My thanks to Doctor Roy Schestowiz of Boycott Novell for his article which mentioned that Microsoft and Amazon had signed a Patent Licensing Agreement. If I hadn’t read his article, I wouldn’t have known about this. So I guess you can blame Roy for making me write this 🙂
I’ve linked to Amazon a lot in the past. I often mention books, and always provide a link to where the book can be bought. I often talk about computer sales numbers, and Amazon’s top selling list is really handy. But then Amazon signs a deal with Microsoft. A deal in which Microsoft claims that the agreement covers Amazon’s use of Linux based servers. Let’s take a look at Microsoft’s Press Release:
REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 22, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that it has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Amazon.com Inc. The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology, including coverage for Amazon’s popular e-reading device, Kindle™, which employs both open source and Amazon’s proprietary software components, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers. Although specific terms of the agreement are confidential, Microsoft indicated that Amazon.com will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement.
“We are pleased to have entered into this patent license agreement with Amazon.com,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft. “Microsoft’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry, and this agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open source software is involved.”
The licensing agreement is another example of the important role IP plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant IT ecosystem. Since Microsoft launched its IP licensing program in December 2003, the company has entered into more than 600 licensing agreements and continues to develop programs that make it possible for customers, partners and competitors to access its IP portfolio. The program was developed to open access to Microsoft’s significant R&D investments and its growing, broad patent and IP portfolio. In recent years, Microsoft has entered into similar agreements with other leading companies, including Apple Inc., HP, LG Electronics, Nikon Corp., Novell Inc., HOYA CORPORATION PENTAX Imaging Systems Division, Pioneer Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd.
Curiously Amazon did not issue a press release about this – at least if they did it’s not in the Amazon Media Room. From what I can see so far, it looks like the deal that Microsoft signed with Amazon probably includes a clause that allows Microsoft to be the only party to speak about it. This sort of clause is dangerous, since the party that’s speaking can lie about what exactly is covered. I am sending an inquiry to Amazon, with a link to this article, and will post their response.
Microsoft claimed several years ago that Linux infringes on 235 of it’s patents. Curiously they didn’t say what patents. Quite probably this is because Microsoft is not confident that the patents in question would hold up under examination. Linus Torvalds, who started the Linux Kernel project, and runs it to this day, said in response to the claim that the Kernel infringes on 42 patents that
‘If Microsoft were to actually tell people what patents they claim we violate, we could either laugh in their face and show prior art, or just show them to be obvious, or we could do things differently.’
By signing a deal with Microsoft, for technology that the Free and Open Source Community developed, Amazon has shown a lack of respect for the ‘Intellectual Property’ of the Free and Open Source Software Community. Amazon’s action is an attack on the community. It can also be considered an attack on the Constitution of the United States of America, which states
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
The wording above makes mention only of the Authors and Inventors. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution clearly meant that only the Author or Inventor of a work or invention can speak for that work or invention. Therefore if there are issues with a work or invention, the party who has the issues must approach the Author or Inventor, not a third party such as Amazon. In simple terms, Amazon has no right to admit that the Linux Kernel infringes on Microsoft’s patents, only the Authors or Inventors of the Kernel have that right. By making an admission that they have no right to make, Amazon has engaged in what is known as ‘Slander of Title.’
Someone will of course point out that Microsoft made the announcement, not Amazon. The issue here is that Microsoft is implying that Amazon agrees with Microsoft’s statement, since they have not issued a clarification.
Since Amazon has shown a lack of respect for the Community’s Intellectual Property, the Community should remove their support from Amazon. Many members of the community have links to Amazon on their websites. Many members of the Community buy from Amazon. Many members of the Community use Amazon’s e-commerce system. Since Amazon has acted against the best interests of the Community, the Community should act against the best interests of Amazon. Stop linking to Amazon. Stop buying from Amazon. Stop using Amazon’s e-commerce systems.
It’s often argued that a boycott is a bad way to fight a problem. Those who argue against using boycotts do so for a very good reason. Boycotts work. Boycotts work really well, in that they hit the offending company where it really hurts, in their sales. And that’s why so often you hear arguments about boycotts. Because they do work, and the offenders are terrified of the results.
So I won’t link to Amazon any more. I can’t stop buying from them, because I never have (I prefer Indigo). If enough people stop using Amazon, they will respond. They’ll have to. Think of it as Evolution in Action.
Or of course Amazon could just issue a statement that the agreement they signed wasn’t about Linux, and that Microsoft has been less than truthful.
Thursday March 18, 2010