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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html newsdate="2011-05-25">
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  4. <head>
  5. <title>FSFE in Samba case: Microsoft's defiance backfired</title>
  6. </head>
  7. <body>
  8. <h1>FSFE in Samba case: Microsoft's defiance backfired</h1>
  9. <p>Luxembourg, May 25 - FSFE played a key role at a Microsoft hearing
  10. before the European Union's General Court on Tuesday, helping explain
  11. the intricacies of Free Software servers.</p>
  12. <p>The hearing was called to consider Microsoft's challenge to a EUR 899
  13. million fine imposed by the European Commission in 2008. Microsoft had
  14. failed to carry out remedies imposed for its violation of EU antitrust
  15. law. A ruling is expected for later in the year.</p>
  16. <p>Microsoft was required to provide interoperability information that
  17. would enable others to hook up to its products so they could compete
  18. with its workgroup servers. Key among those was the Samba team, which
  19. is the only surviving competitor in the workgroup server market. Only
  20. after a European Union court acted in 2007 to uphold nearly all of the
  21. Commission's 2004 decision did Microsoft finally meet the Commission's
  22. requirement to comply.</p>
  23. <p>"In order to compete, the Samba team only needed the mundane
  24. information about how Microsoft computers talk to each other," said
  25. Tridgell. "There is nothing innovative here. All the innovative bits
  26. are either already published by Microsoft's own researchers, or are
  27. contained in the Microsoft program source code – and we have no
  28. interest in seeing that. The innovation certainly isn't in the
  29. protocol specifications."</p>
  30. <p>Tridgell appeared before a panel headed by Chamber President Nicholas
  31. James Forwood of Britain, which also included judges Franklin Dehousse
  32. of Belgium and Juraj Schwarcz of Slovakia. Microsoft, the Commission,
  33. and outside intervenors on both sides were also represented. FSFE and
  34. the Samba team were represented by lawyer Carlo Piana.</p>
  35. <p>The problems date back to the Commission's 2004 decision that
  36. Microsoft should release interoperability information. After that, the
  37. company played for time and waited three years to comply with the
  38. Commission's demands. Explaining the significance of Samba for a
  39. competitive software market, Chamber President Forwood said: “Samba is
  40. the funnel through which the effects on the market will be produced.”</p>
  41. <p>Microsoft contended that the information it had to provide was
  42. valuable and innovative, and originally sought to charge high prices
  43. for it. Tridgell demonstrated that the valuable information had
  44. already been revealed by Microsoft in research papers and other public
  45. fora. By contrast, the information that Samba team needed to
  46. interoperate with computers running Microsoft Windows was neither
  47. original nor innovative.</p>
  48. <p>“Microsoft didn't keep this information secret because it was
  49. valuable; the information was only valuable because it was kept
  50. secret,” Piana told the Court on behalf of FSFE. He said it let
  51. Microsoft preserve its dominant position, because no other software
  52. was able to talk to the company's systems. “The company used these
  53. three years to further entrench its dominant position in the market.”</p>
  54. <p>“Microsoft is acting like a gambler who doubled up on a losing bet,
  55. and now wants his money back,” said Nicholas Kahn, the representative
  56. of the European Commission. By waiting three years before complying
  57. with the Commission's decision while the clock on the fine was
  58. ticking, Microsoft set the stakes very high – and finally lost.</p>
  59. <p>“In this case, Europe's competition regulators have shown their
  60. bite. We hope that the court will uphold the fine and make it clear
  61. that companies in Europe have to play by the rules,” said Karsten
  62. Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. “FSFE does
  63. many things to help foster the growth of Free Software. We're proud to
  64. help make the case for Free Software in a forum such as this, where we
  65. believe we are providing a public service.”</p>
  66. <p>Workgroup servers handle tasks used in small groups – printing,
  67. signing in, and allocating permission to access particular files. The
  68. Samba project not only provides an alternative to Microsoft's
  69. workgroup server. It has come up with an alternative that is better in
  70. many respects. For example, the Samba team used the trivial
  71. information provided by Microsoft to build an innovative system that
  72. runs on very small, cheap computers -- something that Microsoft's
  73. software cannot do.</p>
  74. <p>“The hearing established that Free Software is central to restoring
  75. competition in the workgroup server market,” says Piana. “Everyone
  76. agreed to this, including the judges. This case matters because it
  77. highlights that interoperability is more important than a company's
  78. interest in keeping its dominant position.”</p>
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  89. <translator>mdim</translator>
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