Friday, February 27, 2009

The Spread of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Benefits No One in the Long Run

Picture of TomTomDuring this past week the so-called big news revolves around Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom. A number of prolific Linux pundits are inexplicably able to extrapolate the available information and make giant intellectual leaps, thereby suggesting that this particular law suit is simply the tip of the iceberg relative to an all out legal attack on Linux and/or Open Source Software (OSS). Personally I find that such an extrapolation is at best laughable, and at worst, detrimental to the Open Source struggle.

Generally speaking, the direction of FUD spread is toward the Open Software movement. However, this is a case in which FUD has been flung in the opposite direction, specifically at Microsoft. When individuals in positions of celebrity spread FUD, they more often than not portray in a negative light, not the intended object of the FUD, but rather, themselves and the organizations they represent. This is true no matter the direction of FUD spread.

In the case of Open Software, I am of the opinion that "jumping to conclusions" and spreading FUD portrays the community as a group with something to hide. Have we not conducted our business in an honest, above-the-boards manner? Are we a bunch whiny conspiracy theorists who are afraid of our own shadows? I contend that the answer to both questions is a resounding "No"!

While I am not going to try to detail here my opinion as to whether or not the Microsoft lawsuit is frivolous, I am of the opinion that our community needs to take a step back and try to view ourselves from the eyes of those who do not have the same level of awareness and understanding of our cause. Jim Zemlin and Bryan Lunduke are just two individuals with whom I agree that Microsoft's lawsuit is not against Linux and/or Open Source Software. Instead, the lawsuit, until proven otherwise, is against TomTom.

The following is a The H Open Source news post regarding The Linux Foundation's Opinion on Microsoft Versus TomTom:
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said in his blog yesterday (26th February) that the Microsoft patent infringement suite against TomTom, at least at present, does not appear to be a covert attack on Linux. Microsoft have made assurances that their dispute is solely with TomTom and Zemlin says there is no reason to doubt that is the case, or to suspect a move against the Linux ecosystem.

Microsoft say that TomTom infringe on eight Microsoft held patents. Three of those patents concern methods of organising data filing systems and relate to the FAT system. It's this which may cause some concern among the Linux community because Linux does provide support for the FAT filing system. TomTom use an embedded version of Linux inside their portable SatNav devices.

Zemlin says that if the case does result in a threat to Linux then the Foundation is well prepared to defend Linux and that the "Linux ecosystem has enormously sophisticated resources available" for its defence.

The Linux community is perhaps understandably nervous when a possible threat appears, due to the long standing SCO Group lawsuits. Originally, in 2003, the SCO Group filed suit against IBM, claiming that Linux incorporated large segments of code that was proprietary to SCO UNIX. At one point in the legal battle Microsoft appeared to fund the SCO Group by buying licensing for SCO UNIX and by arranging funding from other sources, it was assumed in the hope of seriously damaging Linux. Fortunately for the future of Linux, things did not go at all well for the SCO Group and it has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection mainly due to the costs of its anti-Linux legal battles.

As Linux grows in influence and market share it is increasingly likely that it will come under patent related attack. However there is growing concern that many patent suits within the computer industry in general, are either strategic or made by patent trolls, purely for commercial gain and are not genuine patent challenges. It seems there will be legislation and patent law reform to curb such attacks.


And with that, I am off to see the wizard...

No comments:

Post a Comment