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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Microsoft, pantents and rant

One of the blogs I monitor Security Garden. It is a nice blog, which although it doesn't contain any original content, is a nice gathering place of interesting and useful pieces of information from around the Internet.

However I must take issue with two recent posts.

What irks me is that these people who steal software are the very ones who are responsible for upping the cost for everyone else. It takes additional research and development to add the anti-piracy mechanisms to the software. In addition, because of them, every time the rest of us holding legal licenses want to download software from the Microsoft site, we need to go through the WGA song & dance. It doesn't matter if it is software, a music CD, a video game, a coat or a loaf of bread. Stealing is stealing.

This comment shows in my opinion ignorance. Piracy does not affect software production costs in any significant way, because a very small percentage of the people who pirate a given software would buy it if they were forced too. Most of them just wouldn't use it. That's one of the many reasons the numbers published by organizations like the BSA are inaccurate (an other reason being that they don't take into account the fact that people might use software from non-BSA members, or even FLOSS software). Also the analogy of stealing bread is very, very bad. By now we should all have learned that with computers information sharing is not a zero sum game. If you copy something its not like the other person loses something. Stop using bad analogies because they lead to bad conclusions and bad legislation.

The second post is about the Linux community wanting to know which patents does Microsoft claim to have in the Linux code. This isn't just lawyer talk. This is of real interest to the community, because as soon as they have a specific claim and that claim turns out to be true, the developers will jump at it and rewrite it so that it no longer infringes any patents. If on the other hand Microsoft is not willing to reveal the exact details, it pretty much sounds like FUD and blackmail. After all, the intent of the patents is make information public, not to hide it (those are trade secrets).

On the same note: I was listening to a podcast (unfortunately I can't find it again, but if I do I'll post a link here), in which an ex-lawyer lady talked about how her consulting firm helps Fortune 2000 companies (yes, you've read right, 2000) to guard their IP. What I've found funny that during the whole podcast she kept using the terms IP, trade secret and patents interchangeably. She said several times that companies need to guard their patents against leaking out. Now this coming from a lawyer illustrates the level of FUD some people are spreading. Patents are meant to be public!

Show us your patents!


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