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Ralph Nader Addresses the Microsoft Settlement, Expresses Special Concern for Free Software

Nov 09, 2001, 20:32 (34 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ralph Nader)
Special Concerns for Free Software Movement
The provisions in J.1 and J.2. appear to give Microsoft too much flexibility in withholding information on security grounds, and to provide Microsoft with the power to set unrealistic burdens on a rival's legitimate rights to obtain interoperability data. More generally, the provisions in D. regarding the sharing of technical information permit Microsoft to choose secrecy and limited disclosures over more openness. In particular, these clauses and others in the agreement do not reflect an appreciation for the importance of new software development models, including those "open source" or "free" software development models which are now widely recognized as providing an important safeguard against Microsoft monopoly power, and upon which the Internet depends.

The overall acceptance of Microsoft's limits on the sharing of technical information to the broader public is an important and in our view core flaw in the proposed agreement. The agreement should require that this information be as freely available as possible, with a high burden on Microsoft to justify secrecy. Indeed, there is ample evidence that Microsoft is focused on strategies to cripple the free software movement, which it publicly considers an important competitive threat. This is particularly true for software developed under the GNU Public License (GPL), which is used in GNU/Linux, the most important rival to Microsoft in the server market. Consider, for example, comments earlier this year by Microsoft executive Jim Allchin...

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