FSF Europe Joins Microsoft Antitrust Fray

The organization plans a response to the EC's criticisms of Microsoft's protocol-licensing proposal.

The Free Software Foundation Europe says it is planning to take a more active role in ensuring that Microsoft adequately complies with the European Unions antitrust remedies, the organization said on Wednesday.

"We are feeling the likelihood that Microsoft will come up with something useful is less than zero," said Carlo Piana, a partner with Tamos Piana and Partners, which represents the FSFE. Instead of criticizing Microsoft Corp.s proposals, the FSFE decided to come up with its own, Piana said.

The organizations move follows last weeks indications from the European Commission, the executive branch of EU government, that it is not satisfied with Microsofts proposal to license its communications protocols.

The licensing program is one of the principal antitrust remedies imposed on Microsoft by the Commission last year, intended to stop Microsoft from leveraging its monopoly on desktop operating systems to extend its reach in server operating systems.

Microsoft agreed to begin implementing the remedies after a Luxembourg appeals court denied its request for a delay. The company is still appealing the broader case, a process expected to take months or years.

Piana said the FSFE could have a "working proposal" ready in "a matter of hours," although technical "sharp edges" will take longer to deal with.

Microsoft proposed a license plan that critics say is incompatible with open-source licenses such as the GNU GPL (General Public License) underlying Linux and Samba. A Microsoft spokesman told eWEEK.com that the company was willing to comply with the Commissions remedies, but said a "balance" must be found between the Commissions public interests and Microsofts legitimate intellectual property rights.

/zimages/5/28571.gifHow have European developers reacted to Microsofts protocol-licensing plan? Read more here.

Piana said Microsofts concerns are based on the false assumption that the protocols involved constitute intellectual property. "What we want are interfaces and information on how they are designed, nothing more, nothing less," he said. "There is no copyright, patent or trade-secret encumbrance to this, not in Europe nor in the U.S. law, so what are they complaining about?"

Piana said the Commission has welcomed the participation of the FSFE, which is also one of the "intervenors" presenting arguments in the ongoing antitrust appeal.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more about the nine intervenors in the Microsoft antitrust case, click here.

The protocols involved could be of real use to projects such as Samba, which allows Linux and Windows systems to interact on a network, Piana said. "We are not interested in destroying Microsoft, just to be allowed to do our job with enough breathing space," he said. "Nowadays the Samba Team spends most of its time chasing Microsofts small, arbitrary and undocumented changes."

"The Samba team has over 12 years of experience of working to interoperate with Microsoft software," said Jeremy Allison of the Samba Team, in a statement. "We know exactly what information is needed to at least restore the possibility of competition. So we will put that experience to good use in helping the European Commission."

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