Updated: $Date: 2005/05/05 19:37:19 $ $Author: novalis $