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May 18, 2007

Microsoft vs. Open Source

OK, this has little to nothing to do with my original intent in blogging, but 1) it's timely and newsworthy and 2)I REALLY want to try to keep the front page from going blank.

Microsoft has started some saber-rattling at the open source community over alleged patent violations.

The one big problem as I see it with this type of patent protection is summed up pretty well in this quote from the article: "If every software developer had to review every patent on which he/she might be infringing before writing or releasing code, it would no longer be possible to develop software in the U.S."

By way of comparison: say I published a book back in 1990. In that book I wrote this sentence: "The dog was, in fact, stone dead." After publication, I decide that, since the book is copyrighted, I will sue anyone who ever uses that sentence in a book of their own, unless they pay me money.

It is totally possible that the writer of code could be totally unaware of any patent infringement, just as it would be possible for someone to use my sentence in a book and never have read mine. The time and labor involved in making sure that new software is not infringing on anyone's patent would effectively end open source software -- they don't have the time or the money to put into that type of research.

Microsoft doesn't like the fact that people are using Linux (especially Ubuntu) rather than Vista. They don't like the fact that people use OpenOffice rather than Office, or Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. That's fine. The solution SHOULD be to make a product people are willing to buy, that is so much better than the free alternatives that people WANT to pay money for it. Unfortunately, it's easier to threaten lawsuits (RIAA has taught us that).

For another reason that Microsoft should reconsider legal action, check out UserFriendly.

Posted by Warren Kelly at May 18, 2007 04:51 PM | TrackBack
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