In 2004 the European Commission found Microsoft guilty of monopoly abuse in the IT marketplace and demanded that complete interoperability information be made available to competitors. Microsoft objected to this decision and was overruled in September 2007 by the European Court of First Instance (CFI). The CFI found Microsoft guilty of deliberate obstruction of interoperability and upheld the obligation for Microsoft to share its protocol information.
The Samba Team has decided to make use of Micrsoft's obligation under the European judgements. Through the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), network interoperability information has been requested and a one-time access fee of 10.000 EUR is being paid to give Samba team full access to important specifications.
"This case is over and interoperability won. The European Court made clear that interoperability information should not be kept secret and the agreement shows that Microsoft saw no way to continue its obstruction of interoperability in this area. This establishes a standard which everyone will have to meet from now on," summarizes Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).
Jonas Öberg, FSFE's vice president, continues: "Other winners are all users of Workgroup productivity applications: Samba will now gain full access to all the information necessary for full interoperability with today's and tomorrow's Microsoft Workgroup Server products. All users stand to benefit from this, even those using Microsoft's products, because increased competition is likely to put pressure on Microsoft's pricing and decrease Microsoft's margins."
"Under the current situation, thanks to the improvements that we have been able to obtain, the agreement is the best solution possible. It does not solve all the open issues we have with Microsoft, it just partially remedies an unfair and illegal situation. It is not a settlement, it is compliance to the remedies imposed by the Commission and upheld by the EC Courts. And at least it is now fully compatible with Free Software licensing," comments Carlo Piana, legal counsel of the FSFE.
Piana continues: "We have been able once for all to receive a list of the patents that Microsoft claims to be reading on the specifications. Incredibly we have never been exactly told which those patents were. This should be helpful to stop FUD against Samba, and we hope the same will happen with other Free Software projects. It is standard practice: if you have an issue with somebody, you should tell what this issue is, or shut up completely."
"The European Commission has been criticised harshly for its agreement with Microsoft, in particular its failure to declare potentially relevant patents of Microsoft invalid," Jonas Öberg continues: "The system is broken and needs fixing, but it is not for civil administration to declare specific patents valid or invalid. We need informed, transparent and democratic dialog on this issue."
Georg Greve adds: "The European Commission got further than any other antitrust authority in the world and was more successful. They deserve our gratitude and support for having gone 80% of the way. All the same one could have hoped for the courage to also mention the problems caused by software patents for interoperability and thus competition, including a clear request to the proper political places to address this issue."
"We should also not forget that this is only about one area in which Microsoft is showing the same behaviour. There are outstanding antitrust complaints from both the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) and Opera about different abusive behaviours in the office, Internet and web browser area," Greve adds. "If the same methods are abusive in one area, they should also be abusive in another. So if the European Commission wants to follow the positive example it set since 1998, it should not fail to also investigate the other complaints."
"The overall summary is positive. When FSFE set out in 2001 to support the European Commission in its antitrust investigation against Microsoft, our goal was to make this information available to Free Software. Working jointly with the Samba team since 2003, we managed to do just that."
Jonas Öberg concludes: "Software patents were a problem then and they remain a problem today. We will need to solve this problem politically, and FSFE intends to keep working on this. Meanwhile I'd like to thank all the volunteers and employees of FSFE and Samba who worked on this amazing success for Free Software with little or no support while others were allowing themselves to be solicited out of the case. Our thanks also goes to everyone who supported our work over the years and helped make this success possible."
About the Free Software Foundation Europe:
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central
issues of the FSFE.
Contact:Georg Greve +41-76-5611866
You can reach the FSFE switchboard from:Belgium: +32 2 747 03 57