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Leaked Letter — BSA Pressures Europe To Kill Open Standards

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the open-and-shut-investigation dept.

Businesses 156

An anonymous reader writes "The Business Software Alliance is trying to kill open standards. Free Software Foundation Europe has gotten hold of a letter in which the BSA tries to bully the European Commission into removing the last traces of support for open standards from its IT recommendations to the public sector. FSFE published the BSA's letter (PDF), and picked apart its arguments one by one."

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156 comments

Seems pretty simple to me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923254)

The documents the BSA is complaining about apparently give preference to "open specifications" that don't have the complication of software patents, that are freely implementable without licensing fees, etc. They aren't saying that software or standards with software patents and licensing fees are excluded from competition, only that the open ones are given preference over ones that aren't.

It's all about saving money and avoiding unpleasant surprises (patent trolls) after a standard is deployed. What the hell is wrong with that?

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923270)

Go ask a patent troll.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924208)

That's part of the answer.

The other part is that open standards (and open source) have significant advantages: no vendor lock-in, archived material remains accessible (even if you have to write a converter to a newer format - which may well be worth it for government archives), competition between vendors means lower prices (free markets always work better for the buyer), etc.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924266)

Shouldn't that therefore be enough to give those open standards preference without any document granting them special preference simply for being open standards?

Realistically, either open standards have significant advantages over other standards - in which case they don't need special preference - or they don't, in which case giving them special preference is counterproductive.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (4, Insightful)

next_ghost (1868792) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924502)

In the corporate world, maybe (depends on how stupid the pointy haired bosses are). In the government, against all the lobbyists? No way. Big software corporations will do anything to get governments locked in vendor lock-in. It takes some time to realize how special the "special offer" really is and government agencies either don't have experts who know that beforehand or don't listen to them. And don't forget that locking the government in proprietary system also means locking half of the country's market as well because a lot of companies will be forced to use the system by the government.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (4, Informative)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923322)

It's all about saving money and avoiding unpleasant surprises (patent trolls) after a standard is deployed. What the hell is wrong with that?

The international association of patent trolls takes offense at any legal moves that complicates the business of their clients. This is what this article is about.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (2, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923378)

The only difference between an open and a closes specification is that the you usually have to pay patent license fees to implement a closed one. Whether a specification is closed or not does not protect you from patent trolls.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923392)

However, the EU could easily solve the patent troll issue when it comes to software: they could simply not recognize software patents.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923504)

However, the EU could easily solve the patent troll issue when it comes to software: they could simply not recognize software patents.

They don't. Why do you think shits like Microsoft and Apple are always paying off European politicians to vote for them. Durrr!

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923722)

They don't have to pay off the elected politicians, just the unelected commission.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (4, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924036)

Fortunately, since the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, circumvention of (elected) MEPs by (unelected) Commissioners is not so easy. The European Parliament handed the Commission its ass on a couple of major points very quickly to educate them about the changed situation. If memory serves, ACTA is up this coming week, so it will be interesting to see whether it happens again (though it sounds like most of the really bad parts of that have effectively already been dropped as the by-the-back-door politics failed).

As for software patents, the situation is not as straightforward in Europe as some people describe. There is no Europe-wide formal recognition of "software patents" as some sort of category, but numerous patents have been granted by European nations that you or I might describe as "software patents", and as with most such things, whether they are deemed enforceable isn't something we'll know until the court case comes up, and the potential chilling effects are there anyway.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924248)

The commission is not the one you should worry about, they have never had any law making power (they have mandate to issue decrees in certain regulatory areas, but this is seldom used, I seem to recall 2 times in the last 10 or 15 years). In any case, the main problem earlier was that the council that is not directly elected had lawmaking powers, allowing them to make law that no elected official had the power to object formally.

You are right that this got better with Lisbon, but the commission is not to blame.

Lisbon did address this with two main points, firstly the MEPs have co-decision rights in almost every area. In the areas where they do not, there is a subsidiarity clause that allow national parliaments to formally object when a law is agreed to by the council when that should be handled by the national parliaments instead.

It is far from perfect, but this is a compromise between the federalists who want to give the EP the power and the confederalists that want to give the council the power when the EU is granted power. Obviously (for anyone who thinks for more then two seconds), the federalists are right when one considers the democratic legitimacy of laws made by the Union.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924814)

The members of the comission are elected by the EU council, which is composed by prime ministers of member states. So they aren't random burocrats. However I would prefer too if they would be elected by EU MPs.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924998)

Just because the commission members are unelected they are not undemocratic.

In many European countries the Parliament is elected and in turn appoints the government.

These governments can fall when the parliament so desires, not only during the next election.
The EU Commission is appointed by the democratically instituted governments of the member states.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (2, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924792)

and proprietary software protects them from patent trolls? what are you smoking? Have you not seen how patent trolls have, in some cases, gone after customers who were using the software and not the company producing the software. Proprietary software does not protect you from software patents. And as far as the open specifications requirements go, these are public entities and public documentation and services. They have 100% rights to try first and foremost to reduce the per user licensing fees they would have to pay or the public would have to pay in order to provide services. It seems you see nothing wrong with requiring every member of the public to require a license from one company just to read documentation the government produces.

We're not talking about dictatorships here, these governments are publicly elected and proclaimed to be representing and those they govern. So there is plenty wrong with preventing their ability to see that open standards get first shot since there are many benefits to the public for doing this. IMO

LoB

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (2, Informative)

dc0de (926325) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924926)

It's not that the BSA is trying to save money, and avoid unpleasant surprises when patent trolls try to patent something. It's about the BSA making money. If you ever tried to buy a BSA Standard, you'll know just what I'm talking about. What is a standard? It is a set of "common sense" collaboration of best practices. If it is created by 50 people who all want to make a standard, and they decide to GIVE it away, then simply put a GPL or GNU license on it. In the doctrine of full disclosure, I'm a published author, and a creator of several standards that were provided freely, and are now the basis for many standards that are for purchase.

Re:Seems pretty simple to me (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925132)

Yet most of their letter is raising the spectre of problems that may or may not exist. Most of their letter is a red herring.
  1. BSA: Open standards don't require patents which kill innovations. Without people being paid for patents, innovations would never happen.
    FSF: The Internet is an example of an open standard that has helped innovation. The World Wide Web is another.
  2. BSA: Open standards are in opposition to community (European) standards. FRAND is compatible with open source and is compatible with community standards.
    EU standards say that standards should be at least FRAND. They do not specifically say that they cannot be more open. And FRAND is incompatible with OSS; GPL specifically disallows charging any royalties:

    Section 10
    You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the rights granted or affirmed under this License. For example, you may not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of rights granted under this License, and you may not initiate litigation (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that any patent claim is infringed by making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the Program or any portion of it.

  3. BSA: Not using FRAND sets up dangers when competing with other countries like China. They're setting up standards which will make it hard for EU to compete and defend their patents.
    FSF: Nothing in using an open standard will diminish the ability to defend patents and other IP.

Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credible (-1, Troll)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923264)

I fought against the BSA when I opposed a proposal for an EU software patent directive. I don't mean to support all aspects of their letter, but I would like to draw some more attention to the fact that the EU "open standards" lobby isn't perfectly credible.

Three months ago I wrote about the open hypocrisy [blogspot.com] of companies such as IBM, Google, Oracle and Red Hat. Since I wrote that blog post, lots of new things have happened and become known: the European Commission felt forced to launch two parallel antitrust investigations, one of which relates to IBM's refusal to provide interoperability; Oracle sued Google over seven Java patents; later Google and Oracle accused each other of hypocrisy; now Oracle has thrown out the founders of LibreOffice from its OpenOffice mailing list; and Red Hat doesn't appear to comply with LSB 4.0. So much for "open standards" when those companies -- the primary backers of the EU open standards lobby -- are concerned...

What's worse is that the proponents of "open standards" don't tell the truth as far as the compatibility of FOSS licenses with patent licenses is concerned. Such licenses as the Apache license, BSD licenses or the EUPL (European Union Public License) don't contain any language that could be understood to prevent a software publisher/distributor/user from doing a license deal with a patent holder. The only family of licenses where that scenario is addressed is the GPL. GPLv3 isn't relevant, and GPLv2 contains some language that's clearly unable to prevent such arrangements as the Novell-Microsoft partnership (announced four years ago and still not challenged formally by anyone). Even the early drafts of GPLv3 wouldn't have blocked the Novell-Microsoft kind of patent deal, as Richard Stallman admitted at the time. Also, there are plenty of examples of companies distributing GPLv2-based software and paying patent royalties, including Red Hat, TomTom, HTC, LG, Samsung...

So even though one may very well believe (and I'm known for that position) that software should preferably not be patentable, it's disingenous to claim that FOSS licenses prohibit inbound patent licensing. It happens all the time, and there's increasing awareness for that fact in the EU, which makes those who spread lies or grossly misleading statements look pretty bad.

One of the organizations lobbying alongside the likes of IBM for open standards, the FFII, has a board member who admitted [blogspot.com] six months ago that they received significant funding to do their work against OOXML and that he was initially skeptical but, apparently, money overcame his doubts. The FFII of 2010 and recent years isn't anymore the kind of pan-European network that fought against software patents until 2005. It's only a very small group of activists, and some of them appear to act as corporate stooges now.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923290)

Well, it's far better than every other place on the planet, including the US where every government just sits, rolls and begs when the BSA ask them.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923330)

Speaking of corporate stooges, I'm pretty sure you are paid by Microsoft. The amount of attacks you make on a company seem directly related to how much they contribute to the open source ecosystem.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923350)

Credible? Who cares at this point. EU is the last barrier holding corporations like Adobe, Oracle or Microsoft from openly suing and wipping most of FOSS projects. Software patents are evil, period.

Concern Troll is a Troll (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923362)

Also check out the instant +5. Campaigning on /. is unethical.

Florian Mueller is a professional PR man, advocate of Orwellian-named (F)RAND licensing and OOXML. In case anybody here doesn't know (unlikely), OOXML is Microsoft's misleadingly-named attempt to lock in the world's official documents. The fight against it was the good fight; only the most deluded and the paid disagree. Florian is the "corporate stooge" here.

He is not a friend of FOSS. He is a paid advocate for Microsoft's and the BSA's policy goals.

Never too late to change, Florian. Tell everyone who you work for, call off the mod brigade, do something good. This is not an abstract or esoteric debate to most of us here, it affects our lives directly. Leave the technology policy to us, go play soccer or something.

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (3, Interesting)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923502)

That posting asserts all sorts of things without any basis. To give just one example (this is too unreasonable to comment on every aspect of it), I've never advocated OOXML in any way and as far as FRAND is concerned, I've always made it clear that it's not my first choice.

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923642)

Ah yes, you're not advocating OOXML, you're just suggesting that unencumbered document formats are an IBM conspiracy. And oh how you wish there was a better way than RAND! But there isn't, so the best thing for us to do is sign licensing agreements with Novell, Oracle, and Microsoft.

Since it's all too unreasonable to comment on, just address one point: Categorically deny that you are being paid for this PR campaign, and that your posts and the the obscene moderation thereof are part of said campaign (not that I have any hope for an honest answer).

A concern troll is a false flag [wikipedia.org] pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals [wikipedia.org], but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt [wikipedia.org] within the group.

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924448)

wow what drivel. anyone not agreeing with the hippie anti-corporate slashdot juvenile groupthink bullshit on here gets accused of being a shill.
Grow up and get a job, and elave your moms basement kiddo.

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925344)

No, I think there is a basis. I chased your links..

TurboHercules asked to license IBM's OSes for production use on an emulator running on unspecified hardware. IBM's main selling point for those systems is extreme reliability. Did IBM ever raise so much as a mild objection to Hercules themselves? Not that I can see. "We think [...] you will understand that IBM could not reasonably be expected to license its operating systems for use on infringing platforms" is as far as they go, even when prompted on the subject. They declined to endorse the use of their OS on it. How anyone could be more restrained is utterly beyond me. They didn't drag any dramatic accusations onto the public stage.

the FSFE lobbies hand in hand for "open standards" with companies pursuing proprietary lock-in in their core businesses

So? Those companies can't lock in the format, because it's an actual standard: an open document containing sufficient information that anyone can implement a product meeting it. The FSFE want open standards and the companies advocating ODF along with the FSFE want it too. Some other people are paid to openly advocate for it.

Commercial motives are not reprehensible.

What Microsoft did to get OOXML through the ISO also had commercial motives. Those motives were also not reprehensible.

I find what they actually did reprehensible in the extreme. I would find choosing to castigate open advocacy, undertaken with the actual intent of achieving its stated intent, as "hypocrisy" objectionable even in isolation. I find choosing to do so in the face of what Microsoft was doing at the time reprehensible in the extreme.

So I think there's a basis for the assertions.

Please consider the effect of what you're doing, and that "a person is presumed to intend the reasonably foreseeable consequences of his voluntary act."

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923602)

Ah, see, I thought there was something strange. He sounded far too grown-up to be a native here. :)

Re:Concern Troll is a Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923998)

...and who is the "us" that you are so concerned about, fellow Anonymous Coward? It is tiresome to see these vicious ad hominem attacks against Mr. Mueller who at the very least is polite and presents more or less reasonable arguments for his points.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (1, Redundant)

mukund (163654) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923390)

Oracle dismissing LibreOffice folks is pretty much what anyone else would do in their shoes. Let's say you have a project X. Some people with relatively less power in your project fork it to project Y, and say they do it because project X sucks. What would you do? Still keep them in project X? Replace X with an organization you head, and this will make more sense. This is the definition of conflict of interest, and the outcome is exactly what happens in such a case.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (4, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923434)

Who's talking about FOSS licenses?

This discussion is about open standards. And whoever is pushing the open standards (no, it doesn't matter a jot whether it's big blue, redhat, google and what ethical issues they may have or even if they implement the standards properly) the BSA's move here is unethical and just plain wrong.

And please don't mention OOXML opposition in the same ... universe as money and corruption when we all saw how that utter abortion of a non-standard was pushed through.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (3, Interesting)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923656)

Good points, but there may be some cases where a file format is actually patented (despite exclusions in patent law).

In that particular situation, I think the EU should actually do what the BSA letter suggests, and refrain from using that particular technology for its public standards. In the probably most relevant field for government bureaucracies, formats for office documents, there is already a good enough open standard in the form of ODF.

Re:Some open standards lobbying in EU isn't credib (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925134)

It's robber barons time again: society stands to benefit a lot from building a new infrastructure, which naturally some companies and individuals are trying to hijack, monopolize...

Repugnant (5, Insightful)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923268)

While it's easy to laugh at optimistic young people that want to "make the world a better place," I have nothing but total disdain and condemnation for those that want to make it worse.

I'm looking at you BSA and cell phone makers that use weird plugs.

Re:Repugnant (3, Funny)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923294)

Yeah, curse those cellphone makers and their weird plugs! They'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes!

Re:Repugnant (2)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923354)

First they came for the BSA. I did not speak up because I do not hold any software patents.
Then they came for the makers of cellphones and their weird plugs...

Re:Repugnant (2, Informative)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924318)

I seem to remember that cellphone chargers in the EU have been standardized to use the mini-USB plug and standard.

Re:Repugnant (5, Insightful)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923526)

Well said. Open source software is one thing, but open standards, (especially when it comes to hardware) is so critical in saving billions of pounds from the scourge of UWS (Unnecessary Work Syndrome).

I feel that we're 'lucky' to have say, USB as a standard in connectors. It saves an untold amount of time, development and hassle. I think very long and hard before I buy a device these days which doesn't support charging through USB.

Re:Repugnant (0, Troll)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924138)

I feel that we're 'lucky' to have say, USB as a standard in connectors. It saves an untold amount of time, development and hassle. I think very long and hard before I buy a device these days which doesn't support charging through USB.

Unless your device is made by Apple... then USB is only standard if you use an Apple-approved charger.

Re:Repugnant (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924402)

My non-Apple USB charger and my Apple iPhone (non-jailbroken) beg to differ with your misinformed opinion.

Re:Repugnant (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924888)

I just wish they'd settle on a particular standard. My old Razr used mini-USB and my Nexus One uses a micro-USB connector, and I've seen ones that use other designs as well. Still better since they frequently package the adapter as a generic USB transformer plus a USB cable of the appropriate type.

Re:Repugnant (1)

alext (29323) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923996)

"I have a dream... a dream that one day a man will be able to buy a television in London and plug it in in Paris"

Steve Bell ~1983

Re:Repugnant (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924282)

While it's easy to laugh at optimistic young people that want to "make the world a better place," I have nothing but total disdain and condemnation for those that want to make it worse.

There's a name for the kind of people who want to make the world worse. It is "successful".

Re:Repugnant (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925326)

As I have gotten older I have lost a lot of interest in Open Source. Seeing it as Astroturf solution to the real problem that specifications need to more open. Source Code isn't really that valuable, the Specification and architecture are. Having the source in time you can come up with the architecture and specifications (if the code is reasonable) however that is the long way around.
When making applications that can talk to each other and share data open specifications are key.
I Personally don't care for the source to say MS word. But I would like to see the specs for its DOC and DOCX format, so I can import the data 100% with my own code, and without fear of retribution for my own work that often enhances the usefulness of the parent program.

Kick the patent trough and the hogs squeal (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923272)

that a specification...is only fully open if "the specification can be freely implemented and shared under different software development approaches."

That doesn't mean only open source can participate, it means if you're not willing to waive your patent protections your products can't be included in the specs. There's nothing in the rule that prevents closed source from participating except their own short-sighted greed.

Wow, talk about a sense of entitlement. Change the rules so we can play the way we want to or we're going to take our toys and go home.

Re:Kick the patent trough and the hogs squeal (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923360)

talk about a sense of entitlement

Should this surprise you? Think about the group of people you are talking about.

Patents vs. Publication (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923278)

This rise of stupid patents (to build legal ammunition) makes me think of the rise of stupid research papers (to build academic CV).

Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (5, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923280)

Any royalty above zero is inherently discriminatory against small companies and startups. The FSF correctly point out that the amount of capital needed to start a software company is very small, so having to pay a royalty on top of that significantly increases the amount of capital needed. This is just an attempt by large companies to maintain their monopolies and prevent competition from even entering the playing field.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923316)

[...]Any royalty above zero is inherently discriminatory against small companies and startups. The FSF correctly point out that the amount of capital needed to start a software company is very small[...]

Did they? My experience tells me it takes a lot more capital and resources to make good software than what most, especially small, companies invest. Not the point, I know, but I feel that's a grossly misleading claim.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (2, Interesting)

m509272 (1286764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923586)

So you are trying to say a company made up of a sole developer cannot make good software? The capital requirement in those scenarios is likely zero as the person that goes this route is likely developing at home, off hours from his "real" job, already has a computer and perhaps the only additional expense is keeping the lights and computer on longer. I also know of a few 2 and 3 person companies that perform in exactly the same manner. So your claim of it being a "grossly misleading claim" is exactly that.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (2, Informative)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924322)

One person companies, maybe. There's more additional cost than you're listing, but overall, you may be right.
But most commercial software projects take more manpower than one or two or three developers can accomplish, and then you will need a project manager to coordinate them. That's where small companies often fail, just by not being willing to invest in one who actually has any clue about management.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924466)

Exactly, check out the developers of the Bit.Trip game series for the Wii (and soon more platforms), I think it's only two people.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923654)

Apache, Linux, yes, clearly it takes a lot more captial and resources to make good software than what most, especially small, companies invest.

That was sarcasm, right there.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924364)

You aren't seriously implying that developing Apache and Linux didn't take a huge amount of resources? What ginormous crack pipe have you been sucking on?

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924048)

[...]Any royalty above zero is inherently discriminatory against small companies and startups. The FSF correctly point out that the amount of capital needed to start a software company is very small[...]

Did they? My experience tells me it takes a lot more capital and resources to make good software than what most, especially small, companies invest. Not the point, I know, but I feel that's a grossly misleading claim.

I disagree. My experience as a contract developer for almost twenty years tells me a different story. Will a single developer working out of his house come up with an entirely new operating system, or an office suite? No, of course not. But just take a look at the number of thoroughly polished applications that are showing up in the smartphone market, for example. Many of those are produced by one individual. In fact, software is one of the very, very few areas where a single person can actually have significant impact on the lives of millions of others, and there's no legitimate reason to put massive roadblocks in their way.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924354)

Sure, some markets have a small enough scope so that one developer can cater to it.
But even those projects can grow very quickly and often there just are more developers being thrown at it, while what is really needed is a more expensive project manager.

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (2, Informative)

jopsen (885607) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924120)

Did they? My experience tells me it takes a lot more capital and resources to make good software than what most, especially small, companies invest.

Or talent... Throwing money at software doesn't necessarily make it better...

Re:Reasonable and non-Discriminatory isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924868)

I am still waiting for good software. =) This world has no real innovation, and each year the implementations that man comes up with becomes even more inferior.

Royalty-free vs. restriction-free standards (-1, Troll)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923284)

The "open standards" lobby in the EU purposely confuses people when it talks about "royalty-free" ("RF") access to patents on standards. What they really mean by "RF" is "restriction-free": that's what some of the honest advocates of that position (such as Glyn Moody) make clear whenever they talk about RF.

They try to focus everything on the question of royalties when there are actually other ways in which patent holders can restrict the use of a standard. For example, the Java patent license (part of the Java specifications) is royalty-free but very restrictive (no supersetting, no subsetting, etc.).

Those who now talk only about "royalty-free" hope that they can get some language into the document which they would later interpret as "restriction-free".

Hope (5, Interesting)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923296)

Lets hope their letter is already correctly tagged "-1 Troll" in EU parliament. Actually BSA has positive side-effect in Europe. Many people, like me, entered politics thanks to assholes like them. I joined Green Party to fight this scum and actually find out that IT-aware "departments" of political parties are quite small, so few informed people can influence not only party politics but also government (if/when that party is in government). Look at German greens, there popularity is skyrocketing. I bet quite few percent are young people pissed by Internet and free SW restricting lobbyist groups. Especially BSA.

Trying to kill open standards? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923312)

The BSA isn't trying to kill open standards, it's merely pointing out that the European Interoperability Framework document should also allow the use of patented/royalty encumbered technologies. And in the EU, they have a right to do that if they want, because - as pointed out in their letter - it is directly at odds with the EUs fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) policies regarding technology selection. The other note of interest is the EUs definition of Open Standards. It's roughly defined as (I'm taking this from Wiki as I don't have the EIF to hand):
  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.).
  • The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
  • The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
  • There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard

As if there were any doubt (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923332)

The BSA, just as their brethren the RIAA and MPAA, lie and deceive to press their clients' agenda. Open standards are to the benefit of all and that should be clear and easy to see for even the uninitiated. Open standards are very similar to units of measure in this respect and we can all imagine what things would be like if we didn't operate from the same ones... even worse if a third party controlled the meaning and use of those standards of measure. (weak analogy, I know, but easy enough for the layman to understand)

Re:As if there were any doubt (3, Interesting)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923398)

Julius Ceasar mucked about the priesthood's proprietary calendar concession. Look what happened to him. Power elite proprietary rental schemes have a long, long history. Ultimately backed by thuggery.

Re:As if there were any doubt (1)

flinkflonk (573023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923454)

What, you mean you don't measure in pints, pounds and furlongs? What are you, medieval? Here, have this fine open standard that includes the binary definitions of all Microsoft Word versions since 1.0 for MS-DOS. Hooray for free/open standards.

Re:As if there were any doubt (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923752)

I don't understand. If the BSA's member companies produce superior software, they should make their products read and write these standard formats. If a user really thinks Microsoft Office is the best office productivity suite, he will choose to buy it and use it to produce odf documents. What's the problem?

Dear BSA, the liability is yours.. (4, Interesting)

cheros (223479) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923386)

ISO standards are in principle open as well (well, they more or less were until Microsoft showed us just how easy it is to bribe leadership, but I digress). Following the BSA logic, this should prevent competition.

Just how many different makes of child seats are there? Should we stop this too? And the checking of how secure they are according to OPEN specifications that can be validated for quality?

These people are *so* blinded by their desire for control that they don't just ignore the collateral damage they cause, they actively don't care. Let's give them the benefit of their idea of "innovation" and send them to live in caves to write their next memo on a stone with a blunt chisel.

Another recommendation.. (3, Interesting)

cheros (223479) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923466)

If this is their stance, are we not talking about cartel building? With this sort of letter I would be most curious to know just what other actions have taken place behind the scenes to make that BSA stance reality. Or, in plain English: maybe an anti-trust investigation could well be in order..

Re:Dear BSA, the liability is yours.. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925196)

Open standards are used in practically all industries. Perhaps, the most fundamental is units and measure. While the US differs than the rest of the world in the system that it uses, everyone can agree that everyone using the same definition of "liter" is beneficial. The Internet would have never become what it is if royalties were charged every time someone wanted to send a packet of data whether it was email or web or ftp.

Follow the money AND beware (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923388)

Seldom do profit and "best for country" align.

The BSA is a sponsored organization - sponsored by payments from commercial software makers. It works on their behalf and in their interests. The BSA also allows the commercial software makers to avoid getting their company shown in a negative light as they fight against anything that would reduce profits for the sponsor companies.

Open formats reduce profits for commercial software companies because we (our governments) don't need to pay for expensive "consultants" to create integrations. Integrations are where the consulting cash rolls in. Special requests that can be sold over and over again are another way they make money. With free software and open file formats, customers can most easily switch between different softwares and use different vendors against each other. With closed formats, only 1 software can work with the data. That is want the commercial software vendor wants everyone to believe.

The main issue with open specifications is they don't mandate open file/data formats. That means the details of the implementation can be interpreted by different vendors in very different ways, while still complying with the spec. That basically makes each implementation proprietary and achieves what the commercial software makers want.

That is not a way for governments - and all of us - to get what we really want.

Re:Follow the money AND beware (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924918)

Seldom do profit and "best for country" align.

I'm as anti-BSA as one can be without being someone like RMS, but...just playing DA here...profit means a company stays alive longer, which means stability, which means cost-savings of not having to rework everything and retrain everyone...

now, in an ideal world one would be using open standards so that wouldn't be a problem in the first place...

Europe != EU (1)

sirlatrom (1162081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923428)

Just wanted to point out to those that seem to think that Europe is a single country that the European Union, consisting of 27 member states, of which the European Commission is an institution, is not the same as the European continent and the about 50 sovereign states it comprises.

Re:Europe != EU (1)

Pwipwi (973243) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923648)

Yes, pretty much just like the United States of America is not America itself, contrary to what its short-hand name "America" could lead one to think.

Yet, it doesn't seem to steer confusion in people's mind.

Re:Europe != EU (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924284)

Not anymore, welcome to the new world!

Europe is used as a synonym with the EU in many contexts, just like America is used as a synonym for the US. Get used to it. :)

its really quite simple... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923436)

As an end user and computer user I do not want my data held hostage nor do I want what I can do to be more productive with computer, to be falsely constrained.
I am also very aware just how much the software industry in general applies such hostage situations and false constraints. Open source software has proven itself, the developers of, to be a large improvement in teh direction of users freedom but there is plenty to improve upon, such a development tools and methodologies which allow more end users to automate and create programs.

BSA stands for Bull Shit Association.

"End users" as developers (4, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923556)

It is fair to point out that the BSA and its member companies operate under an entirely different view of the world than you or I do. In their view of the world, there are two disjoint sets of people: developers, and end users. Developers write software, and end users pay developers to use the software. If a particular team of developers created some software package, the end users are supposed to get their software from that particular team, on whatever terms that team mandates. Open source fits into this by simply allowing lots of developers to collaborate; there is still supposed to be a partition of users and developers.

The BSA folk have trouble with the very concept of libre software; it is a case of "not getting it." The idea that users can share software with each other is foreign to these people, and it goes against everything they believe is true of software development. They have an easier time with "open source," since at least they can still categorize people in a way that is comfortable to them; but when it comes to software freedom, when it comes to actually prioritizing the rights of non-developers, they have trouble with the very concept. "Open source" is something the BSA can compete with, attack, and so forth, because they can wrap their minds around it; "free software," on the other hand, is too different from the world as they understand it, and the best they can do is write it off as "academic."

CPR Governance and Economics EU & US over.... (0)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923662)

Corporate Property Rights (CPR) will be used in an attempt to resuscitate business-corpses of spiritualism, guesses, dogma and voodoo-economics that camouflage legacy cadaver-parts and Luddite-brains as if It's ALIVE! Perpetuating animated zombie economics of exploitation, corruption, hubris, and oppression of humanity with misdirection, fear, and loathing of unknowns and new possibilities for EU & US. CPR is one of the very important sustenances for continuing another century of rule by the brain-dead and blood-sucking flaccid Vampires.

CPR is a trick on EU and US, a treat for the rotting fetid elite-plutocrats sucking and destructing, like a perfect storm, ending all hope for poor pitiable humanity. For another hundred years we are an pwned commodity for war and production to continue feudalism and slavery economics for EU, US, RU,IN, CN.... With advances in robotics the problematic pwned legacy commodity for production can be disposed of by extermination (Plutocrats' autonomous robot military [Drones now, Terminators later]).

Happy Halloween everyone, zombies, Frankensteins, and vampires are not real..., and we will never avenge our dead/selves. So, Boooo MFs

BSA a legitimate organization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923820)

I am surprised how few people actually know how and by whom the BSA was founded. The "Business Software Alliance" is a shady and like not even legitimate organization that is paid for by the few large commercial software companies. These people are trying to project an "official" image while struggling to keep their facade from collapsing, especially since the latest investigations into their accounting. This is a huge pile of dirt just waiting to be dug up by someone with professional investigative experience or a brilliant hacker leaking their accounting info and personal bribes from a certain software company...

Maybe we have to sacrifice them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923864)

Institutions are supposed to work flawlessly.

But what happened to ISO is like having a dear pet which got rabbies. Can we cure it?

If not and it starts to endanger our democratic ways, maybe it's beyond salvation. Maybe we need new organizations immune to such vicious lobbying and legal actions aimed at removing the citizen rights.

It's a sad state of things when we realize that "the law is hard, but it can be changed with the right amount of pressure/power".

For the record, since I'm a F/OSS supporter, I'm pretty much against copyright violation (the GPL is based on copyright law). Then again, going after users with the excuse of fighting piracy amounts essentially to corruption, literally, of the legal apparatus. This is reason to forcefully close BSA IMHO.

No less.

W3C sets Internet standards? (1)

SuperQ (431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923918)

Wait, fsfe claims "W3C, the standard setting organization (SSO) that governs the Internet standards". Tthe "World Wide Web Consortium" just works on web stuff. The IETF does Internet standards.

Just in case ... (3, Informative)

mutherhacker (638199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923932)

You were wondering who is behind the BSA: Complete list of BSA members [bsa.org]

Re:Just in case ... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924410)

I seriously doubt that it is the COMPLETE list. Only the biggest or those that want their names known.

Re:Just in case ... (1)

mutherhacker (638199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924460)

Well the link to it said ALL BSA Members. Dunno if it's true or not

Link to page holding link to members list

Enemies of open standards... (2, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923986)

... are basically enemies of society as a whole. I think it may be time to contain these evil scum permanently.

Re:Enemies of open standards... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924786)

I wasn't aware that by keeping some of the programs I write closed source or that by using proprietary standards that I was worthy of prison.

Hmmm (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924010)

Sometimes I want to stand out of the way and just watch the patent trolls nuke each other out of existence a la Microsoft-Apple-Motorola. While they are busy squabbling like children in a school yard, the free software movement can take the time to do reverse FUD. The Free Software boulder has already begun rolling full steam ahead and I believe there is little anyone can do to quash it! Even if some of of these lizards manage to get a some new closed stuff standardized, free software will simply write a new, unencumbered protocol. I look at OpenBSD's CARP as an example of free software killing patents!

Interesting (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924078)

From the TFA:

In its letter, the BSA argues that "[I]f the EU adopts a preference for royalty/patent-free specifications, this undermines the incentives that firms have to contribute leading-edge innovations to standardization - resulting in less innovative European specifications, and less competitive European products."

Firms not contributing to standardization will face being irrelevant! Any firm that does not want to contribute to standardization faces less name recognition as well. Had Microsoft opened its Active Directory protocols from the beginning and sought to make it a standard, all kinds of other products with full compatibility would have been produced and Microsoft would be seen as the reference implementation. Microsoft could have charged large amounts of money for developer support and still business would be buying Windows Server products. Now, arguably, Microsoft is winding down - the victim of its own greed. It's days of being a leader have peaked. In fact, Microsoft is now more of a follower and, instead of a highly custom SIP protocol version, Microsoft simply uses the standard.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924616)

Microsoft authentication standards are typically not globally useful. At their core they need to interop with the NT OWF password format.

Other vendors have had open directory based standards for quite some time and several had the ability to synchronize with a windows domain controller before AD even existed.

AD is just LDAP + a slightly customized version of kerberos. I don't know how they could have possibly "opened" active directory any more than that?

BSA vs Tolkien version of The Hobbit (2, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924878)

In BSA version, Bilbo get in thru the main door, and handles the dragon a letter where he demand all the gold, and that the dragon tie itself and follow all his orders, no magic involved.

The BSA (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33925432)

I would put more trust in BSA motorcycles, which should never be out after dark, or the Boy Scouts of America than the wretched BSA in question.

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