Summary: More evidence that the attacks against IBM are actually coming from Microsoft and that Müller plays a role in it (Müller set up his anti-IBM blog when he got connected with CCIA’s Executive VP, who works with Microsoft)
WE keep promising to depart from this overreported subject, but as the plot thickens this becomes harder to avoid. Previous posts about TurboHercules vs IBM are:
- Microsoft Proxy Attack on GNU/Linux Continues With TurboHercules
- Eye on Security: Windows Malware, Emergency Patches, and BeyondTrust’s CEO from Microsoft
- IBM Uses Software Patents Aggressively
- IBM’s Day of Shame
- IBM Will Never be the Same After Taking Software Patents Out of Its Holster
- Thumbs up to Ubuntu for Removing a Part of Microsoft; TurboHercules Likely a Psystar-Type Microsoft Shell
- Why IBM Does Deserve Scrutiny (Updated)
- Patents Roundup: Fordham Conference for Software Patents in Europe, NZOSS Responds to Pro-Software Patents Lobbyists, and TurboHercules’ Ties With Microsoft Explained
For those who are not aware, Florian Müller became a lobbyist, but whose lobbyist? More recently he became known for his attempts to derail the Munich migration to GNU/Linux. Florian Schießl, one of the people leading the Munich migration, currently writes: “Wow, Florian Müller’s Blog started just a few days ago. Only a PR campaign, nothing to do with #swpat in real, imho http://is.gd/bm4BA #fail” (and to Rui Seabra he says that “the whole #IBM patent story is just another PR stunt by the “famous” lobbyist Florian Müller.”).
Müller is still at it on more than a daily basis. It’s like a nonstop attack on IBM in a brand new blog (it’s the same in Maureen O’Gara’s ‘blog’ [1, 2] at the moment). To clarify again, Techrights believes that evidence is sufficient to call TurboHercules a “Microsoft proxy” (see this article from Timothy Prickett Morgan), but IBM’s overall attitude towards software patents has always been a problem in general. According to this, “IBM Denies Open Source Sellout” (which is true). This is not about IBM “selling out” but about IBM defending itself from Microsoft attacks; nonetheless, IBM does not help Open Source by promoting software patents. As the president of the FFII showed this morning using an IBM document
[PDF], “IBM believes harmonisation should occur along lines which endorse the current practice and case law of the EPO.” For the uninitiated, “harmonisation” is a way of bringing software patents to Europe.
All or at least several of the letters exchanged between IBM and TurboHercules are available from TurboHercules (which may have had something to do with the sensationalised, self-serving leak to Müller). Some of the details there reveal IBM’s pride which it takes in software patents and even its contribution to the guidelines developed by the European Patent Office (EPO).
“As for Microsoft, in a perfect world, someone will in due time bring an complaint against Microsoft for arranging antitrust complaints against its competition.”
–Pamela Jones, GroklawHere is Groklaw’s initial take on the TurboHercules vs IBM case (written in “News Picks” before publishing a whole post): “Here’s my take. First, on the author’s use of arguments about Apple and monopoly markets, the courts already ruled that Apple doesn’t have a monopoly in the relevant market, so that analogy isn’t legally on point. Beyond that, remember when Microsoft said their competitors would be having antitrust issues? Remember when Maureen O’Gara was one of the very first to write about the TurboHercules antitrust threat to IBM, almost a year ago? And now Florian Mueller, who disrupted the Munich switch to Linux and later famously tried to use MySQL’s license as a way to block the Oracle-Sun deal, including them suggesting that the GPL license be tossed overboard in favor of a BSD-like license, now appears in the TurboHercules story, attacking IBM. What might that tell us? The Microsoft gang’s all here? That this is a manufactured anti-trust issue? That if you are a competitor of Microsoft, someone will file an antitrust complaint against you? You think? Here’s TurboHercules’s take on why they filed, so you can have the whole picture. I can’t speak for the entire open source community, just for myself. But if Florian Mueller tells me to go to the right, I’m inclined immediately to look to the left or straight up or down for alternative options. As for Microsoft, in a perfect world, someone will in due time bring an complaint against Microsoft for arranging antitrust complaints against its competition. They should put more energy into creating good products. Then they wouldn’t have to resort to such tactics.”
A lot more discussion is going on in IRC (logs available online), but here is the gist of it.
“Müller added a LinkedIn connection to Erika Mann, CCIA’s Executive Vice President and head of CCIA’s European office…”One thing that came up some time between March 22nd and March 29th is that Müller added a LinkedIn connection to Erika Mann, CCIA’s Executive Vice President and head of CCIA’s European office (Microsoft and CCIA work together [1, 2]). That was just before he started to attack IBM like he also attacked Oracle some months ago (along with the GPL). He even created a new blog for this purpose.
We are a little saddened to see that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) points the finger at what he calls “Linux fans”* (hello, hypocrisy) and blames them for IBM’s PR damage.
That’s not to say that Linux doesn’t have its share of internal battles that don’t do anyone any good. Free software founder Richard M. Stallman’s insistence that Linux should be called GNU/Linux puzzles more people than it does bringing anyone to Linux, or GNU/Linux if you insist. In the last few days though, another Linux family fight has erupted.
This time around, it’s open-source developer and anti-patent political lobbyist Florien Mueller accusing IBM of breaking its promises to the FOSS (free and open-source software) community of not using patents against it. Mueller’s is ticked off that TurboHercules, an open-source z/OS emulator company, over its possible misuse of IBM patents, which includes two that’s covered by IBM’s pledge to not sue open-source companies or groups using these patents.
I have several problems with this. First, as Pamela Jones of Groklaw points out, TurboHercules started the legal fight with IBM and the open-source software license it uses isn’t compatible with the GPL–the license that covers Linux. Second, this is really just a standard-issue business fight that involves patents. It does not, as Mueller would have it, show that “After years of pretending to be a friend of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), IBM now shows its true colors. IBM breaks the number one taboo of the FOSS community and shamelessly uses its patents against a well-respected FOSS project, the Hercules mainframe emulator.”
There is an old problem here. SJVN must understand that patents are probably the #1 barrier to GNU/Linux adoption, so software patents must go. Here is an excellent article/commentary from Dj Walker-Morgan at The H:
Patents could lead to the mutually assured destruction of the software industry and the parading of pledged patents in the opening of a dispute between IBM and TurboHercules threatens to upset the only progress towards a safer world for open source.
Patents are akin to the missiles of the Cold War. The super powers of the software industry have built up large arsenals of them to give them bargaining power. But if all companies who held patents were to pursue all infringements of their patents at the same time, there would be nothing left of the entire IT industry except the legal departments.
That said, it is somewhat essential to isolate the overarching problems with patents from the specific problem of the pledged patents. The former is a systemic problem which requires complex negotiation, legal reforms and an industry wide consensus that the problem exists in the first place. The latter though is a specific problem, one that IBM can immediately resolve by saying “Sorry, those two patents were not meant to be there”. That one move would reassure the community. IBM could, possibly, enhance their good reputation in the community by creating a new 2010 patent pledge which puts more of IBM’s near 50,000 strong arsenal of patents “beyond use” against open source software.
The only real solution is to invalidate them all or issue a legal contract that renders them useless. This is not realistic (too Utopian) given that IBM uses its patents to milk competitors and make over $1 billion per year doing almost nothing. IBM is now obliged to do this for shareholders. This is unfortunate because they use patents as a welfare system that mostly funds lawyers and cannot be afforded by most companies in the same arena**. These companies do complain sometimes, so ideally, IBM should let go and not carry on controlling using patents, however quietly.
In a recent patent filed at the USPTO, Microsoft has sought to bolster its product offerings with an interesting recommendation engine. Inspired by the recommendation algorithm incorporated on websites like YouTube, Microsoft TV’s recommendation engine will recommend TV shows, movies based on user interests as well as the program’s functional value.
This is just a fence. Who would benefit from such a patent except Microsoft? And doesn’t that involve profiling (euphemism for “spying on”) a user’s activity?
Stephen O’Grady has the following take on the subject of IBM:
The case also illustrates what RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady calls “the inevitable outcome of software patents: They get used.”
O’Grady is against software patents, “not for ideological reasons, but because it is self-evident to me that there is no reasonable mechanism for evaluating and granting patents,” he told LinuxInsider.
** IBM could reform the system if it wanted to (IBM’s Kappos runs the USPTO), but that would not be beneficial to IBM’s shareholders. The “indemnification” advantage IBM markets to customers is also a way for IBM to suppress use of GNU/Linux that’s not from IBM (e.g. plain Debian).