Monday, October 4, 2010

Wikileaks publishes documents on plan to curb free software in the European Union

Julian Assange - Wikileaks
Julian Assange - Wikileaks


Yesterday, 10/09/2010 at 11:47 PM (UTC+1), this post started to receive a serie of comments, insults and offensive phrases that made me to moderate the site for first time. But not only insults: several of my email accounts and sites, were hacked and the comments system (disqus) also was hacked from USA, creating a new site using one of my emails. WikiLeaks is none of my business and all the information included in this post is public domain and leaked or published more than a year ago, it is not news.

The document, published by Wikileaks (website), shows that Jonathan Zuck, president of the ACT (Association for Competitive Technology), an organization with strong ties to Microsoft, and founder of Americans for Technology Leadership, had influenced changes in working documents of the European Union.

Among the modifications made by Zuck are the great emphasis on the mix of free and unfree software (the trap of "open core"), elimination of criticism of software patents and threats of frivolous lawsuits by holders of patents, and the weakening of the arguments in favor of rights of free software developers to freely implement the standards. Apart from the asymmetry of having lobbyists paid by proprietary software tweaking a strategy document for free software, what does a U.S. industry advocate drafting strategic documents of the European Union?



You can find the changed source document at the end of this article.

The web site specializes in publishing secret reports and leaked documents on religious, corporate or governmental, Wikileaks has posted a file showing a plan to curb the free software in Europe.

Jonathan Zuck
Jonathan Zuck. ACT will participate under a speaker’s position. It is listed under “Industry Representatives” as “Jonathan Zuck, President, ACT \ USA.” Zuck is also listed here as a moderator.
This file shows that Jonathan Zuck, president of Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) –an organization with close ties to Microsoft–, and founder of Americans for Technology Leadership, had influenced the change of working documents of the European Union.

That lobbies to exert pressure against the government institutions under their interests no doubt, and this document published by Wikileaks is clearly demonstrated.

The document in question is a work project developed by experts from the European Commission. This document has been modified by the ACT and Comptia organizations that have been percolating in several working groups.

These two associations are doing everything in their power to try to stifle free software strategy of the European Union, and helping Europe to create a successful proprietary software sector.

This publication shows how pressure groups influence or attempt to influence the decisions made by the European institutions, but in this case is particularly striking one of these groups trying to influence against free software (ACT) has close ties Microsoft, the largest seller of proprietary software in the world.

According to Wikileaks has leaked this file because it is important to make public policy is influenced by pressure groups, and for the record of what is happening in the European Commission.

Open source is an outsider, not part of the establishment. One price it pays for this is not being privy to all the decisions that are made in the field of governmental policy. Too often, established players are involved without any counterbalancing input from the free software side. Generally, we don't see all the machinations and deals that go on here behind closed doors. But thanks to the increasingly indispensable Wikileaks, we have the opportunity to observe how an organisation close to Microsoft is attempting to re-write –and hijack– an important European Union open source strategy paper.

Here's Wikileak's explanation of why this is an important document:
This file is an edited version of the EU OSS Strategy draft with the input of Jonathan Zuck, President of the Association for Competitive Technology, an organisation that has strong ties with Microsoft.

The file is a draft for an expert panel formed by the European Commission. This panel is divided into workgroup (IPR, Open Source, digital life, etc.). ACT and Comptia have been infiltrating every workgroup, even the one on Open Source (WG 7). They are doing the best they can to drown any initiative that would not only promote OSS in Europe but also that could help Europe create a sucessful European software sector.

The audience for this document could be journalists who would be interested in getting to know more how lobbies of all kind influence the European institutions. Here it is perhaps even more stringent as ACT is clearly an US organization with ties to Microsoft. Verifications might not be easy as this is an internal draft. The best contact might be commission personnel: Lars.Pedersen@ec.europa.eu; Michel.Lacroix@ec.europa.eu.

It has been leaked as it is important to have the public know how actual policy making is being influenced by lobbies that are precisely under the legal scrutiny of the European Commission. The urgency of the publication of this document is real in the sense that outside pressure would force the Commission to "clean the committees" or at least give a lesser credit to the work of this workgroup.
What makes this document fascinating is that it contains both the original and modified text (in glorious colour, so it's really worth downloading it and taking a look), which means that we can see what exactly an organisation sympathetic to Microsoft –and partly funded by them– is worried about, and how it is trying to head off the threat.

The dominant theme of the changes is foregrounding what the paper calls “mixed mode” or “mixed source”: using open source with proprietary code in hybrid solutions. For example, early on, the Context is originally described as:
To be provided as part of the OSS work group work and V2 of the EC document
But the ACT wants to change that is to this:
To be provided as part of the OSS work group work and V2 of the EC document, while noting that the increasing use of OSS within mainstream commercial offerings and mixed-source software and solutions makes a distinct treatment of or preferences for OSS more difficult to define.
Similarly, the Scope goes from
In this document OSS covers :
Open Source providers (OSS communities),
Service providers for OSS integration and support,
to
In this document OSS covers:
Open Source providers (OSS communities),
Service providers for OSS integration and support,
OSS as part of mixed solutions blending open and proprietary code.
It's easy to see the hand of Microsoft in this, albeit indirectly, since this is precisely the current line it is pushing: that, yes, open source has its place, but that place is in a world where open source and proprietary are treated as if they were the same thing, and ignoring the special characteristics of the former so as to negate them.

Here's another telling change, later on, when this:
At the current point in time it is impossible to predict when and if that trend will come to an end the future of mixed mode. New companies enter the market with models spanning the entire range of proprietary models over mixed models to OSS models. Only time will show which models will be most successful in Europe.
becomes this:
At the current point in time it is impossible to predict the future of mixed mode. New companies enter the market with models spanning the entire range of proprietary models over mixed models to OSS models. The economic success of firms based on mixed model, however, suggests it is a promising model for the future.
As you might expect, the issue of intellectual monopolies is another area where the ACT is keen to re-write the facts. Indeed, this document's changes show that it wants the *whole* of the following to be deleted, since it was clearly far too near the knuckle for lovers of intellectual monopolies:
There were heated debates about patent licensing schemes. We provide the following point as an input to Workgroup n°3:

Exclusion from standards implementation (amoung the workgroup SAP and CompTIA did not agree to the following) : The procurement issue is aggravated by discrimination against OSS in the licensing conditions for some IT standards.

Over the past years it has become clear that specific patent licensing schemes, most importantly the so-called “RAND” 7 terms, discriminate against OSS implementation. This issue complicated the recent antitrust cases in Europe and was subject of a specific workshop on “IPR in ICT standardisation” 8 organised by DG Enterprise.

The workshop revealed a fundamental incompatibility of RAND models with OSS implementations, as well as a very controversial debate around this issue. From the perspective of OSS adoption,9 it could be said that RAND conditions fall short of the Common Patent Policy of ITU-T, ITU-R, ISO and IEC, which states that “a patent embodied fully or partly in a Recommendation | Deliverable must be accessible to everybody without undue constraints."
This calls forth the following howl from the ACT:
[THERE IS NO FUNDAMENTAL INCOMPATIBILITY. SEE FOOTNOTE 15]
The deleted passage continues:
Examples of such exclusions can be found in various areas. One of these areas are the MPEG standards in multimedia, where innovation has been dramatically reduced before the recent development of the Dirac codec by the BBC as OSS provided a high-quality modern alternative that is not patent encumbered.10 /

Unsubstantiated use of IPR threats . It is important that effective measures are implemented to protect the interests of both open source and proprietary software both as a software development and as a business model. Governments should ensure a level playing field for both software development models.

While we recognises the legitimate rights of intellectual property rights owners, we regret recent incidents of patent holders abuse and unsubstantiated use of their rights against open source/free software developers.

A recent development, which deserves the careful attention from the Commission, is the use of unsubstantiated threats of intellectual property rights infringements against those who attempt to develop interoperable software products. As an example, a major software company has publicly stated that it believes Linux and other open source software infringes 235 of its patents, but has never identified any of these patents.

Vague claims by patent holders that open source software may infringe their patent rights should be obliged to identify supposedly infringed patents or cease to make unsubstantiated allegations. This would prevent patents from being invoked to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”) against open source software products in the minds of both developers and users. The behaviour of creating FUD against open source software solutions should not be tolerated, as it amounts to an anticompetitive strategy aimed at distorting conditions in the marketplace to the detriment of OSS products.
Which provokes an even louder howl:
WE DISAGREE WITH SEVERAL POINTS IN THIS SECTION. THIS PAPER SHOULD NOT ENCROACH ON THE WORK OF WG 3, SO THE SECTION WOULD BEST BE DELETED.
As you might expect, 180 degree U-turns are also requested in the Actions section. So what starts out as:
In addition, it is fundamental to ensure that open source/free software developers and distributors enjoy adequate protection that allows them to implement standardised technologies protected by patents in a way compatible with open source/free software licenses.
Becomes:
According to some, in addition, it is fundamental to ensure that open source/free software developers and distributors enjoy adequate protection that allows them to implement standardised technologies protected by patents in a way compatible with open source/free software licenses.
plus its exact opposite:
Others believe the current standardisation environment is already technology neutral, and that standardisation should continue to be voluntary and market-led.
Others as in Microsoft and mates.

All-in-all, the modifications to the document provide a fascinating insight into how lobbyists operate in their attempt to neuter threats to their constituencies through the shameless evisceration and outright inversion of content. Fortunately, when the final strategy document comes out, we will be able to pinpoint exactly where ACT's agenda has been inserted. Of course, before then we need to make the above document as widely known as possible, so that the relevant people at the European Union are aware of what's going on, and maybe even take action to prevent this gross distortion of the paper's purpose.

ikileaks - We open governments


"That weekend Gates and Noorda met in the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge at San Francisco Airport. Gates barely took time to say hello before he reiterated his interest in a corporate marriage. “There was only one stipulation”, says Noorda, “Gates told me, that DRI thing has to go”. Ballmer confirms this, but says the reason was that it was clear to Microsoft that a merger with Novell would never get government approval if it included the purchase of Microsoft’s only MS-DOS competitor. But when Noorda raised the possibility that Washington might block a merger anyway, Gates replied, according to Noorda: 'Don’t worry, we know how to handle the Federal Government'"
Bill Gates was born to a wealthy family of diplomats and lawyers. The fragment above is intended to draw your attention to this fact (or remind you of it). Lobbying has become an incredibly worrisome phenomenon. In the United States alone there is multi-billion-dollar lobbying industry which does a lot of damage to the stability of the system. See this video below of Larry Lessig who discusses such severe issues which he calls “corruption”:
  1. FCC-Comcast-Microsoft and the Freedom Antagonists Axis?
  2. The Role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as Industry Observer (Updated)
  3. The Fourth ‘Patent Deal’ was with Europe... and the Sixth Deal That Won’t be
In the past, the lobbying industry worked in the shadows, but newer disclosure rules revealed its extent and impact. As a contextually-related plug, consider the following set of eye-opening quotes.



There are serious dangers in allowing affluent lobbyists and their funding sources to write laws and change rules "on behalf" of everybody else. Even Europe has woken up to realise that this infectious disease has entered Brussels. Based on a new article, here is where software patents come into play.
MEPs on Thursday launched the thorny debate on tightening rules covering the thousands of EU lobbyists in Brussels, with an initial discussion showing deputies in favour of defining the term "lobbyist" as broadly as possible but shying away from the 600-page rulebook that defines and confines lobbyists in the US.

[...]

For his part, Mr Stubb says he is not out to demonise lobbyists, whose activities have come to light recently during the ferocious lobbying on legislation that took place during the development of the chemicals, services and software patent laws.

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080125/technology_lobbying.html?.v=2
In January 2008, in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 in Davos, Bill Gates attempted to rename “predatory capitalism” or “extreme capitalism” (as Richard Stallman calls it) “kinder capitalism”. Having seen Microsoft's handling of a charity, this seems like an awful lot of spin. Matt Asay had more to say about this plea for love:
There are other reasons that open source fits Mr. Gates' call for a "kinder capitalism". The point is that the open-source revolution Mr. Gates has long fought is the single-best answer for building global (IT) economies, just as it's doing in Europe right now according to the European Union.
You should try giving away open source as part of your foundation, Mr. Gates. You could undo much of the wrongs you've done the world's IT economy.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-9858132-16.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheOpenRoad
Gates’ charity is sometimes used to battle free open source software. Dumping techniques are being labeled “charity”. But let us get back the main point.



As Larry Lessig states in the video above, he may have been chasing the wrong problem for many years. He had all the right answers. Just as it’s accepted by non-monopolies (including older days Gates) that software patents do not make sense, Lessig explains that copyrights and global warming issues are trivialities. These are not being resolved because of greed and the likes of this characteristic.

The issue goes deeper beneath the surface and it needs to be addressed effectively by identifying those who legislated for the USPTO, for starters. As the articles below show, legislation on software patents around the world is still a political question that is overwhelmed and stomped by money. These are not purely-technical questions.

Related Articles

  1. Leaked letter warns of open source ‘threat to eco-system’
  2. Years of deadlock on EU patent bring some new thinking
  3. Bill Gates Downloads Copyright
  4. EPO says UK patent law is clear enough
  5. Dutch government threatens to sideline Microsoft



Towards a European Software Strategy





leak {
| country=European Union
| description=Work project developed by experts from the European Commission
| file_digest=SHA256 e097eb9dac44bfd297c555ebdfb7070cdf2477e01b4458f8b6bf4f44139ea425
| file_info=PDF document, version 1.3
| file_name=eu-oss-strategy-act-2009.pdf
| file_size=267007
| lang=en
| organization=European Commission
| organization_type=INT
| release_date=2009-2-26
| title=European Commission OSS Strategy Draft, Mar 2009
}


First seen in Linux Journal. Thanks to Glyn Moody and the Linux Journal for covering these documents.
Thanks also to Dr. Roy Schestowitz from TechRights for the comments.