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Microsoft The Almighty Buck Patents

Gates tried to Blackmail Danish Government 774

mocm writes "The Inquirer has a story about how Bill Gates tried to pressure the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen into accepting the European Union's proposed directive on software patents by threating to terminate the 800 jobs at Navision, which had been acquired by Microsoft." Update: 02/16 00:41 GMT by T : cfelde points out a CNET story which says that "The European vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, Klaus Holse Andersen, denied on Tuesday that the jobs at Navision were ever at risk." Believe who you'd like.
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Gates tried to Blackmail Danish Government

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  • Not blackmail (Score:3, Informative)

    by loudmax ( 243935 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:39AM (#11676480) Homepage
    That would be extortion, not blackmail.
    • From Main Entry: blackmail ... 2 a : extortion or coercion by threats ...

      Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
    • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) * <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:45AM (#11676536) Homepage Journal
      Either way, it shows just how low Microsoft can go.

      What's next, Mafia-style "hits" on politicians who don't do what Microsoft wants?

      • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:01AM (#11676650) Homepage
        If at least you would have read the article, you would have seen that Microsoft is not the only one company in the entire universe to do this. So no, is does not show how low Microsoft can go, it just shows how low any company can go.

        Stop putting all evil on Bill's shoulders.
        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:24AM (#11676845)
          So you are saying that since some other companies may do this, too, that it's not low of Microsoft to do so? No matter how many companies may or may not do this, doesn't make it right and Microsoft should be slammed for attempting it (along with any other company). Since Bill Gates calls himself the Chief Architect at Microsoft, then any wrong-doings, evil or not, most definately are on his shoulders.
        • You mean Microsoft isn't the only company in the history of forever to use the threat or promise of jobs to try to get favorable decisions from governments?

          I'm shocked. Next you'll be telling me that companies decide where to build new factories based on what kind of tax breaks they can get.
        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:3, Insightful)

          by araemo ( 603185 )
          Why should we not hold microsoft accounable for doing something 'evil' like this? I'd like to hold every company that does this accountable, but most of the time we don't actually hear about it.
        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

          by The Hobo ( 783784 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:58AM (#11677159)
          What you said is fine, but to be blunt excusing behaviour because others do it when it isn't right isn't right in the first place.
        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fymidos ( 512362 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:04AM (#11677213) Journal
          Al Capone was not the "only one person in the entire universe" to do criminal stuff. Actually in his days a *LOT* of people did it. This doesn't make it right and whoever pulls stuff like that deserves to be punished.

          >Stop putting all evil on Bill's shoulders.

          Oh, come on, he personally travels around, threatening people, and this should not be on his shoulders, because ... ?!?!?
        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:32AM (#11677509)
          If at least you would have read the article, you would have seen that Microsoft is not the only one company in the entire universe to do this. So no, is does not show how low Microsoft can go, it just shows how low any company can go.

          Your Honor, my client stands accused of cutting deals to harm his neighbor, bribing the investigating officer, strong-arming witnesses, and launching "initiatives" in which he vows to indulge in more of the same.

          Far from reflecting personally upon my client, these charges merely show how low any human being can go!

          Stop putting all evil on Bill's shoulders.

          Furthermore, my client is tired of these accusations, which have been repeated on a regular basis for over a decade. Hasn't my client suffered enough?

        • Re:Not blackmail (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rspress ( 623984 )
          Actually since this is Microsofts SOP Bill is open to getting all the evil put on his head.

          If, as microsoft claims, their product is the best and most cost effective then why do they need to pressure politicians, smear the competition, etc.

          Standard Oil did exactly the same thing and they got a lot more bad press. Getty was cosidered truly evil was displayed that way in the press. Gates and Balmer are doing the same thing and are pretty much getting a free ride.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:01AM (#11676656)
        Back at the peaceful Simpsons house. Homer is reading "Internet for Dummies".

        Oh, they have the Internet on computers now!

        Homer, Bill Gates is here.

        Bill Gates?! Millionaire computer nerd Bill Gates! Oh my god. Oh my god. Get out of sight, Marge. I don't want this to look like a two-bit operation.

        Marge groans and rolls her eyes. Bill Gates and two "associates" enter.

        Mr. Simpson?

        You don't look so rich.

        Don't let the haircut fool you, I am exceedingly wealthy.

        (quietly to Marge) Get a load of the bowl-job, Marge!

        Your Internet ad was brought to my attention, but I can't figure out what, if anything, CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet does, so rather than risk competing with you, I've decided simply to buy you out.

        Homer and Marge step aside to talk privately.

        This is it Marge. I've poured my heart and soul into this business and now it's finally paying off. (covering his mouth) We're rich! Richer than astronauts.

        Homer quiet. Acquire the deal.

        (to Gates) I reluctantly accept your proposal!

        Well everyone always does. Buy 'em out, boys!

        Bill Gates companions begin to trash the "office".

        Hey, what the hell's going on!

        Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks!

        Bill Gates lets out a maniacal laugh. Homer and Marge cower in the corner as the room continues to be trashed.
    • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hope Thelps ( 322083 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:47AM (#11676547)
      Whatever it is, it's ludicrously transparent. According to the FFII's translation of the original Danish story, included in their statement []on this, Bill said:

      "If I'm to keep my development center in Denmark, then it's a
      requirement that the question of rights becomes resolved. Otherwise, I
      will move it to the USA where I can protect my rights"

      In fact, the location that development takes place has nothing to do with patent validity. Software developed in Denmark can be patented in the USA regardless of Danish or EU laws. Software developed in the USA cannot be patented in countries that don't recognise software patents, ragardless of US laws.

      There's no way that Billis misinformed enough to think otherwise. If he showed occasional signs of honesty or integrity then he might get more respect.
      • Re:Not blackmail (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:57AM (#11676615) Homepage Journal
        In fact, the location that development takes place has nothing to do with patent validity. Software developed in Denmark can be patented in the USA regardless of Danish or EU laws

        Confusing governments over that is a major part of the pro strong patent and copyright crowds argument. Without it the whole "without the aptent laws people ahve no incentive" argument falls apart.

      • except that.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:28PM (#11678110) Homepage Journal
        Navision historically has sold its wares in europe. So patent/copyright laws in europe are very much relevant in europe.

        Also, the denmark office was an aquisition which afaik is a separate company, Microsoft Business Solutions, that may be incorporated separately in Denmark for historical reasons.

        let's be clear - I definitely think gates is saying something along the lines of "if you're not going to make an effort to protect software, i wont make an effort to continue investing in your economy". That seems like a reasonable thing to say, doesn't it ?

    • by sepluv ( 641107 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:05AM (#11676687)

      Here's something I wrote the other day, which seems particularly appropriate now this story has come out:

      The Cast:

      • Mr. Gates
      • A European Commissioner
      The Sketch

      A `customer' (with brown envelopes and chequebook aready) enters the €C in Brussels.

      Mr. Gates: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

      (The commisioner does not respond.)

      Mr. Gates: 'Ello, Miss?

      Commissioner: What do you mean "miss"?

      Mr. Gates: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

      Commissioner: We're closin' for lunch.

      Mr. Gates: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this patent law what I purchased not two years ago from this very office.

      Commissioner: Oh yes, the, uh, the computer-implemented inventions one...What's, uh...What's wrong with it?

      Mr. Gates: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

      Commissioner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

      Mr. Gates: Look, matey, I know a dead patent law when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

      Commissioner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable law, idn'it, ay? Beautiful sophistory and ambiguity!

      Mr. Gates: The anbiguity don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

      Commissioner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

      Mr. Gates: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!


      Mr. Gates: You let the European Parliament kill 'im, didn't you!

      Commissioner: I never!!

      Mr. Gates: Yes, you did!

      Commissioner: I never, never did anything...

      (Mr. Gates takes patent law out of briefcase and thumps it on the desk. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

      contd...(due to limit on post size)

      • by sepluv ( 641107 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:08AM (#11676712)

        The Sketch (contd...)

        Mr. Gates: Now that's what I call a dead patent law. The JURI is no longer out on that patent law...its most definitely deceased.

        Commissioner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

        Mr. Gates: STUNNED?!?

        Commissioner: Yeah! 'E was stunned by all the public backlash! Patent laws stun easily, major.

        Mr. Gates: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That patent law is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not two years ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following prolonged internal diplomacy.

        Commissioner: Well...uhhh...we prefer to do things dead slow and sure like in the EU!

        Mr. Gates: Well...the dead bit is most certainly right. Look, why did it fall flat on his back the moment I got home last time? I never had these problems with Congress...

        Commissioner:Remarkable patent law, id'nit, squire? Lovely contradictions and those beautiful convoluted sentences!

        Mr. Gates: Look, I took the liberty of examining that patent law when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had got as far as it had in the first place was that no one had actually READ it.


        Commissioner: Well, o'course they don't! They're not payed enough for least they are, but we pay 'em NOT to read 'em. That's the trick, you see. Trust me...that patent law will fly straight through as an A-item in the fisheries committee...just like...a parrot, know parrots love a bit of fish...the great thing is, sir, that the ministers and MEPs avoid it like the plague on account of it stinkin' to 'igh 'eaven...

        Mr. Gates: Never find how 'igh your damn committee stinks, this patent law wouldn't fly through your committee if you put four million volts through every minister present! 'E's bleedin' demised!

        Commissioner: No no! 'E's just a li'l slow!

        Mr. Gates: 'E's not slow! 'E's passed on! This patent law is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! 'E's pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked thebucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PATENT LAW!!


        Commissioner: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek round the back) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back , and uh, we're right out of patent laws.

        Mr. Gates: I see. I see, I get the picture.

        Commissioner: I got a HIPC initiative. Uhhh...your good...ummm...friend, Mr. Brown had this idea you see but he hasn't got the means...


        Mr. Gates: (sweetly) Pray, will it take out my competitors?

        Commissioner: Nnnnot really.


        Commissioner: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)

        Mr. Gates: Well.


        Commissioner: (quietly) You know I thought that uhhh...spread in Teen Beat was rather good...uhhh...D'you.... d'you want to come back to my place?

        Mr. Gates: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.


        The original dead parrot [] sketch [] was written by Graham Chapman, et. al. for Monty Python []'s Flying Circus [] and is © 1989 Pantheon Books/Random House, Inc. My modification of it is co

    • Correct word... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abb3w ( 696381 )
      is obviously Danegeld []. =)

  • by MadMoses ( 151207 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:39AM (#11676484) Homepage
    ...from [] (in German).
  • I don't know (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:39AM (#11676485) Journal
    maybe they could try to arrest him on blackmail charges, or something

    How mafioso

    • Re:I don't know (Score:3, Informative)

      by MadMoses ( 151207 )
      Not really. He didn't say something like "If you vote against software patents, we will terminate those jobs." He said something along the lines of we're extremely unhappy that there are no software patents in Europe. We can't "secure our rights" properly here, so we just might have to relocate that company to the USA.

      Political FUD.
    • Re:I don't know (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:01AM (#11676649) Homepage Journal
      How mafioso

      Software patents are largely bullshit, however there is nothing nefarious about a business negotiating with government for an optimal business environment. If Bill Gates really thinks that software patents are necessary for a business unit to be viable in a political region, then he has every legitimate right to express that. The government has the right to tell him to go screw himself, and if he really thinks it's do or die then he can pull out.

      This sort of tactic is absolutely classic in many other business areas. Automakers these days only build plants where the government will concede to their demands, as well as often offering up hundreds of millions in incentives.
  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Traegorn ( 856071 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:39AM (#11676487) Homepage Journal
    Don't think of it as "Blackmail" so much as "Microsoft Job Incentives"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:40AM (#11676496)
    You veel accept ein pahtent deerektive, or your employeess.. vill be terminated!
  • by JPelorat ( 5320 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:41AM (#11676500)
    It'd be a shame if someone was to.. set fire to them.
  • Blackmail? (Score:3, Funny)

    by toastyman ( 23954 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:41AM (#11676501) Homepage
    Inigo Montoya []: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • SOP (Score:5, Informative)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:41AM (#11676503) Homepage Journal
    this has become standard, at least in the US. Corporations play one state against the other to gain tax breaks, increase dole payments, and other entitlements. These welfare subsidies can net a several hundred dollars of government payments per anticipated position.
  • by John_Sauter ( 595980 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:41AM (#11676504) Homepage
    Note that this story is also being covered by Groklaw [], with some good commentary by Pamela Jones.
    John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)
    • Thanks to Richard Stallman and his GNU Project, Linus Torvalds

      I knew that RMS always wanted to name Linux as GNU Linux, but now he claims to have created Linus Torvalds?
  • by kenthorvath ( 225950 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:42AM (#11676508)
    Is there a difference between blackmail and extortion?

    According to, blackmail is defined as the extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information.

    Whereas extortion is defined as the Illegal use of one's official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.

    Is it not extortion that has occured here?

    • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:48AM (#11676552) Homepage
      It is neither.
      It is definatly not blackmail, since there is no criminal act or discreditable information.
      It is not extortion because the act of close the office and firing the people would not be illegal. Also it was not made in private.
      It is definatly arm twisting or making a threating comment. Not sure how illegal that would be.
  • by EsbenMoseHansen ( 731150 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:42AM (#11676510) Homepage

    Mainly it talks about how parts of the IT sector wants to block the contensted directive and how the proponents have been unable to get through due to effective lobbyism from the contensters.

  • We the people ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:42AM (#11676511) Homepage
    We are going to get ruled more and more by corporations, rather than governments. Since Microsoft is making more than most American states, they also wield quite a bit of power. And since politicians can always be blackmailed with the prospect of lost jobs (Siemens did that in Germany, and lots of other comapnies too), I wonder how long until our right to vote is transferred to our employers ...
  • by Arioch of Chaos ( 674116 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:43AM (#11676514) Journal
    These threats are common. However, is there really any relevant connection between where R&D/software development takes place and where one can apply for patents? Of course not. Nothing is preventing Microsoft from applying for US patents for the things they "invent" in Denmark. The question of where they can get a patent is not intrinsically linked to where they do their development.
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:44AM (#11676525)
    Hmm... Let's weigh the options for the Danish government:

    1. Loss of approximately 800 jobs
    2. Implement stifling patent policies that will likely make Microsoft and other massive patent holders even more wealthy while crippling innovation within their country.

    I wonder which one they should pick?
    • by Oestergaard ( 3005 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:08AM (#11677249) Homepage
      You see, sw patents are only a problem when you are starting up new business - if you are IBM (or Microsoft to some extent) already, then they are useful.

      My point here being, that software patents are only 'stifling' if you intend to start up new business.

      And you are only likely to realize this, if you realize that starting up new businesses is important for an economy to grow.

      Back in the late '90s our government found out that Denmark should be a country of innovation, a high-tech economy so to speak - we cannot compete with china on industrial production costs anyway. So, in order to "boost" research they shut down the only government super computing center we had, sending researchers elsewhere to go beg for computing power.

      To further strenghten our position as a nation of researchers and scientists, we have one of the most expensive but crappiest primary school systems in the western world - which is one thing, but the fact that anyone refuses to do anything about it underlines how important it is to the government to really position our country with a high-tech economy. Or not...

      Copyright law was changed last year, to make it illegal to use or develop debuggers and disassemblers. I wrote to the minister in change of that decision letting him know that I and anyone else developing software would be breaking that law. Got some bullshit answer back which didn't address the problem, so now I'm practicing my right to "civil disobedience" every day on the job, along with everyone else in the software business in this country...

      800 jobs is money right here right now. "Stifling" is in the eye of the beholder. For a government which is determined to break any initiative or start-up business, either indirectly thru neglect or directly thru law, it seems like it is not such a tough decision to make.

      Oh, and add a photo opportunity with Bill and it's a done deal.

  • by pesc ( 147035 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:48AM (#11676551)
    I've heard this kind of logic from the patent lobby numerous times:

    "If we don't get software patents in Europe, we can't develop stuff there. We have to develop in in the US where we have software patents available."

    This is pure FUD and BS. Why can't we develop stuff in Europe and apply for patents in the US? Most of the technology in patent applications in Europe was developed in foreign countries.

    The smart thing to do is to develop tech where you have smart people. And apply for software patents in the US and have a free market without software monopolies in Europe. If you develop a product that happen to infringe on a forest of software patents, you can only market it profitably in Europe. Too bad for the US.

    I hope politicians learn to call this kind of extortionist bluff soon.
  • Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alarash ( 746254 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:48AM (#11676554)
    When companies/corporations begin trying to extort countries, and not the weakest countries mind you, something is wrong.

    I'm beginning to believe that what I read in sci-fi will come true (ie: in the future, mankind is ruled by corporations that want to make money).

    And even more scary is the fact that for one extortion of that kind we hear of, numbers of other extortions of the same kind happen and we never hear about it. Brrr.

    • Re:Scary (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hattig ( 47930 )
      When the corporation becomes government.

      And when the corporation exists to benefit from the people it 'governs'.

      And when the corporation 'feeds' the people by giving them money, whilst restricting the rights of the people via law.

      Then you have slavery.

      Now for a rant with lots of flaws...

      The solution is to equalise the lobbying power of corporations with that of the common person. Disallow corporate funding/gifts of government employees. The government should be run FOR the people, because the people el
  • by MadMoses ( 151207 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:51AM (#11676567) Homepage
    Gates said that he's displeased with the process of political decisions on software patents in the european union. In particular, he seems to be unhappy about the successful opposition by many european IT companies and software developers.

    He further claims that Microsoft can secure their rights better in the USA.

    I call BS on that: if Microsoft relocates Navision to the USA, they can patent there all they want, but guess what, their patents won't mean squat in Europe without the possibility to patent software in the EU.
  • by NeoGeo64 ( 672698 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:51AM (#11676568) Homepage Journal
    Couldn't Microsoft just buy Denmark?
  • by e_AltF4 ( 247712 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:54AM (#11676593)
    Converting all Danish government IT away from MS towards OSS will surely bring far more than 800 jobs and KEEP those in the country.

    Go read some Gibson "Cyberpunk" books to see what you get if you let corporations run the world.

    Just my 5€Cents.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:56AM (#11676607) Journal
    Surely they purchased the company for a reason. The staff would have been part fo that reasons.

    Laying off that many staff in a fit of pique would create a perfect opportunity for a competitor to set up a company that does pretty much the same thing with the same employees.
  • by Fuzzums ( 250400 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:57AM (#11676619) Homepage
    please wake up. it's "we, the corporations of the USA"
  • by SteelLynx ( 179569 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:01AM (#11676647)
    No, not me. I've never worked for Navision and can't recall anyone I know (personally) who's done so.

    However, a while back (before her marriage to our crown prince) our crown princess did work for Navision.

    I can't help but wonder if Bill Gates would have dared threaten to close the workplace of an upcoming queen...
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info&devinmoore,com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:12AM (#11676739) Homepage Journal
    Generally, something "arm twisting" like this is commonly considered "racketeering", meaning "if you don't do what we/I want, 'something bad' is going to happen".
  • Heaven forbid! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:19AM (#11676798)
    Change the players to something more politically correct, like a Hybrid Car factory, and watch exactly the same thing play out. Big companies always look to put their people, their money, and their wake-generating activity in a place (or tax framework) that best suits their bottom line. Why do you suppose that Japanese car manufacturers have partnership plants in Kentucky? Because Michigan was out of room? No, because they dangled issues like jobs in front of political decision makers, and the best deal won. Did the editors of this posting just fall off a turnip truck or something? That headline is gratuitous. Come on, now.
  • Darth Gates (Score:5, Funny)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:24AM (#11676842) Homepage
    You and your pathetic band of Eurotrash nations will accept software patents or you will feel the power of our fully operational Deathstar! Powered by XP.

    Just as soon as it reboots...any second the Deathstar back up yet? Damned 14 year old hackers!

  • Suprise! (Score:3, Informative)

    by tod_miller ( 792541 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:30AM (#11676923) Journal
    If you care to check out my other posts on the subject of EU patents, I do wonder just where Microsoft would be behind the curtains.

    In the everlasting words of Bill Gates "Suprise Fuckers!".

    Well, I think this is obviously a way of setting up a legal platform to kill linux (after SCO failed) by removing the last bastion of patent turf war.

    We need to have out own patent office, the GNUPatent office, and get it recognised.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:32AM (#11676937) Homepage Journal
    From MSN Encarta []:
    Sherman Antitrust Act, basic federal enactment regulating the operations of corporate trusts, passed by the U.S. Congress in July 1890, through the efforts of Senator John Sherman of Ohio. The act declared illegal "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations." Criminal penalties were provided for violators of the law, and aggrieved persons were entitled to recover three times the amount of losses suffered as a result of the violation. The Sherman Act has been amended and supplemented by several subsequent enactments. Most notable among these enactments was the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. See Monopoly; Trusts.

    OK, so given that the main article's title changes "blackmail" to "extort", /. is probably not committing libel.

    I'd change it. Even though Gates is a "public figure" it really is poor practice to throw around accusations carelessly.

  • by Axoiv ( 747887 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:41AM (#11677018)
    Why not restrict software patents to smaller start up companies? For a 7 year patent time or so?

    These large corporations dont seem to help humanity in any way. Cutting of jobs, threatening governments? It's getting out of control.

    Smaller businesses, on the other hand, could produce more jobs and don't jam up the justice system suing anyone against them.
  • by JFMulder ( 59706 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:43AM (#11677041)
    Come on. All this because it's Bill Gates. Poeple, companies do this all the time. Some companies are always threatening the Parti Quebecois in Quebec to leave Quebec if it ever separates from Canada. Company threaten governments to leave if they raise the taxes to much. This is not news.

    I'm not saying this is an okay thing. Companies should not do this. I'm just saying it's unfair to make this newsworthy only because it's Microsoft.
  • alright i RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:48AM (#11677080) Journal
    This is not blackmail. The poster of this threat should be shot. At best this is extortion - more likely it is using political influence - just like MANY lobbyists do. You know when the NHL goes on strike for contract disputs, SEPTA goes on strike for contract disputes. When environmental groups lobby and put the squeeze on politicians. When car and oil companies do the same thing.

    Frankly - it is also business. Billy probably was thinkign "if these guys want to screw me over with their .... then I am going to just pull my office from there so I don't get screwed..."
  • by ahodgkinson ( 662233 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:57AM (#11677149) Homepage Journal
    This is what happens when multi-national corporations gain wealth approaching that of medium sized nations. They tend to start (mis-)using the power that wealth affords them to promote their own agenda. While this is done for financial gain and not as evil for evil's sake, the result is a disproportionate balance of power/rights to the favor of the corporation at the expense of the private citizen, with little regard for unintended consequences that the public might suffer.

    Unfortunately, multi-national corporations have a great deal to gain with such practices, and their expected value is actually fairly high, even taking into account the legal fees, fines and embarrassment of getting caught now and again.

    Unfortunately, the public, as compared to the vested business interests, is generally apathetic, since they have less to lose individually, than the corporations. This means that the corporations will merely continue their efforts until the public loses interest and they succeed in converting their selfish desires into government policy. This may take years, but they have the focus to see it through to the end.

    In the particular case, software patents, there has been public outcry in Europe against them and the politicians have generally listened. Each time we think the issue is close some massive business entity resurrects the discussion, in spite of the public opinion. Obviously this hasn't yet met with success and now Microsoft is attempting some innovative (sic) and repulsive tactics.

    What should we as individuals do?

    • Spread the word and name names. Tell your friends, your co-workers, you boss, or even better, your neighbor the elected official, that Microsoft has attempted to co-opt the democratic process in Denmark.
    • Wite letters to newspapers, journals, and elected officials explaining why software patents are a bad idea in Europe.
    • Vote with your feet. Stop buying/using products from companies that engage in unfair business and political practices.
    • Donate to the EFT, Groklaw and other similar institutions.
    • Remain vigilant.
    If you dont know much about the arguments surrounding software patents, have a look at: []

    Note: I'm not against big business, provided they play fair. Unfortunately, my experience has been that large corporations tend to use their size advantages in ways that make it difficult for smaller (and in many cases more innovative) business to compete. It's up to the small guy to fight back (in a fair way :).

  • Backfired! (Score:3, Informative)

    by infolib ( 618234 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:00AM (#11677169)
    The danish Social Democrats just denounced Gates' threats in a press release []. The social democrats control whether software patents have a majority or not in the danish parliament.
  • by bushidocoder ( 550265 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:21PM (#11678049) Homepage
    I've been thinking about this all morning, and laying 800 people off as a blackmail to pass a certain political desirable just doesn't make sense. It actually doesn't ring of BillG's style, and its bad business - what were those 800 people doing? Its not like Microsoft doesn't have release schedule problems with its products already.

    If I had to make a guess, I'd say one of two things actually happened - First BillG may have threatened to MOVE the company, which isn't quite the same as firing them all but it just about as bad morally. Unfortunately, companies do this all the time, especially manufacturing companies - hell, its half the reason auto makers have unions.

    The second option is that he was planning on axing the workforce for valid business reasons and offered to throw them a bone and keep it open if the PM supported software patents.

    Neither is too many shades better than the extortion reported in the article, but both are common tactics in the business world. Personally, I think we should say screw them all to all the companies that try to pull off BS stunts like this. Starting with Microsoft.

  • by kurt555gs ( 309278 ) <kurt555gs@ov i . c om> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:53PM (#11678400) Homepage

    If you don't play my way, i'll take my marbles and go home


    The man is sick.

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:35PM (#11678855) Journal
    I used to admin a Navision db at the last place I worked at, here in Switzerland. I even did a training course at the Navison central in Lucerne. I aksed the boss of Navision Switzerland if they had ever had plans to port Navision to Linux, since Navision has been around a long time, from the DOS days, and also used to run on AIX and up until recently didn't even use the Windows GUI toolkit but had its own proprietry one. He said that Microsoft had told the various European regional CEO's of Navision that they were not even allowed to mention Linux, never mind think about porting it to Linux.

    Navsision is quite popular in Europe as it's very easy to install and admin, has a huge set of CRM and ERP modules and is small enough to be useful for companies of up to around 250 people or so. Navision was quite clever in their set up in that they have a network of so called Navision Solution Centers in Europe where customisation specialists sit around and write add on modules and customise existing db scripts for local businesses. Imagine if MySQL or PostgreSQL had a similar setup!

    This was Microsoft's way of gaining a foothold in Europe with the hope of competing eventually with SAP (Navision also has a larger db product called Axapta).

    Navision being Danish helped because Denmark (and Holland) have very much become the USA's bitches in Europe in the last few decades, probably because they thought they could use the USA to balance out the weight of their larger European neighbours.

    On the whole this has also worked out as Holland and Denmark are doing pretty well economically (They're also much smaller than their neighbours and thus much more flexible). The problem is that they have thus also become the USA's bitches to a certain extent in that their militaries and sections of their economies are more dependent on American good will than others. The JSF fighter fiasco where loads of countries get to pay for development of the fighter in return for industrial contracts which never materialised is a good example.

    This open extortion (blackmail isn't really the word) of a Danish national politician is what they get for their trouble. Microsoft would not do the same in Germany, for example, as the resulting scandal would kill Microsoft in Germany. (Let's leave Germany's economic mess out of this for now)

    This should be awake up call to Europeans that sucking up to large corporations, especially large foreign corporations, is like handing away your birthright in the long run.

    (Actually, I suppose this applies to all countries, really)
  • by AFCArchvile ( 221494 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:05PM (#11679244)
    As covered [] in two sources [], Microsoft's denial:

    But Klaus Holse Andersen, the European vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions, denied on Tuesday that the jobs at Navision were ever at risk. "No, that is not what he said in the meeting," Andersen told ZDNet UK. "There is no plan for us to close down the site."
  • Fogh denies... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maskedman ( 221001 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:19PM (#11679438) Homepage
    Our prime minister has officially denied that Bill Gates supposedly "threatened" him.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:38PM (#11679634) Homepage
    How can we repay the Polish and Danish governments - in _real_ terms - involving patent-free software?

    ideas, anyone?
  • by hung_himself ( 774451 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#11679901)
    It's not the US...

    Losing your job doesn't mean risking bankruptcy if you become sick and there are very generous social programs in Denmark to ease the transition from one job to another. I'm not saying being laid off is not a big deal but it is lower on the Richter scale. So because the Danes are less dependent on corporate largesse, they can also more easily ignore this type of corporate blackmail (albeit at the cost of higher taxes for some...)
  • Let's play a game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:16PM (#11680069) Homepage
    In response to the "so what?" posts, let's play a game:

    Suppose I, catbeller, in my civilian life, told a representative of Microsoft that I would personally unemploy, say, his family members by making a couple of phone calls, barring his cooperation in paying me a few million dollars, and signing a few contracts granting me much power.

    How long until the armored black farmboys smash my door down with a ram? How long would I be in FMITA prison?

    But Microsoft can do it. And no one is responsible. The corporation has civil rights as an individual, but has no civil obligations. Even if a crime is somehow proven, no one goes to jail, not for theft of billions, Enron style, or death of thousands, Dupont/Bhopal style.

    All power and priviledge, no responsibilty for its own actions. The very thing that makes conservatives quiver: no consequences for individuals for their own actions. Fake corporate "persons" front for real people committing real crimes. The current setup is organized crime.

    I've come to the conclusion that corporate personhood is a concept that has to be eliminated. People should answer for their crimes. If Bill made the decision to extort the Danes, then he should have to answer for it at a trial after extradition from the U.S. But in the real world...

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong