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Friday, 09 October 2009 07:56

De Icaza makes light of Microsoft bid to sell anti-Linux patents

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Novell vice-president Miguel de Icaza has dismissed Microsoft's bid to sell patents that could be used to attack Linux, saying it was not a problem as the patents were now in good hands.

De Icaza made the statement as part of an attack on Free Software Foundation head Richard Stallman who, in an article about Microsoft's CodePlex Foundation, had referred to him as an apologist for the Redmond-based software giant.

De Icaza later removed the portion of his post that referred to the patents. As pointed out by one commenter, Mark, it ran as follows:

"Richard's post contains two bits of actual substance: the promotion of DRM by Microsoft and the recent patents that were sold.

"Perhaps he put that at the end to give credibility for the rest of his message which is mostly innuendo.

"I dislike DRM as much as the next person, on the other hand, it has allowed me to pay 15 USD a month and get all-you-can-get Music, so I have mixed feelings about this.

"As for the patent sale, they are now in good hands: the OIN, so they are not a problem." (emphasis mine)

Mark pointed out that some of the comments, made in reaction to De Icaza's post, made no sense because they were referring to this deleted portion. De Icaza did not respond to this post.

Even Jim Zemlin, the head of the Linux Foundation, one of those who has always argued for a softly-softly approach to Microsoft, lost his cool after the patent stunt, writing in his blog : "...by selling patents that target Linux, Microsoft could help generate fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Linux, without needing to attack the Linux community directly in their own name."

Microsoft tried to sell the anti-Linux patents to Allied Security Trust, a patent-holding firm that provides its members permanent access to patents that it purchases and then sells the patents to others.

The Open Invention Network, an intellectual property company that was formed to promote Linux, got wind of the sale and bought the patents itself.

Stallman's short article about the CodePlex Foundation, an organisation that has been set up by Microsoft with the ostensible aim of enabling "the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities," questioned its motives in light of Microsoft's historical animosity towards free software.

The reference to De Icaza as a Microsoft apologist appeared to get up the Novell vice-president's nose.

This, despite the fact that an apologist is defined as "a person who makes a defence in speech or writing of a belief, idea, etc", and describes exactly De Icaza's stance  towards Microsoft.

De Icaza's response was, among other things, to liken Stallman's language to that of the unelected man who functioned as the president of the US for eight years, George W. Bush.

This is the second time that Stallman and De Icaza have sparred recently; a little more than two weeks ago, while answering questions at the Free Software Day celebrations in Boston, Stallman was reported to have called De Icaza a traitor to the free software community .

There is no transcript, audio or video of this; only the one blog post by Ubuntu developer and evangelist Martin Owens.

De Icaza's response was: "I want to say that God loves all creatures. From the formidable elephant to the tiniest ant. And that includes Richard Stallman.As for me, I think that there is a world of possibility, and if Richard wants to discuss how we can improve the pool of open source/free software in the world he has my email address."

This time it looks like God and love are not exactly on De Icaza's mind.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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