|FROM ||Dave Williams
|SUBJECT ||Re: [hangout] Re: [fairuse] Re: a proposed solution
|From owner-hangout-desteny-at-mrbrklyn.com Fri Feb 14 21:22:03 2003
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Subject: Re: [hangout] Re: [fairuse] Re: a proposed solution
From: Dave Williams
To: "Stanley A. Klein"
Cc: Ruben Safir , rms-at-gnu.org, fairuse-at-mrbrklyn.com,
dyfet-at-ostel.com, bkuhn-at-ebb.org, ruben-at-rm-cpa.com, jays-at-panix.com,
hangout-at-nylxs.com, derek-at-gnue.org, fairuse-at-nylxs.com, tina-at-newsforge.com
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Date: 14 Feb 2003 21:25:10 -0500
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Reply-To: Dave Williams
List: New Yorkers Linux Scene
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On Fri, 2003-02-14 at 10:42, Stanley A. Klein wrote:
> My analysis of the situation is that anything beyond vigorous participation
> in the Q&A part of the debate would be counterproductive at some level.
> And, of course, a protest demonstration like I am describing would be
> seriously counterproductive, but that's what your rhetoric has already
> I'm open to being convinced otherwise.
> Stan Klein
I fear that you have spent so much of your time arguing with Ruben that
you seem to have avoided the numerous other people exchanging their
views on the subject. Not all of them are as hard-charging as Mr.
Safir, so you may find their analysis more agreeable.
If you have been following any other threads on the subject, then it's
possible you may not wish to be convinced. In that case, research into
the history of both the Free Software and Open Source movements may be
helpful, as well as the corporate history of Microsoft and of software
and digital technology in general.
But if you would like to read another take on the subject, my
interpretation of the argument is as follows:
There is a conference being held specifically regarding Open Source
Software in Governments (American and European). It is sponsored by an
Institute of unclear political orientation, but it is attached to George
Washington University and includes Bruce Perens as a member (in some
research capacity). The conference organizer is a lawyer named Tony
Stanco, who some time ago decided that he liked this Free Software thing
and wanted to get involved.
Although the conference description and "call for papers" describes the
event as a combination of advocacy, OS presentations and showcases for
successful projects, the language is vague enough at times to allow for
Not too long ago it was announced that Jason Matusow, Microsoft's
spokesman for their "Shared Source" program, will be presenting a speech
on his specialty. No Q&A will be held, necessarily, or any sort of
debate (although it may now be possible as a result of this pressure you
seem to dislike). Additionally, members of the "Software Choice" group
(which is specifically backed by Microsoft) will be discussing the need
to avoid mandating Open Source Software in governments.
Mr. Stanco claimed that his contacts in government asked him to invite
Microsoft. He has also stated that Microsoft wanted to be included in
the conference. He then said he met some nice people from Microsoft and
felt like it would be nice to invite them. Although the event appears
to be (at least in part) an advocacy event, he saw no conflict with
inviting people who are entirely opposed to Open Source Software.
How do we know this? Many people point out that "Shared Source" is a
dangerous and pale imitation of Open Source, designed to lull government
customers into complacency while confusing them about it's drawbacks.
Having failed to convince people that the GPL is dangerous, Microsoft is
approaching the problem from a subtle angle of confusion and
misdirection. This information is also widely available from numerous
sources, such as public documents and corporate speeches.
Many people, wishing to be enlightened, have no problem with this
infiltration of an Open Source event. In their over-confidence, they
think it will be easy to refute any Microsoft claim, and look forward to
doing so. They may not be getting the opportunity however, and even if
they do it is quite possible that the well-funded and hyper-competitive
(and convicted monopolist) Microsoft is more than prepared for anything
thrown at them. After all, it isn't always about making the best
product, as Bill G. told Steve J. back in the day. And the audience
will include people of some technical and legal sophistication, but
quite a few others who won't be able to make fine distinctions on the
Regardless of the need for caution, the very presence of these speakers
is a distraction that muddies the waters and confuses the unwary, all
the while gaining publicity for the company which needs it least. And
none of this addresses the fact that these presentations are simply
inappropriate for the occasion. As has been said by many people, if the
conference is about software in general then Microsoft is more than
welcome. If it was a debate then Microsoft should definitely be there.
But it is neither of those things, and quite a few events in the recent
past have been warped to serve purposes other than the original design
The nature of the organizations behind this event aren't completely
clear -- are they advocates or academics using this event to increase
their public profile? Is it largely for the benefit of Mr. Stanco, who
stands to increase his visibility in our nation's most politically
motivated city? When someone starts to suspect this, it is not
completely out-of-line under the circumstances and any reassurance to
the contrary would be nice. Instead Mr. Stanco chose to confuse the
issue by attacking the people who raised these questions and hiding
behind concepts like "balance". He did not explain why he thought it
was a good idea to include them, but said that he was bowing to the
wishes of others. Not only does Microsoft hold meetings with government
officials on their own time all over the world, but they host a
"Government Leaders Conference" which includes speakers and seminars.
No representative of OSS has been invited to present at this gathering,
to my knowledge, but I understand that Mr. Gates has attacked the GPL at
least once on that particular podium.
This brings up an unpleasant reality: The Free Software and Open Source
movements are limited in their assets and influence, and it is very easy
for opportunists to use these movements for personal gain and damage
them in the process. Microsoft should not have been invited to the
conference in any form, unless they produce (not just re-sell) Open
Source Software. The decision to invite them shouldn't have been
unilateral -- after all, Mr. Perens disliked the unilateral
decision-making of Michael Robertson regarding the Desktop Linux
Summit. And in the end, win or lose, taking a higher perspective on
events suggests that Microsoft comes out ahead either way. The
conference will be counterproductive before it even begins, if you look
at it that way.
You are welcome, of course, to see a principled defense of one's
convictions as the "extreme" work of "kooks" and "loons", as Mr. Stanco
does. But there's plenty of stuff to chew on besides government
contracting rules and appearing high-minded in front of the opposition.
New Yorker Free Software Users Scene
Fair Use -
because it's either fair use or useless....