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[Updated] Is Microsoft behind the software slaughter in Central America?

Feb 11, 2000, 00:02 (87 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Adelstein)

By Tom Adelstein

[UPDATE:]
Dateline February 10, Ilopango - The crisis in El Salvador can be summed up in a few simple words from Mario Arriza - The penalties begin with $1,200 and criminal charges. Many people are afraid.

Mario also says that Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance are putting a lot of pressure to the people to buy licenses with TV ads and newspapaer ads.

Mario asks for help with Cheap CDs, Advertisements and Email support. He mentions his web site at linux.org.sv

Kent Nguyen says that he will be posting a web site at www.nt2linux.com . Also, we're reactivating lcsrc.org and will link sites together.

The later sites will need content and may not be live for 24-48 hours.

Some people have commented that it is too late to help. But, it's not too late. We have to act and act now. This story should be carried by CNN, AP, Reuters and we need to start writing people. Some recommendations include talk show hosts, Congress, magazines, newsgroups, yahoo boards, Red Hat and other distributors and whoever else you can think of.

Following is the letter received that alerted me to the situation:

Dear Sir.

I have been looking for Linux products on the Internet. They seem to be a great solution for the needs that as a country we actually have.

Last year our Government approved a new law against piracy. El Salvador has, shame on us, one of the higher rates for piracy in Latin America.

The new law will take effect on February the 15th. Prison is offered to those who violate the new law and also higher fines in cash will be given.

I need you to help me because we do not have the financial capacity to solve the license problems with the Microsoft software.

Can you send me some software to substitute applications such as: Microsoft 2000, (Excel, Word, Access, etc), Front Page, Outlook, Auto Cad?

Maybe you have the solutions for me and for thousands of PC users around here. There are a lot of opportunities for you, not only here, but also in Honduras and Nicaragua, because all of us are on the same situation.

If you are able to send me something do it to the following address:

Name withheld for obvious reasons


Dateline - February 10, 2000 Central America - Business people in Central American countries tell me they are fearful of a little known deadline of February 15th. That's when, they say, computer users have to ante up for the unauthorized use of Microsoft software they've used without paying licensing fees.

The seriousness of the matter results from the penalties -- including possible criminal charges they can expect when the software auditors show up.

One must wonder if the government clamp downs come because of pressure from a single company trying to squeeze every dollar it can into it's revenue stream? And if that's correct, one must ask who would benefit in an emerging country if Microsoft took licensing fees out of their country? The next question one might ask is why now?

The strategy, however, may backfire bigtime. All those Windows 95, 98 and NT boxes with M$ Office on them can be replaced for free by Linux and StarOffice. From there, business can keep going without skipping a beat.

So what will the Open Source community do? How about a flood of free distributions into the Latin American countries.

I ask Linux International to take a look at this. Here's the suggestion:

  • We need a central clearing site for each Central American country affected.
  • We need to place advertisements in the newspapers in Central America letting people know where they can get software and help.
  • We need everyone to join together and offer phone support for free to companies willing to make the switch.

When I say we have a deadline. Place the emphasis on the word dead. Companies can be bankrupted in these communities. I say, not on my watch.

What do you say?