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Linux "is not piracy" Says Microsoft Lawyer 735

dipfan writes "Further to this Slashdot piece on the activities of the Business Software Alliance, the BBC reports on a European conference on piracy organised by the BSA. The good news is even Microsoft distinguishes between open source software and piracy; it quotes Microsoft's top in-house lawyer Brad Smith as saying: 'Linux is a way of developing software whereas piracy is copying.' The rest of the article is the usual panic-attack about the size of software piracy in general, and how this is holding back the software industry in Eastern Europe, according to Brad. Although the article notes the irony that despite all the piracy, software sales are forecast to grow from $50 billion in 2000 to about $90 billion by 2005."
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Linux "is not piracy" Says Microsoft Lawyer

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @12:56PM (#3429636) Homepage Journal
    Here it is in a nutshell:

    Ideas developed and shared undermine Intellectual Property. i.e. If you invented a better moustrap and GPL'd the design, then MSFT wouldn't be able get a patent on it, and thus license for big fees or lock any other developer or competitor out.

    Having to include source to something they didn't invent and can't get along without is their problem and, like any reasonable minded person, don't want problems. They like to keep it simple, by owning or having license agreements on IP.

    How anyone actually associates Linux with Piracy is beyond me and reflective of a lack of understanding the spirit of MSFT's gripes.

  • Atoms != Electrons (Score:1, Interesting)

    by asmithmd1 ( 239950 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @12:59PM (#3429655) Homepage Journal
    I know it has been said before, but this quote makes me mad.

    "It is a risk most other businesses don't have to deal with - having 34% of your product stolen," BSA's president Robert Holleyman told the conference.

    Why do they insist on equating an illegal copy with a stolen copy. The "thief" in the stolen copy case has not deprived the owner of the copyright of anything, the victim still has everything he had before the "theft"
  • by quinto2000 ( 211211 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:00PM (#3429665) Homepage Journal
    "We can't estimate how much piracy is on the net but in one day we found a million sites under a search for one of the codenames for pirated software," said a BSA spokesperson"
    They forgot to mention that all of the sites had the same broken links to servers that had only porn popups, not warez.

    And wow, it sure took them a long time to figure out the "codeword" for pirated software :)

  • Re:BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:03PM (#3429695) Journal
    Just now? They've been all over Orlando for the last year and a half. The company I used to work for got their HQ (Long Island City, NY) audited and scared the hell out of the Orlando office I had converted to about 1/3 Linux. They forked over big $$ for licenses they don't need, use or want -- just to avoid the hassle.

    The BSA is nothing more than a legalized protection racket.
  • Re:BSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:03PM (#3429697) Homepage Journal
    It's amazing how they come off all reasonable like on the radio, isn't it?

    They ran ads back in January in the SF Bay Area (e.g. KCBS 740) about how important it is to keep a clean shop and comply by the grace period end. Nothing about imperial stormtroopers installing software on your PC's or Servers, or demanding audits which would be unthinkable in short timeframes, or even the extortion of large wads of cash and total capitulation as the only other option.

  • New Acronym? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ocie ( 6659 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:03PM (#3429698) Homepage
    software sales are forecast to grow from $50 billion in 2000 to about $90 billion by 2005

    What do you expect. Software is write-once sell-many (WOSM)

  • Easter Europe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pmancini ( 20121 ) <pmancini AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:09PM (#3429736) Homepage
    The remark about piracy holding Eastern Europe back is partially right. In Russia, Ukraine and other states you can pick up just about any software for next to nothing. Imagine paying $1.80US for Windows XP Professional? The piracy rings there are so good you get it fully cracked, you get it in nice packaging and if you need help they can sell you a ton of books that have been scanned into PDF format also on CD.

    The problem isn't piracy. It is a lack of respect or even awareness of Intellectual Property in my opinion. There is no respect for it at all, it seems, in these countries. Their legislatures are just now starting to examine laws concerning it. I am not sure which industry is bigger: China's piracy rings or Russia's. In China the piracy goes to aid specific Red Army units (in fact the rings are allegedly controled by Army Generals).

    It is an interesting problem. While we want to business with these countries, lack of protections makes it nearly impossible. At least under the rules and structure of Capitalism. While those rules can lead to our current situation where we have an agressively bad and dangerous monopoly controlled by Bill Gates, they generally are good and promote sane business practices. My hope is that Eastern Europe reforms. With China, I don't see and end coming to their ways of doing business.
  • by JudasBlue ( 409332 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:11PM (#3429755)
    This is probably off topic, but I feel the need to share it.

    It is easy for those of us hip to the open source movement to laugh at this crap from MS, even though we know that some end users and such might be taken in by it. But the depths to which MS FUD penetrates the general IT community is bloody incredible to me.

    Yesterday I was talking with a mid-level QA engineer from Apple. This guy is working on a very complex product. He knows how to code.

    We start talking about software development, and I mention some things I am working on, mostly centered on Linux. At which point he says:

    "That's cool, but anything you do on Linux you would have to give away for free, right?"

    Contrary to what everyone is thinking, this guy isn't stupid. He isn't even technically inept. He works on a complex project and knows what he is doing in his problem domain.

    Anything that MS might say about Linux and open source that isn't totally negative should be lauded, because a LOT more people than some of us realize, people we think should know better, apparently are buying pretty much everything MS is trying to spread about open source and Linux.

  • Re:Well Duh.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by minion ( 162631 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:20PM (#3429819)
    They have much more to loose in Europe than here. When our government brought Microsoft to court, every country that uses Microsoft software took notice. Why? Because here you have a company, who's products you use to make your business function, under scrunity for illegal business practices, under foreign laws. That worried many counties. Legal ramifications that you have absolutely no control over.

    To those people, Open Source software just got a lot more appealing, because a foreign power can't take it away from you.
  • Re:full text (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:22PM (#3429842)
    Theft! MY ASS!!!!!!!

    I propose we show the RIAA, the MPAA and the BSA what theft is.

    We'll call it - "show those bastards what theft is day"

    Here's how it works. You walk into a store, take the latest Hollywood crap film, the latest crap Top 40 album, and any of the BSA's products - Illustrator, Office, etc. Put it in your pocket and leave the store.

    That's theft!

    The BSA has to realize that their products would not be in the top spot if it wasn't for (at one time legal) copying and installing on home computers. How many art students can afford Illustrator? None. How many art students can learn about Illustrator, do amateur work on it, get a job, use the software in "the real world" and then increase Adobe's sales? All of them.

    I mean shit - who out there pays for this crap? I don't. I can't afford to give Microsoft $150 every 9 months for incomplete upgrades. I can't afford to give Adobe $10000 every other year for their upgrades. I use pirated versions - and I don't feel bad about it at all.

    If I didn't have a bootleg of Windows 2000 server and workstation, I wouldn't have the skills to perform a migration. By migrating - just one client, to Windows 2000, I help sell several hundred licenses.

    If I didn't have bootlegs of all the Adobe software, I wouldn't be able to support them in the real world.

    The fact that you can get this shit for free (if you try hard enough) is what keeps qualified tech support people in 2nd and 3rd tier industries.

    Shit, if I could download an "evaluation copy" of Reuter's or Bloomberg, I would be an expert on that too. Instead, these firms end up ramping up the TCO for their clients because the job skills are impossible to get outside of the client environment.

    Hey, its simple math. More qualified techs for a given product means that more IS departments can provide support for a product meaning more firms can buy a product. Simple as that. If the product is difficult to support, and people can't roll their own skillset, the product will never grow in in its installed base, and the product's future will be left to the people least likely to help it: the software firms' marketing departments.

    Hell, marketing departments for software should be banned, as part of the Industry's Best Practices. These shit for brains are the reasons developers get sued out of existance.

    Hell, shareware is the key. Look at winzip for crying out loud. You don't really have to pay for their product - but if you are in a corporate environment, they probably buy licenses a few hundred at a time. Winzip's happy. I'm happy. Shit, even when my firm would buy Winzip licenses, I still churn out the registration code with a cracker!
  • by codefungus ( 463647 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:37PM (#3429960) Homepage Journal
    One big motivation to stomp out piracy is the current piracy situation in China. It's pretty amazing, I think.
    Right now, Piracy is such a problem in China that it actually has an impact on their economy. However, the piracy is not on software like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, it's on the software that governs assembly lines and supports large scale manufacturing, etc.
    It's so established that there are actual private networks that have been built specifically for shuffling pirated software back and forth.
    So why doesn't the government go after these private networks? Because the cost of bandwidth on these networks is much cheaper than the regular service providers...which means you have regular, legal companies using these pirate networks for everyday business use. And to top it all off, the average joe looks at these pirates as the underdog against the big bad govnt. The Chinese government can't touch these nets because they risk putting a lot of small businesses, well, out of business.
    That's pretty scary to me.
  • by Guido69 ( 513067 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:40PM (#3429981) Homepage
    ...'Linux is a way of developing software whereas piracy is copying.'...

    This quote scares me. Nothing to see here regarding Linux and piracy. The second half of the sentence carries the real message MS wants to bring forth. Come on, say (chant) it after me:

    Linux is a way of developing software whereas piracy is copying.
    Linux is a way of developing software whereas piracy is copying.
    Linux is software whereas piracy is copying.
    Linux is software whereas piracy is copying.
    Piracy is copying.
    Piracy is copying.
    Copying is piracy.
    Copying is piracy.

    Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I don't think so. MS has a long history of very careful wordsmithing when it comes to public statements.

  • Re:News To Me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by david duncan scott ( 206421 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:43PM (#3430004)
    Not terribly new -- we called it "piracy" back when we copied LP's to tape, before half of Slashdot was born. The term trickled up from the masses, not down from the record companies and software houses, because we liked the image - it made us sound all underground and outlaw and radical, instead of just too cheap to buy the album ("Eight bucks for a Kiss album? Fuck that, man!")
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:44PM (#3430012) Homepage
    Just try this little experiment: go to a theatre and count how many people go into a particular show. If it's less than full capacity, ask the manager if you can go in and watch for free, since there are unoccupied seats. Explain that, hey, nobody bought tickets for the unused seats, your viewing the film doesn't take away from paying customers enjoyment, wow, nobody's losing anything. Why won't they let you in?

    Consider this: Would a theatre continue to attract PAYING customers if they ever found out that people were getting in free? Would allowing people who can't afford PowerPoint to use it affect sales to those would can afford it? Should there be 'means testing' for software, like for charity, where you have to undergo an income/background check to see whether you have to pay for it or can qualify to get a free copy??
  • Re:full text (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ComputerSlicer23 ( 516509 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:45PM (#3430015)
    Most software pirated in the US is from casual copying, end of story

    I'll just point out, your offering up exactly the same non-supported, anecodotal evidence as the BSA here. Personally, I have never come across a "professional" pirate. I use know some pretty hardcore warez people which isn't neccessarily casual coping. You probably have a similar experince as I do, that most of it is just John Doe installing the latest Windows on several of his machines without licenses.

    However, that doesn't preclude the possibility of an organized crime group doing it for money, it just means you have probably never come across it. I agree with you that it is most likely casual copying, but don't accuse the BSA of having no stats, and then offer up facts with no statistics. At least try to say in my experience, or something, don't state is as a fact. Gives credibility to when the BSA does that, and they have a slightly bigger reputation then either you or I in the eyes of business people.

    Oh yeah, and I'd worry if the BSA started using stats. Stats are the single easiest way to lie, because you tell the whole truth, just inaccurately by using the property of your stats to show what you want. Stats are a wonderful way to lie.

  • by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <stuart@gathman.org> on Monday April 29, 2002 @01:59PM (#3430099) Homepage Journal
    As has been pointed out ad nauseum already, most pirates wouldn't have bought the program anyway. It seems that any proprietary product would be best served with the "Non-commercial use only" type license - where copies are free (as in free beer) for individuals and non profit-making activities within a corporation (such as evaluation).

    This allows all the benefits of piracy - lots of people who wouldn't or couldn't otherwise buy the software get familiar with it, and you can still send the BSA out to raid corporations that use it to run their sales force without paying. It has the further benefit of not promoting the moral decay that comes with deliberately disrespecting the legal rights of copyright holders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:04PM (#3430126)

    Boy, this article is a vivid reminder of how badly the "relationship" between Microsoft and the developer community has deteriorated.

    You honestly believed that Microsoft was so stupid and wacked out that they might actually take the public position that Linux == piracy.

    And you labeled it "good news" when this turned out not to be the case.

    It's perfectly normal to view Microsoft as uncaring and greedy; and it's healthy to harbor a seething distrust for them. But be careful. When you start implying that they might be totally stupid, then your distrust has overpowered your analytical abilities.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:05PM (#3430131)
    The BSA is the best thing to come down the pike for Open Source, since Linus woke up one morning and decided to start work on a Free variant of unix. I have to laugh at the originality of the BSAs attempts to convince everyone on the planet that piracy is the scourge of the century.

    Keep it coming BSA. We all appreciate your efforts. But if you need any advice maybe I can help.
    - Prison sentences for top management of a company that has been found to be using pirated Microsoft software. Long term, hard labor, hard crime kind of prison time.

    - Grant yourselves the right to walk into any company at any time and begin an audit of the companies software practices.

    - Reserve the right to sieze any and all hardware that was used to run the pirated software. Computers, printers, scanners, mice,

    - Install spyware on all offending companies returned equipment that informs the BSA of every piece of software on a machine.

    - Force an offending company to buy Microsoft licenses , even if the offending company has decided to throw all Microsoft products they presently own in a pile in the parking lot and burn it all up with lighter fluid.

    - Make sure that all closed source software companies , force the use of dongles for every piece of software sold.

    - Attempt to shut down the open source movement because it is all too obvious that without open source software there just would not be a way for the hackers to steal software.

    Some of these things are already a BSA policy but if you were to implement all of them I would be most pleased.
  • by LMCBoy ( 185365 ) on Monday April 29, 2002 @02:06PM (#3430141) Homepage Journal
    They [Redhat et al.] provide the source, but not the actual ISOs or other form of download.

    You sure about that? [redhat.com]
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday April 30, 2002 @05:27AM (#3434566) Homepage
    • How anyone actually associates Linux with Piracy is beyond me

    It's easy. Same way we associate "drugs" and "bad". It's all down to an understanding of the way the human brain interprets repitition, association, emphasis and repitition:

    Linux is a way of developing software whereas piracy is copying.

    Linux is [mumble] software whereas piracy is copying.

    Linux is [mumble] software [mumble] piracy [mumble] copying.

    Linux is [mumble mumble] piracy.

    Linux is piracy.

    Linux is piracy.


    Incidentally, I am not - repeat NOT - trying to be cute or funny here. Microsoft are mentioning Linux and piracy in the same sentence because they are laying the foundations for Joe Reader to imagine an association. Expect to see a lot more of this in the future, especially once they figure out whether they want to demonise specifically Linux, the GPL, or Open Source in general.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming