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Microsoft Patents Linux

Mr. Ballmer, Show Us the Code 462

Posted by kdawson
from the open-letter dept.
DigDuality writes "A new campaign, Showusthecode.com, requests every leader in the Linux world, and companies invested in Linux, to stand up and demand that Steve Ballmer show the world where Linux violates Microsoft's intellectual property. He has been making these claims since the Novell-Microsoft deal. If Microsoft answers this challenge — by May 1st — then Linux developers will be able to modify the code so that it remains 'free' software. If such infringing code doesn't exist, we will have called Microsoft's bluff. And if the campaign garners enough attention and if Steve Ballmer maintains silence, then the community and companies behind Linux can take the silence for the admission that it is."
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Mr. Ballmer, Show Us the Code

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  • by thegux (892222) <shane@duair c . c om> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:09PM (#18138412) Homepage
    Hmmmm, I like the idea behind the site, but I'm not sure about the site itself. I mean, I had a look at it and I just got the impression that it was trying too hard to be anti-Microsoft. The "Get the facts" thing just links to a bunch of articles criticising Microsoft and/or Microsoft products. Now, I'm sure these criticisms are perfectly valid, but I think if this site wants Microsoft's co-operation, then putting a list of links criticising their products on the main page, and calling it "Get the facts" is not the right way of going about doing that.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:09PM (#18138416)
    A cross comparison of the MS' patents (which are in the public record) with Linux code should be sufficient to find potential infringements. One of the advantages of the current patent system is that it forces the patent holder to publicly disclose the invention with sufficient detail so that a person versed in the art can copy the invention. That disclosure also lets anyone innovate around the patent if they want. If the Linux community is worried, then they can proactively start changing Linux to avoid MS IP. Why not use the open source ethos of freedon-to-modify to create a Linux that goes beyond anything MS can dream up as defined by those public documents.
  • Give us all a break (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3seas (184403) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:12PM (#18138430) Journal
    As a consumer, a computer user, I don't think a lack of an answer is an answer, but a continuation of a mystery.

    As a consumer I want the honest truth and I think it is wrong that any company is allowed to pursue the use of consumer deception.

    Any such company using consumer deception should be exposed and punished.

    Microsoft has been busted enough with antitrust that it should be required to show such evidence it claims, or fined to the benefit of the consumers and the developers it's claim is against.

    Dishonesty should cost the party commiting it, not benefit them.

  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:32PM (#18138578)
    But that's what Open Source is about. Taking a good idea and improving the implementation! Rather than bitch about how unprofessional the website is lets take the idea and polish the implementation.

    Ideas people?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:38PM (#18138628)
    If Microsoft is already aware of infringing code, and named leading representatives of the Linux community offer to desist with any infringement provided that Microsoft complies with reasonable request and identifies the infringing parts to them, and Microsoft refuses to do so, then isn't Microsoft effectively abandoning enforcement of their rights? Unfortunately IANAL, but I would love to know what the law actually said in this matter.

    If you state publicly that you aware of an infringement and make no effort to pursue the matter within a certain time frame, do you lose any rights to pursue it later? At the very least, it seems strange given that you have taken the time to make an intellectual property claim to protect yourself against competition and/or claim licensing fees, and then fail to do so. This seems to make a statement that you either don't care that your competition is using your IP or that your IP has no value.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:48PM (#18138708)
    Just goes to show that the legal system in the United States at least is based on money. Pure and simple. If you can afford the lawyers, you can win the battle reguardless of whether your right or wrong. I think the legal system needs an ovehaul.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:52PM (#18138736)

    Billions and billions of dollars and an army of lawyers in one corner: A group with an idea and a web site in the other:

    At least the guys in at the little web site are not loaded with bull shit.

    I would bet Ballmer there is more open source in Windows (any version) than Linux. That is why for EVERY protocol we have today on the internet, all can from guess what? NOT Microsoft. Open source, academics and far bigger thinkers than exist in Redmond.

    If someone doesn't believe this, go back to NETBIOS or LANMAN. Ever try to port a Windows app to any other platform? It is hell. Easier to go Linux to Windblows.

    Opening flawed source code is Microsoft's arc-killies (SP) heel.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:53PM (#18138750) Homepage
    They have to reveal WHAT is infringed upon in order to file suit. Making public proclaimations
    about infringement without proof is a Lanham Act violation, as SCOX is about to find out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:58PM (#18138780)
    Have the people behind ShowUsTheCode.com actually sent a request to Microsoft's legal time by registered mail for response, or did they just put up a website?

    Wouldn't it be better to file suit against Microsoft and force them to either make their IP claims, or else STFU?
  • by MCROnline (1027312) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @09:01PM (#18138806)
    and wont this result in a bloody battle where no clear winner emerges victorious? What could hurt Microsoft the most, more than any GNU/Linux distribution is consumer apathy. People sticking to XP, even if it goes on to be unsupported is a real danger. Microsoft's biggest challenge is itself. Also, we don't need brave distributions or Linux companies forcing the issue, we need a brave company, that has lots of PC's, switching to Linux and forcing the issue. That's when we'll see Microsoft make it's move.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @09:02PM (#18138816)
    ...That this could be an inverse-astroturf? You know, a geek False Flag deal? Microsoft sets up a ridiculously amateurish website just to convince professionals that any who question Microsoft's claims are nutjobs?

    Okay, you're right...it's genuine. :-\
  • by GrumpySimon (707671) <email@sim o n . n et.nz> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @09:25PM (#18138936) Homepage
    Hmm.. how hard would it be to find chance similarities in any two codebases?

    I work on the evolution of languages (shameless plug [auckland.ac.nz]), and I know that it's quite possible to get the same words meaning the same thing, just due to change. For example "mata" means "eye" in both Greek and Maori, but there's just no chance that these languages are related anytime within the last, say, 20 thousand years, and this is just an outcome of plain old chance.

    My question - how likely and to what degree is this sort of convergent evolution of code between two separate programs? Keeping in mind that there's a whole lot of functional constraints, i.e. both operating systems have to manage RAM somehow, or both have to manipulate graphics in some way, there are common good coding practices, there are common language idioms, etc.

    So - how easy would it be, for Ballmer to find a chance similarity between linux and vista, and how would you distinguish between this and real similarity? (homoplasy vs. homology for you evolutionary biologists out there).
  • by Joebert (946227) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @10:11PM (#18139302) Homepage
    Redundant ?!

    Ok, remember the knock knock bannana orange joke ?

    Knock knock !
    Who's there ?
    Bannana.
    Bannana Who ?
    Knock knock !
    Who's there ?
    Bannana.
    Bannana Who ?
    Knock knock !
    Who's there ?
    Bannana.
    Bannana Who ?
    Knock knock !
    Who's there ?
    Orange.
    Orange Who ?
    Orange you glad I didn't say Bannana ?


    This joke works on the same idea.
    Had I joked about a chair, it would've been redundant.
    However, I only refered to the chair as a premise in the title.
    The meat & potatoes which is the actual comment takes the joke a step ahead, therefore it can not be redundant.
  • by dont_run (1050730) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @10:16PM (#18139340)
    If you assume that Steve Ballmer is decent, then he would blush and indeed thrive to have the truth be known and Linux fixed of any violation. That is, if there is any infringement at all. I'm also of the opinion that there isn't, unless he's talking about FAT. And why in the world are people still using that crap anyway? We should be campaigning for the digital devices industry (digital camera and MP3 players for the most part) to support some other file system for their memory modules.

    But here's the deal: this is not about truth or logic. It's about uncertainty. As long as Microsoft says nothing, people will be uncertain whether he's bluffing. And as long as people are uncertain, they will behave like roaches and run towards any furniture that might offer some protection.

    That's all he has to do. Be quiet. And he wins as long as he stays quiet. Nothing will happen in May, no matter how much you wish for it or how many companies and people come forward to ask the question. By the way, I think the only hope is for someone in the mainstream media to catch Steve Ballmer stuttering when asked to disclose the patents in national television channel. And we know how likely that is!

    Of course this will eventually desensitize the victims, unless Microsoft actually sues somebody. But Steve and his gang know that they just need to slow down the loss of customers to Linux for a while longer, while Microsoft entrenches itself more and more. Just a while longer...

    Sorry for sounding so negative about this initiative. It's DOA. Nothing short of a lawsuit will bring this matter to light. If Microsoft does the stupid thing of actually threatening someone or some company (not the unspecified, general threats so far), that victim can preemptively sue to force their hand. It will provide some entertainment after SCO vs IBM is closed.
  • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @10:33PM (#18139492)
    Trademarks can suffer from abandonment, but copyrighted and patented code cannot. However, if Microsoft keeps talking publicly about the existence of infringing code without revealing what it is, they are very vulnerable to libel suits. A big libel suit between Microsoft and FSF of EFF could be interesting, anc could be very costly for Microsoft.
  • Re:Good Odds. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Quantam (870027) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @10:56PM (#18139650) Homepage
    The great irony in all of this is that M$ themselves has little respect for the IP of others and regularly violates patents, trademarks and copyrights, while simultaneously calling for fanatical protection and enforcement. Their recent loss to Actel/Lucent, and the $1,500,000,000.00 judgment highlights this. M$ themselves are more venerable to the litigation monster they helped create than free software makers who are much more careful. Ballmer has no more to offer than SCO did and I mean that in every way.

    That's both factually wrong and logically wrong. The fact that MS was vulnerable to suit by Actel/Lucent despite doing everything legally and by the book (and respecting the IP in question) should make companies using Linux all the more worried. It shows that anyone can be sued for IP infringement, regardless of whether they actually did. Do you really think MS can't legally cover its ass (or hand someone else's to them) better than a large number of nobodies (not counting IBM and Novell)? That's almost amusingly arrogant (amusing in a "pride goeth before the fall" kind of way). Seeing how abusable the patent system is should make you afraid; very afraid.
  • by lxt518052 (720422) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:17PM (#18139794)
    In that case, shouldn't he point out which Linux code infringed MS patents?

  • by lxt518052 (720422) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:26PM (#18139866)
    and explicitly stated that they want Ballmer to show us the code within Linux that violates their intellectual property.

    BTW, I find it indeed ironical that they did ask Ballmer, who had admitted banning his kids from using Google, to do a patent search on Google.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @02:12AM (#18141034)
    Given their criminal history, I can certainly suspect it. But it's much easier to deal in innuendo and vague threats for this, or to use proxies to make your accusations. Look at how Microsoft's corporate sponsorship of SCO, by helping them stay in business through "business partnerships", has allowed Microsoft to damage Linux witha a fraudulent lawsuit, weaken SCO as owners of the AT&T UNIX code base, and keep their hands and deep pockets clear of the lawsuit.

    It's like selling guns to the side you like in a civil wary: it keeps the warring nation weak and prevents their interference in your own plans.
  • by Stephen Ma (163056) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @02:37AM (#18141170)
    Reality suggests there wont be a lot of public support for this effort or its logical expressed outcome, but I wish them luck.

    You underestimate how much resentment the normal computer user has for Microsoft now. The support for the freedom fighters will not be loud but it will be massive.

  • by jopet (538074) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @08:33AM (#18142578) Journal
    where MS secretly has violated opensource licenses by taking open source code and including it in their closed source code. How is the opensource community to check this? How could one ever find out with closed source software?
  • by cjsm (804001) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @09:02AM (#18142696)
    I've wondered about this point myself. I used to program as a hobby, graphic routines in assembly language. I came up with what I thought were some pretty good routines. And I thought, this is clever, I wonder if anyone has done this before. My point is, if I invent a way of doing something on my own, and it turns out someone had the same idea a few years before me, I can be stopped from using my own idea in my programs. To me this is wrong. I invented it myself, and didn't steal it, so I should have the right to use it. To me, intellectual property rights go to far when they tell me I can't use ideas I've thought of myself without outside influence. That's bullshit. Intellectual property rights are an artificial and arbitrary concept anyway, and if someone invents something on their own, they should have the right to use it, even if someone else had the same idea before.

    Software patients in general are a bad idea. Its absurd when you can patent every trivial concept under the sun.
  • Slander of Title? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @10:21AM (#18143072)
    Can't any OSS vendor sue Microsoft for Slander of Title [wikipedia.org] to force Balmer to "show us the code"?
  • by NickFortune (613926) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @11:38AM (#18143660) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft won't have any problems getting support from various free market enthusiasts -- for free.

    Interesting. Because it seems to me that any free market enthusiast worth his salt ought to be supporting Linux. Can't compete with zero price? Tough shit, that's just the way the market works. Can't write a better OS than a bunch of amateur enthusiasts? Well then you've got no business being in the market. Survival of the fittest, baby!

    I think we may have been pitching this on the wrong level in certain quarters. Thank you for that.

  • by s1oan (992550) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @11:53AM (#18143790)
    This is all a PR strategy. They have to pay a LARGE amount of money to Alcatel-Lucent because of patent infrigments and they had to do something to balance the situation on the media. Bad politicians do exactly the same. If they are responsible of something regretable, they will accuse their oponent of the same thing.
  • by hansonc (127888) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @01:52PM (#18144676) Homepage
    yeah that's the point.

    Microsoft: "You stole our code, pay up"
    Linux Fanboys: "Prove it or shut up and go sit in the corner"

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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