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Stallman Feeds Gates His Own Words 647

Posted by timothy
from the open-up-for-the-airplane-zooooooom dept.
soloport writes "C|Net has published an article, written by RMS, in which Stallman points out that Gates is merely calling the kettle communist. Toward the end of the article, Stallman strengthens his point by feeding Bill his own words. Back in 1991, Bill said, in an internal memo: 'If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose.' Now, if only Bill were as clear-minded on the subjects of Innovation and Interoperability."
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Stallman Feeds Gates His Own Words

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  • by iota (527) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:20PM (#11684086) Homepage
    Or it could be said that Bill just took his own advice. Depends on what he was looking to accomplish.
    • by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:29PM (#11684185)

      Can you site an instance where M$FT ever sued someone on patent grounds? Remember, we're talking patents, not copyrights or software piracy.

      As far as I know, companies like M$FT take out patents to defend themselves [google.com], not to launch offensives against their competition.

      • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:35PM (#11684242)
        Can you site an instance where M$FT ever sued someone on patent grounds?

        I can't cite a case where Microsoft sued on grounds of patent infringement -- but I can remember cases where they've threatened to, overtly or otherwise, without about as much effect. See their enforcement of vfat-related patents for an example.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:40PM (#11684294)
        I'm posting AC for obvious reasons, but when I worked at MSFT (for a little over a year, I quit voluntarily), I was given a presentation on software patents by the legal department.

        They were clear in saying we/they were making a push to patent more, and that the patents are intended entirely to defend against litigation, as against "submarine" patents like those used in Eolas v. Microsoft.

        Take it for what it's worth...who knows if that's just the official line and the higher-ups have a different plan.
        • by KarmaBlackballed (222917) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:39PM (#11685192) Homepage Journal
          Take it for what it's worth...who knows if that's just the official line and the higher-ups have a different plan.

          <INTRORAMBLE>
          I've worked for more than a few large corporations. Some for several years in various positions. There are probably more than a few others on slashdot that done the same.
          </INTRORAMBLE>

          <FACT>
          All large corporations have their "corporate speak" which is nothing more than what the corporation perceives as politically correct messages. What the executives are willing to do and what they say they want to do have very little correlation to the official company messages.
          </FACT>

          <OPINION>
          It is unlikely a corporation as large as Microsoft would openly say we plan to crush smaller players with our growing patent portfolio. But that is eventually what the shareholders will demand, even if the execs don't already plan it themselves.
          </OPINION>
        • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Wednesday February 16, 2005 @12:35AM (#11685973)
          > entirely to defend against litigation, as against "submarine" patents like those used in Eolas v. Microsoft.

          The problem is that Eolas wasn't a competitor of MicroSoft, they are simply a patent portfolio company. If Sun came after MS and sued for patent infringement, then MS would be able to retaliate with its own patents. But what can you do to a portfolio company? They don't actually make anything, so they aren't violating any patents.

          Further, if MS justs wants "defense", then why are they pushing so hard for software patents in Europe. Why aren't *they* leading the fight to abolish software patents entirely? If their only concern was defense, wouldn't they be in a better situation if everyone were disarmed? Wouldn't they save a lot of money if they didn't have to patent everything?

          Oh, and if the VFAT patent licensure wasn't a submarine patent, I don't know what is.
      • by dunng808 (448849) <osp&aloha,com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:49PM (#11684385) Homepage Journal
        History does not agree. Consider Microsoft's patents on CIFS, which they used to attack Samba and the GPL. Below is taken from this 2002 CNET news article. [com.com]

        Early history of CIFS

        The relationship between Samba and Microsoft wasn't always so contentious. In 1996, when Microsoft was just introducing CIFS, it had to contend with competition such as the Sun-Novell alliance behind Sun's WebNFS software. Microsoft at that time pledged that it was "making sure that CIFS technology is open, published and widely available for all computer users," and it noted that Samba used CIFS.

        Microsoft submitted the first version of CIFS to the Internet Engineering Task Force at the time, a first step in the standardization process. That process went nowhere, but a 1997 version of that submission is still available on the Internet. The submission made no mention of two related patents, which Microsoft received in 1993 and 1995. In addition, Microsoft shared information in a series of CIFS conferences that began in 1996.

        The patents, however, rose to prominence this year.

        In the technical document describing CIFS in Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft prohibits companies from using the information in software covered by the GPL, which includes Samba. Microsoft requires readers of the document who plan to implement its description to sign a license agreement that raises the specter of patent infringement.

        Specifically, the agreement grants a company a royalty-free license to two Microsoft patents but prohibits the developer from using the CIFS information in software that would subject that company to "intellectual property rights-impairing licenses," including the GPL.

      • by mboverload (657893) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:02PM (#11684510) Journal
        No one would ever take Microsoft on. All they would have to do is threaten and that would be that. Just like the RIAA.
      • by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl@NospAm.excite.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:10PM (#11684574) Journal

        From the second weblink:

        See this link [ffii.org], or:

        Avery Lee 00-12-05: ASF support removed at request of Microsoft

        Avery Lee, author of http://www.geocities.com/virtualdub/, a free software tool for converting multimedia file formats, reports sad news:

        Today I received a polite phone call from a fellow at Microsoft who works in the Windows Media group. He informed me that Microsoft has intellectual property rights on the ASF format and told me that, although the implementation was still illegal since it infringed on Microsoft patents. I have asked for the specific patent numbers, since I find patenting a file format a bit strange. At his request, and much to my own sadness, I have removed support for ASF in VirtualDub 1.3d, since I cannot risk a legal confrontation.)

        --From the above-cited link

        They didn't need to file a lawsuit, they eliminated competition just by THREATENING one. That's the whole problem here. This is not a "defensive" use of their patent, the creator of VirtualDub had not made a threat to MS that they were responding defensively to.

      • by idlake (850372) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:38PM (#11684825)
        Very few patent disputes with big companies ever become lawsuits, and it takes a while for lawsuits over patents to be filed (in fact, it can be in the interest of companies to wait a while). Microsoft has only started getting on the patent bandwagon fairly recently and they have already been throwing their weight around with patent-related threats.

        Furthermore, the notion of "defensive patents" is nonsense. In order to defend an idea against a patent claim, all you need to do is publish it (you still need the lawyers to actually win in court, but you need those also if you have a patent).

        The term "defensive patent" is really a euphemism for becoming a member of a patent cartel: the "giants" that Gates talks about, companies like IBM, Apple, Xerox, etc., have amassed huge patent portfolios that they are cross licensing. As a result, they can operate almost completely free of worries over patent infringement, while small companies that don't have cross licensing agreements are at constant risk of being put out of business by any member of that club. Well, Gates's solution to the problem has been to become a member of the cartel.
        • Although I've never actually heard of a defensive patent lawsuit, I imagine it would be in the form of a counterattack. That is, if someone tries to sue you, you check if they're breaking any patents you own and threaten to sue them back.
          • I've never actually heard of a defensive patent lawsuit,
            IBM's counterclaims against SCO include some based on patents.

            While IBM is not defending against patent claims, they are clearly using patent claims as a defensive measure.

            It sends a very clear message to anyone else who might be thinking about the trying to mimic SCO.

      • Can you site an instance where M$FT ever sued someone on patent grounds?

        They've never had a bad quarter yet either. When and if that happens, you can expect to see them trying any means available to scrounge up more revenue and/or shore up the defenses of their market positions.

    • I know I'll get "troll" for this, but in truth, it's too bad that no one listens to RMS who counts for anything in business. The press will never pick up this little comment of Gates. If RMS ever meant anything at all to business, he's certainly passe now.
  • Nelson: (Score:3, Funny)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:20PM (#11684088) Homepage Journal
    Stallman strengthens his point by feeding Bill his own words.

    Once again, I imagine Nelson: Ha Ha!

  • Hehehe (Score:5, Funny)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:20PM (#11684090) Journal
    "Stop repeating everything I'm saying!"

    "Stop repeating everything I'm saying!"

    "Stallman's a dork."

    "Stallman's a... HEY!"

  • by shadowknot (853491) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:20PM (#11684091) Journal
    I think Bill could learn a lot from Stallman and by examining his own past and the way MS and Apple took the computer industry off of IBM in the early days.
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:07PM (#11685027)
      I think Bill could learn a lot from Stallman and by examining his own past and the way MS and Apple took the computer industry off of IBM in the early days.

      You're ALMOST on to something. Except for the fact that Apple didn't take anything from IBM. And that, more than likely, Bill has his own past in mind when he looks at the GPL.

      First - the early days of the Personal Computer. Apple pioneered the consumer personal computer market. Sure, there were microcomputers before Apple. But Apple was the first to put together a product that had such consumer-friendly features such as a keyboard and custom molded plastic casing. IBM dismissed the microcomputer as a niche market for hobbiests. That is, until the dawn of the spreadsheet. Visicalc revolutionized number crunching and made the Apple II a must-have device on the business desktop. IBM suddenly took notice of an exploding market. And since they were caught flat-footed, they had to rush to bring their own "Personal Computer" to market. This lead to several very important events. First, the OS was licensed from a third party rather than outright owned as was usually the case in computers until then. Secondly, in the rush to market, IBM's engineers selected mostly generic off-the-shelf components to create their product. The only gatekeeper in IBM's product was their BIOS. When a bunch of market-savvy former Texas Instruments engineers formed a company (Compaq) and managed to legally reverse-engineer that key... everything fell in place. The proprietary hardware market was soon dominated by the commodity PC. IBM lost control of their platform and was almost inundated by the wave that washed over the relatively young IT market. That wave almost swamped Apple too - Apple managed to maintain control of their platform. And in winning that battle, they lost. Apple went from being on the forefront of the microcomputer revolution to being a niche player; even further behind than IBM.

      So what's the lesson for Bill? Microsoft learned how to play the game from IBM. Almost every detested aspect of Microsoft's business strategy is simply a refinement of IBM's earlier days. But those roles would soon change. The revolution of the commodity hardware platform was a boon for Microsoft. Every "PC clone" was an additional sale to MS. And every PC clone was further lessening of IBM's direct influence over the marketplace. IBM would have to work with a growing chaotic collection of hardware players instead of deciding the industry's direction by fiat. IBM attempted to recapture their influence with the PS/2 and the proprietary Microchannel bus architecture. But that was rejected. IBM became just one of many players in the market.

      Now we're seeing the possible next stage; the commodity OS. Windows is just as important to Microsoft's financial and strategic success as the PC was to IBM. Most likely, Microsoft has a strategy in case they can't hold back the tide. But they would be better off if they can simply disrupt it.

      Ironically, IBM has been spending the last couple years paddling to get in position to ride that wave if it crests.
    • by Antonymous Flower (848759) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:27PM (#11685469) Homepage
      From Richard Stallman's original post to net.unix-wizards [google.com] (1983) in which he announces GNU/GNU's not Unix:

      Why I Must Write GNU

      I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I
      must share it with other people who like it. I cannot in good
      conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license
      agreement.

      So that I can continue to use computers without violating my principles,
      I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that
      I will be able to get along without any software that is not free.


      This, along with the rest of the post, seems like a direct response to Bill Gates' Open Letter to Hobbyists [blinkenlights.com] (1976) in which Gates states:

      "Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. [...] Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

      and:

      "The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however, 1) Most of these "users" never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour.

      Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

      Is this fair?"


      and:

      "I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up, or has a suggestion or comment. Just write to me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software."

      Mr. Gates has devoted his life to creating an industry, and it seems Mr. Stallman has devoted his to preserving the rights of those who use technology in response to Mr. Gates' inquiry. Mr. Gates' influence has been felt across the globe, and the influence of ideas by Stallman are still expanding. GNU GPL, written by Stallman, has given birth to the following behind Linux, has influenced the Creative Commons iniative, and influenced projects like Wikipedia and numerous other projects that 'share.' Wikipedia is incredibly successful, and sites are rapidly adopting the CC license for podcasting, music distrubition, etc. I have seen posts here on Slashdot regarding Stallman's statements as 'FUD' (fear, uncertainy, doubt.) I'm not sure this is fair; considering Stallman's record. The attacks on Mr. Gates by posters aren't completely unfair, but the man has changed the world and should be respected for that.

      Patents are tricky, because they do promote 'openness,' yet at the same time are ambiguous, restrictive and provide a government granted monopoly. The problems with patents have extended past these software patents, though. Biochemical compound discoveries are being patented. An idea of say, a difference engine or steam-powered engine, are different than the discovery of a naturally occuring compound.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The attacks on Mr. Gates by posters aren't completely unfair, but the man has changed the world and should be respected for that.

        are you serious??? The "changes" he made in the world are far from being proud of. Basic has "tainted" more programmers than any other bad programming technique. Microsoft's business tactics created the nightmare world we live in now where software licenses can not be understood without a team of lawyers, and businesses selling computers with windows must pay per machine shipp
    • ...other than How To Become Insanely Rich Through Dumpster Diving [antioffline.com]?

      Maybe How To Justify Everything You Do, Hypocritical Or Not. Windows still occasionally bluescreens when you plug a new device in, years after this faux pas [cnn.com], in which Trey explains "that must be why it hasn't been released yet". Billions in cash, but still hasn't ironed out the bugs == "we don't really care about the bugs". Quality is not Job #1, getting the money is [greenspun.com].
  • by phuturephunk (617641) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:21PM (#11684106)
    Idealism dies when you actually get put in the big chair.
  • Sad but true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 4Lancer.net (858900) <slashdot@4la n c e r.net> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:22PM (#11684112) Homepage
    How saddeningly true - the more patents there are, the less innovation, the less motivation for innovation. Ironically, I was going to use Microsoft as an example, before I realized it.
  • by 7Ghent (115876) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:22PM (#11684117) Homepage
    Gates is merely doing what's best for the stockholders. Oh wait. That's HIM.
  • Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dadjaka (827325) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:23PM (#11684118)
    If Apple (or Xerox) had patented the GUI, we would still be stuck with DOS!

    So, if M$ patents everything it can get its hands on, what innovations would it stop?
    • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JoeBuck (7947) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:34PM (#11684232) Homepage
      Every important element of the modern GUI (windows, icons, menus, pointing device) was demonstrated by Doug Engelbart in 1968. His system even had something that looked a lot like a blog. The patents all would have expired long ago.
      • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:57PM (#11685295)
        If nothing else, Engelbart's work makes pretty good prior art. Or would, if the patent office here in the U.S. cared about such things anymore.

        Everybody likes to point out that Apple's MacOS was a rip of Xerox's Smalltalk, but that was really a rip of Engelbart (I think someone should create a Linux distro and call it "Engelbart".) But so what ... that was the way things worked back then, and everyone (including Microsoft) is better off because of it.

        You know what I think this is all about? I think it's all about fear of change. Realistically, considering the pace of progress in today's world, how long does any given piece of technology remain viable, marketwise? Not long, and the curve is accelerating. Which means that, really, the only security for a technology company is continous creation and implementation of new ideas (or new derivations of old ones.) And that means heavy investment in R&D, just to remain competitive. I think most of us Slashdotters understand that, and welcome it, as it keeps us technojocks employed if nothing else. I guarantee you that the Japanese understand that, better than anyone.

        Look at it this way: America's businesses (including it's high-technology outfits) are being run more and more by attorneys and accountants. People that, by their nature, are highly conservative, highly risk-averse. Sure, you can point to people like Steve Jobs and others that continually improve their products, but they are the exception. The worldwide whirlwind of technological debauchery that we are experiencing right now makes them very, very nervous. Why? Because it is completely unpredictable. But ... if one could just STOP all these annoying little people and their dinky little companies from creating anything new and disruptive, thereby controlling the pace of progress ... why, everything would be like it used to be.

        From a bean-counter's perspective, it's hard to bank on R&D. It's expense to begin with, and even worse a given line of research may not pay off (even though, on average, investment R&D pays back handsome dividends) and they'd just rather keep making the same old widgets and not have to worry about improving them all the time. Wasn't a lot they could do about that, though, until recently. Now, these statists have a really big gun in their arsenal: it's called "intellectual property". It gives them the power to effectively halt all technological advancement in this country except that which they deem acceptable. By "them" I mean monopolistic concerns like Microsoft, or indeed any tech company that prefers to compete on legal grounds.

        I don't like this state of affairs one bit.
        • Re:Nope (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Wednesday February 16, 2005 @06:26AM (#11687204) Homepage Journal
          Look at it this way: America's businesses (including it's high-technology outfits) are being run more and more by attorneys and accountants. People that, by their nature, are highly conservative, highly risk-averse.

          Bravo! Finally someone who sees what is going on: despite what the conventional wisdom says, modern business is not about maximising profit, it is about minimising risk. Once you minimise the risk, have a steady income stream, then you maximise profits by cutting costs.

          Actual innovation is anathema to this model, because it means increasing your risk. Of course, the payoff for succesful innovation is higher, so in the long run your profit will be higher, even if you fail a few times along the way, but in an economy that's obsessed with quarterly results, you get the fraidy-cat beancounters squashing all attempts at a little risk.

          This disconnect between what the conventional wisdom says and how the market actually behaves is not new. It has been described in the 1950s by John Kenneth Galbraith, in summary in The Affluent Society and in detail in The New Industrial State. His essential point is that the modern corporation is a bureaucracy like any other, where CYA is the best practice, and the appearance of things like innovation, entrepreneurship and profit maximisation is more important than the actual activities themselves.

          Should you not have read those books, by all means do. I suspect you already have, but other readers should really try to pick up a copy (or borrow it from your local library, you will find Mr. Galbraith in the Economics section).

          Mart
  • by Chordonblue (585047) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:24PM (#11684137) Journal
    ...but first...

    RTFA! I think he makes a valid, lucid point here and does a great job explained why software patents tend to be evil.

    • by hdparm (575302) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:40PM (#11684291) Homepage
      he makes a valid, lucid point

      That's what he always does. Love Stallman or hate him, man is a genius.

      • by Chordonblue (585047) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:11PM (#11684592) Journal
        He does, and he doesn't - depends on how 'smart' you are. Free software is very much like a religion to RMS. He tends to lose people in the arguments he makes because they fail to understand what the big deal is - it's just SOFTWARE after all! To RMS, computing is LIFE! Case in point:

        In Sam William's 'Free as in Freedom', he wrote this about RMS,

        "One day, while taking a break from writing code, Stallman experienced a traumatic moment passing through the lab's equipment room. There, Stallman encountered the hulking, unused frame of the PDP-10 machine. Startled by the dormant lights, lights that once actively blinked out a silent code indicating the status of the internal program, Stallman says the emotional impact was not unlike coming across a beloved family member's well-preserved corpse.

        "I started crying right there in the equipment room," he says. "Seeing the machine there, dead, with nobody left to fix it, it all drove home how completely my community had been destroyed." "

        In the age of the 5 second sound bite, average people just don't have the time to read and fully understand the implications of things as esoteric as software patents or SCO lawsuits. To the average PHB, Gates' sweet sounding words sound just as compelling as RMS' intellectual arguments. Therefore, it's easier to dismiss RMS as a quack or an introverted nutjob than to take him seriously and that's a shame.

        I would MUCH rather see him write more in this sort of format - short and to the point, than a long winded dissertation that only the already-convinced will read.

  • That's nice. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caspian (99221) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:26PM (#11684146)
    Now, will this story actually get read by Microsoft-hugging MIS types and pointy-haired bosses?

    The problem with Stallman is that, brilliant as he is, he only ever seems to garner attention from those who are already on his side. He preaches to the choir and only to the choir, which is kind of useless when 99% of the world wouldn't know a Linux (err, GNU/Linux ;) ) from a lentil bean.

    What would it take to get a story like this onto the desk of every Gates-worshipping, MSFT-stock-owning, spyware-infested-Windows-machine-running, Gartner-Group-report-reading, pointy-haired boss?

    And... holy crap, Stallman trimmed his beard???
    • Re:That's nice. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:43PM (#11684319)
      "he only ever seems to garner attention from those who are already on his side"

      That's true, it's our work to reach other people. Richard is out there to remind us what Free Software is all about, our task, is to understand it, and help develop and spread it. And do it the way it should be done, which is, by showing the real ethical reasons to use this system, and not just technical advantages.
  • Eating Crow? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:26PM (#11684152) Homepage Journal
    One of the inherent problems with this kind of argument is that it assumes that opinions ought to be static. Frankly I think that beliefs and opinions should grow and change as one travels through life. What Bill Gates believed 14 years ago is certainly going to be different than what he believes now. That doesn't make what he said then any more insightful than what he says now. They are simply different. Now if RMS were comparing quotes within a couple weeks of each other (and no new information happened along in the intervening time) than I think it would be legitimate.

    For those of us with a few years between school and the present, I'd ask you if you really wanted to be judged by what you think now, or what you thought then? Does it really matter that you're opinion of a decade ago doesn't gel with your opinion of today?

  • Missed the best line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by X (1235) <x@xman.org> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:27PM (#11684154) Homepage Journal
    I thought the best line was: "Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the U.S. Department of Defense."

    Of course, he's twisting the meaning of things as much as Gates has, but of course that's the point.
  • Communists (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fsh (751959) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:28PM (#11684167)
    Technically, Mr. Gates is right. The whole Open Source idea is a communist idea, not in terms of Soviet Russia (where software owns you) but in terms of a community of workers all banding together to produce their own labor, instead of selling themselves to the capitalists.

    Seriously, folks, the current situation of Linux v. Microsoft is exactly what Marx and Engels were talking about.

    What the Open Source community has is what all communist countries thus far have lacked, which is the admission of only like-minded people. For a commune to work, the citizens must all have similar ideas with respect to how to interact with the outside world. In a nation, where all citizens just become communists, this simply isn't possible.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is also part of communism where the group tries to centralize all of the means of production. In other words, all productive activity is to be controlled and organized from one place, and production for individual benefit becomes illegal.

      Now, does that sound more like what MS is trying to do, or what Open Source people are trying to do?

      It sounds to me like that one place is Redmond, and that for free/open source software, there is no such place or controlling entity.

      With free/open source, anyone who

      • > It is also part of communism where the group tries
        > to centralize all of the means of production.

        While this is certainly true of the USSR, it is by no means part of overall communist ideology. Lenin said, essentially, that the general public was too stupid to know what they really wanted, so the proletariat, the smart guys who just happened to be in power, got to tell them exactly what they should be doing. They're the ones who centralized everything. A straight communist society (as oppposed to
    • Marx and Engels (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:59PM (#11684476)
      "Seriously, folks, the current situation of Linux v. Microsoft is exactly what Marx and Engels were talking about."

      Of course it is. Marx and Engels talked about man tools, and how, a man , in orther to be truly free, should have access to the tools he needs. If the tools he needs to work, are owned by the rich, they become their masters, and can have him dominated.

      It's the same argument that Stallmans points out, about software, and, IMHO, it's a fundamental issue.

      There is a serious misguided idea that most USA citizens have, which is that communism = URSS, and that's an utter bullshit. The URSS was a corrupt dictatorship fighting for world domination (And we had 2 corrupt dictatorships fighting for world domination in that years, now there is only one left). Communism is an economic and social system, that (just like Capitalism) can work ok if implemented by honest people, or be a terrible weapon if implemented by a corrupt government. This is true for both systems. The issue is in the society, not on the system.

      ALMAFUERTE
    • Re:Communists (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rseuhs (322520) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:37PM (#11684823)
      The difference is that with information, communism works - and mostly works better than capitalism, while with real, normal goods, capitalism works - and mostly better than communism.

      The soviets tried to force a communistic system on real material goods - that worked only as long as they had an opressive state that kept everyone in line. Humans have a natural desire to own material things. They don't want to "share" their car with strangers.

      The Americans (especially Microsoft and the **AAs) now try to force a capitalistic system on information (or "intellectual property") - and that works only as long as you have opressive IP-laws. (DMCA, etc.) Humans have a natural desire to share information. They don't mind "sharing" their elelectronic (= non-material) music-collection with strangers. Actually, a normal, non-sociopath individual will want to share it. (How often did you hear: "Hey, check that out!")

      Both systems fail because the energy needed to keep them running, far exceeds any benefits. The systems tried to work against human nature with laws that were (seen as) opressive and unjust.

      Just look at Microsoft: The marketing costs, costs to ship little boxes with little plastic discs around the world, the cost to store those boxes and the markup outweight the development costs by far. Similar with music. Only movies still have usually more money in production than in the retail channel.

    • Re:Communists (Score:3, Interesting)

      by theLOUDroom (556455)
      Technically, Mr. Gates is right. The whole Open Source idea is a communist idea, not in terms of Soviet Russia (where software owns you) but in terms of a community of workers all banding together to produce their own labor, instead of selling themselves to the capitalists.

      No, it's really not.

      There's nothing about Stallman's idea that demand we all have equal ownership of anything or a state-controlled economy.

      Even if a law was passed tomorrow that said all new software must be created under the GPL,
  • by njcoder (657816) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:33PM (#11684213)
    Another way to look at it, is that this might be where GNU ends up in a few years if Linux takes the kind of hold on computing people want it.

    It's not uncommon to see young companies have the same type of attitude but along the way, as they become big, their strategies have to change based on the experience they have gained.

    RMS is the driving idiological force behind GNU. People don't live forever. One day, someone else is going to take over and how do we know that the same ideals will be followed. More than that, how do we know that Stallman won't just decide one day that he's tired of living and dieing for free software and will shave his beard, take a shower and go on a date that doesn't charge by the hour?

    Microsoft was the underdog for a long time. They came in cheaper and good enough. GNU/Linux right now is coming in as the cheaper/good enough solution. While there are some people that use free software on principle, the people paying for free software are doing it because it makes sense in their business... When something else makes sense, the money will follow.

    One day, something else will take that spot and you're going to see a lot of whining and tantrums most likely followed by agressive tactics. To be perfectly honest, you see that now with competing open source technologies.

    So, instead of seeing how Bill Gates has changed... consider this a warning as how F/OSS might possibly change in the future.

  • whack the stupid git (Score:5, Interesting)

    by coolestdickofall (858613) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:39PM (#11684287)
    FTFA: "If somebody sues you, you change the algorithm or you just hire a hit-man to whack the stupid git." - Linus Torvalds More people really need to take his advice...
  • by enjo13 (444114) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:55PM (#11684429) Homepage
    "The transfomers are WAAAY better than G.I. Joe" - me

    "Seriously, I didn't sleep with that woman. " - Governor Clinton

    "Remember what I said about taxes.. uhm, psyche!" - George Bush 1

    "Don't make me tell daddy" - George Bush 2

    "I bet I could make money on this internet thing" - Steve Case

    Ahhh.. good ole '91
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:58PM (#11684471) Homepage Journal
    is as usual, the comments section.

    There's an entire thread devoted to discussion of how much Stallman needs to "get a haircut," since of course how you wear your hair is an indicator of the worth of your ideas.

    Imagine if Einstein hadn't worn a crewcut his entire life. Where would we be then?

  • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:00PM (#11684486)
    In true capitalism I can use any resources at my disposal to make money. Only murder and theft in the sense of breaking in and lugging away things is not allowed. If Microsoft sells Windows CDs for $100 and I can figure out how to copy my CD that I bought from them and sell copies for $1, nobody should interfere with me.

    So now companies come to government and say other people should give them money for something created without their further labor. Even worth, they want to tax an inventor who came up with their idea independenly. Any why? Because they "worked hard and they are good for the society"? Well cry me a river!

    That's social protection, and companies don't really need it. If not for patents and copyrights, businesses will form consortium to joinly invent something they can all then manufacture. And in particular software companies will sell personalized support for their software. Like a poolman, there will be a computerman that comes to my house and teaches me how to use software for reasonable rate. There will be some shake up and loss of efficiency, and maybe Microsoft will have 5 billion in the bank instead of 40 billion. But it will not be all bad, and much of the money will be in the pockets of Microsoft customers who are now overcharged for whatever wealth Microsoft actually created.

    We need social protection. We work for the good of the society and already don't get royalties, don't get paid again and again for the work we only did once. It's only fair we get some type of royalties first - like job security and the company that outsourced jobs paying for retraining costs for layed off workers. Then, once we are well protected, we'll think about shelling out a few bucks for their CDs that we can easily make ourselves.

    By the way, I am not arguing for unlimited social protection or that capitalism doesn't have benefits. But patents and copyrights are definitely NOT capitalism.
  • by the-build-chicken (644253) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:01PM (#11684500)
    ...of the bill gates quote

    The solution is patenting as much as we can.

    In the article, RS is implying that Bill Gates once agreed with him on patents, and the quote he gives would make it seem so....however, if you include the bit that he "conveniently" left out, it reads quite the opposite, gates stance on patents has always been the same, and against RSs stance. Nice to know that Microsoft isn't the only one capable of FUD...well done RS.
    • by Omnifarious (11933) <eric-slashNO@SPAMomnifarious.org> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:31PM (#11685519) Homepage Journal

      I did not get the impression from the quote that Bill Gates had shifted his views from the time of the quote until now. It merely indicates that all the high-minded ideals Gates talks about when he talked about 'intellectual property' count for squat, and that what he's really interested in is a world where the large players can shut the small ones out before they get a chance.

      Here is a more complete version of the quote:

      If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then the have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want. The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.

      Bill Gates in a 1991 memo called Challenges and Strategy

      So, yes, you are correct. But the first part of his quote clearly illustrates that he knows exactly what kind of world strong and pervasive patent protection will create. That's the world he wants, a world where the IT industry is at a standstill because everything is owned by Microsoft and they have no interest in going anywhere anymore.

  • by bareminimum (456719) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:03PM (#11684514)
    "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."

    I don't know about you, but by reading this, Bill's intentions become clear from the start. Isn't he instructing his staff to patent as much as they can? Funny how RMS would hide this essential piece of the quote in [...] ...
  • Two ironies here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by petrus4 (213815) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:06PM (#11684541) Homepage Journal
    I've tended to consider it ironic on the few occasions when Gates and RMS have indirectly traded barbs...Namely because the two men actually have far more in common IMHO than I suspect either of them would be comfortable to admit. I'm reminded here of a scene from Spiderman when the Green Goblin tells Spidey, "You and I are not so different."

    Both men are ideologues, and both, I believe, are megalomaniacs, despite my anticipation that Stallman in particular would strenuously deny such an accusation. But as ESR has said, Stallman wants to be the figurehead of the entire FOSS movement. His flowery speech at times aside, let there be no misconceptions about it...the man *does* advocate a heirarchy, and most especially he advocates himself as the leader of it.

    The other irony is that Stallman himself is guilty of exactly the same kind of hypocrisy with which he accuses Gates here...Namely, with regards to the LGPL. Stallman at one point criticised [gnu.org] the XFree86 group for using a BSD-like license, calling them sellouts who were doing such in order to ensure that X gained popularity...and he then turned around later and did exactly the same thing with the creation of the LGPL. He actually cites software popularity as part of the reason for the creation of the LGPL. He might not remember this particular inconsistency...I, however, do.

    I am not for one moment trying to lump both Stallman and Gates into the same *moral* category here...or not completely, anywayz. Stallman has done a lot of good...I'm aware of that. However, what I think a lot of *other* people need to be aware of is that he still isn't the being of light they think he is, by any stretch of the imagination. He might be different from Gates morally and ideologically in many ways...but the main things that the two do have in common is that contrary to popular belief, both are guided by their ego, and, to a greater or lesser degree, the desire to dominate others. That might sound paradoxical when said about Stallman in particular...but do some research on the man, have a good long think about it, and see what you come up with...you might be very surprised. For the purposes of Linux users, Stallman can definitely be considered an ally...but personally I think "friend" would be too strong a word. The man has his own agenda...and not one that necessarily coincides with everyone else's best interests.
    • by l3v1 (787564)
      and most especially he advocates himself as the leader of it

      He founded the darn thing, there's noo need to advocate himself to anything. He earned much respect, doesn't need much advocation for us to acknowledge his work.

  • by borschski (665381) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:08PM (#11684548)

    Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold obviously saw the intellectual property light: patent it no matter what and you'll own the toll-booth. Stallman's perspective is probably too little, too late and Gates' head has probably been here for years.

    Myhrvold started a company five years ago (Intellectual Ventures) that is focused on a strategy to "create or buy new ideas, accumulate patents--exclusive rights to use the inventions--and rent those ideas to companies that need them to do the gritty work of producing real products."> [msn.com]

    How is he doing this? As it says in the article, "To generate patentable ideas, Intellectual Ventures hired a dozen top scientists as part-time consultants to participate in several all-day gabfests each month, which the company calls "invention sessions." Lawyers transcribe the discussions, which can range from biotech to nanotech to solid-state physics, and follow up on the most promising ideas with patent applications." He's obviously the most visible person involved in this activity. Pretty soon (if not already) *any* idea you have had better be fully patent-researched before you embark on a new adventure.

    IMHO, this activity by people like Myhrvold (and the bleak state of the US Patent Office) is what is going to seriously hamper open source innovation and people taking risks to start up companies.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:10PM (#11684584) Homepage Journal
    It's amazing that labelling someone a communist is still considered an effective strategy. Patents are scary not just because developers can be sued for writing software, but because distributors can be sued and so can end users. If software patent enforcement becomes common place the few developers who try to continue developing software will be forced underground. That is, they'll put their software in the public domain and disavow all responsibility for it. But that won't be enough because distributors will have to be underground too, else they can be sued, and end users will have to keep their illicit software quiet also. The end result will be so horrifying that perhaps even normal people will notice it. By then the software industry will be long dead though.
  • by Digital Pizza (855175) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:19PM (#11684672)
    Bill Gate does what's best for Bill Gates, or more accurately, whatever it takes for him to "win". Winning at all cost means forgetting your principals, or never having them in the first place.

    When Microsoft was tiny, patents were bad for them; now they find them useful, simple as that.

  • Flip side (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hythlodaeus (411441) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:49PM (#11685678)
    If there were no software patents, the big companies would appropriate all the innovations and dominate through marketing instead of invention.

    Wait a minute...
  • Software Patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by demon_2k (586844) on Wednesday February 16, 2005 @04:46AM (#11686929) Journal
    Software Patents? Who needs them?
    Patents would/will (and maybe in some cases already do) only slow developement, software, hardware, doesn't matter.

    Company A - Has an idea, patents it
    then
    Company B - Get's cought and forced to pay up.
    or
    Company B - Is forced to re-invent another way to do the some thing (re-inventing the wheel)

    This is exacly what's holding us, the human species back. We could share ideas and/or methods and concentrate on support and improvement.

    Company A - Invents, and releases to public
    then
    Company B - Takes the idea and improves on it,
    releases to public
    then
    Company C - Takes the work of Company C and further improves on it. And releases it.

    If the big companies didn't play this childish game (which they don't need to, they already have dominance/influence because they are big companies) we as species would be way ahead of where we are today.

    Even if you didn't want someone to know how you did something. You could refuse to show your code. In this case companies would compete on better implementation of thesome idea.

    Everone wants somethingm for nothing...but not at expense of keeping the little business out. IMHO...

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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