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Microsoft's Overlooked Code Theft 441

Like2Byte was one of many readers to point out that "Newsforge is reporting that Microsoft was fined by a French court for three million francs "because it illegally included another company's proprietary source code in SoftImage 3D," something which (as the story points out) went mostly unremarked at the time. This is one of the points mentioned by Peruvian Senator David Villanueva Nuñez in his response to Microsoft FUD.
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Microsoft's Overlooked Code Theft

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  • I wonder... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PhilJackson ( 540641 )
    ...just how much GPL'd code in in M$ software.
    • probably not much... M$ software doesn't work.
    • None. They just use BSD code.
    • I'm calling the BSA hotline [bsa.org]. You should too.

      If anyone needed an audit, a previous convicted felon^H^H^H^H^Hpirate might do it again.
    • by apc ( 193970 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:52PM (#3486470)
      Some of you may remember that Microsoft lost a patent infringment suit in 1994 to Stac Electronics for much the same reason. See this article [ibiblio.org] for more info.

      Microsoft was also caught in 1995 using bits of Apple's Quicktime for Windows in an MS product. See this old cnet article for more details. [com.com]

      In that case, they blamed it on a subcontractor. It's been speculated that the big Apple/Microsoft deal at that time (to keep Office for Mac and to bundle IE with Macs, plus a big MS investment in Apple) may have been to settle a copyright infringment claim.

  • A couple points. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Talonius ( 97106 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:00PM (#3486122)
    It wasn't "outright" code theft. There was a licensing agreement that was violated.

    Microsoft has been known in the past to include BSD code. (It's TCP/IP stack is one example.) This "habit" is probably why they don't like GPL code - they prefer to quietly integrate the code.

    Why another article? Oh ffs shut up. Why another article? Because Microsoft getting fined for this sort of thing will garner more attention than the Peruvian Senator. Although, truth be known, I want him as a US Senator.

    • Re:A couple points. (Score:3, Informative)

      by tinahdee ( 135200 )
      It *was* outright code theft, in my understanding, because Syn'X walked away from the deal. There was no agreement.

      • Re:A couple points. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Talonius ( 97106 )
        Ergh, okay, you're right from what I can tell.

        [quote]Softimage signing a contract with Syn'x Relief to integrate the unique functions of Character into its own package, Softimage 3D. However, the integration was delayed until, at the start of 1994, a new agreement was put to Character's developers: They would have to sign over all their rights to Softimage if they wanted to continue.[/quote]

        Contract was originally signed; coercion was tried to force Character developers to give up more rights; Character developers refused and walked away from the deal. In the middle of this MIcrosoft purchased SoftImage.

        One function was removed; eight stayed. Microsoft was given plenty of notice and didn't act on it.

        I stand corrected. :)
    • by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:12PM (#3486205) Homepage Journal
      Skipping commercials is theft.

      Copying one of your CDs to keep in your car is theft.

      Extracting the text from an ebook and feeding it through a text-to-speech converter is theft.

      But when you're a multi-billion dollar company and you keep using software after your licence has been revoked, that's not theft.

      It's all so clear now!
      • by gwernol ( 167574 )
        Skipping commercials is theft.

        No it isn't. Just because some guy at Turner Movies would like it to be, doesn't in fact make it so.

        Copying one of your CDs to keep in your car is theft.

        Can you cite a single case where anyone has been prosecuted for this, let alone found guilty?

        Again, some misguided people may want to make that illegal, so far it is not theft.

        Extracting the text from an ebook and feeding it through a text-to-speech converter is theft.

        The Sklyarov case is still being argued, isn't it? Even if he looses this isn't theft, it illegally breaking Adobe's encryption, which is very different.

        But when you're a multi-billion dollar company and you keep using software after your licence has been revoked, that's not theft.

        Actually this is the only one of the four examples you quote that has been found to be an illegal act. Microsoft were fined for this.

        It's all so clear now!

        Or, in this case, obviously it is not...
        • Re:A couple points. (Score:2, Informative)

          by JordanH ( 75307 )
          Sheesh, the guy was trying to use sarcasm.

          His point was that people like Bill Gates (and other powerful CEO types) might consider all those things as theft, but hypocritically place violating a contract in a different category.

    • I read the story this morning, but I'm too lazy to verify your claim (after all, this is Slashdot, where one is expected to make knee-jerk reactions). Therefore, I will accept that it is true, although now it seems another poster claimed you are wrong. Doesn't matter. My point is that with MS beating the drum, saying "If your licenses aren't 100% squeaky-clean, we'll sic men with shotguns on you, you low-life pirate!" Many cases of "piracy" in business is simply an inattention to the site license...in other words, a violated licensing agreement. QED, Pot...kettle...black.

      And yes, if that Peruvian senator is for real, not only would I like him as a US senator (hmm--need to check the Constitution on how long he needs to be a citizen first), but I would actually support his campaign.


      • His national origin only prevents him from being the (US) President. Any other office is open to him.

        Barring some California requirement, there's no legal reason why he couldn't replace the senator from Disney (Feinstein).
      • QED, Pot...kettle...black.

        It's a lot worse than that. There was no inattention to a site license or anything, just the standard MS strongarm tactics against a small software company that wrote something good. "We've got a deal, but it doesn't give us everything. Give us everything. No? Then we'll just take it." And another good software company goes bankrupt while trying to get justice, which MS is appealing anyway. That was a violated license agreement, all right. In the Biblical sense.

        Hey, we've got a lesser of three evils senate race coming up in NH. I'm sure we could use a good candidate, whatever country he's from.

    • Microsoft has been known in the past to include BSD code. (It's TCP/IP stack is one example.) This "habit" is probably why they don't like GPL code - they prefer to quietly integrate the code.

      This is a good point - and one I'd like to expound upon.

      I would like to ask every software developer who reads this to please do themselves and everyone else a favor: GPL your code. Even if it's already BSD.

      Why do this? Because of situations like the above. Microsoft can leech off of your honest and hard work without ever contributing anything back to the community. They can (and have) also screwed over their customers with monopolistic practices and shitty license agreements. I believe that this would have been much more difficult if they had had to make all their code on their own, instead of stealing it.

      Some will cry "but you can't SELL GPLed software!" This is a fallacy. There is nothing in the GPL that prohibits you from selling your software. If you are really worried about losing profits, just sell the binaries - and release the source code to paying customers who ask. By the rules of the GPL, this is completely allowable. You only have to give the source to people that you gave the binaries to.

      • Some will cry "but you can't SELL GPLed software!" This is a fallacy. There is nothing in the GPL that prohibits you from selling your software. If you are really worried about losing profits, just sell the binaries - and release the source code to paying customers who ask. By the rules of the GPL, this is completely allowable. You only have to give the source to people that you gave the binaries to.

        Even this is overstating it. Under the GPL, there is nothing preventing the copyright holder from selling Microsoft the right to use the GPLed code in a commercial product & not give away the code. This is truly the best of both worlds since it allows Freedom for those who desire it and allows the author to profit from those who don't. The BSD license doesn't accomplish either of these goals half as well as the GPL. There are occasions when the BSD license is better, but it is clearly weaker in many respects.
  • FUD (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    FYI (for your info ;-) FUD == Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

  • Go Nunez! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TuxLuvr ( 578149 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:01PM (#3486129) Homepage
    This is coming out now due to the efforts of that Peruvian politician who stood up to M$FT (recent /. story).

    I wouldn't be surprised if they start supporting whoever is against him politically.

    They have so much political power, it's nice to see that other countries are not necessarily "drinking the kool aid".

    • Re:Go Nunez! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )
      I like the idea of calling Dr. Villanueva (that's his name, not Dr. Nu&ntildeez) the "St. Thomas Aquinas" of the free software movement. Although, his letter is really a lot more concise than the Summa Theologica ever was. It's telling that a Peruvian politician has made a stronger, clearer, and more irrefutable business-case for free software than Red Hat, ESR or IBM have.
    • They could probably buy a good chunk of Peru's government with their $40 Billion [slashdot.org].
  • Sketchy information (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MisterBlister ( 539957 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:01PM (#3486132) Homepage
    Sadly there's not much information there. How did they determine that Microsoft actually used the 'Character' code and not some in-house programmed alternative? Just because the UI remained the same (good for customers using the product) doesn't mean the code is the same underneath. Did they actually get access to the source code, or are they just assuming Microsoft still used it? Would be nice to know the answer to that....

    In any case, I find it hard to believe Microsoft would have done this. Not because they are saints, but because certainly they would have learned from the 'Stacker' incident (Which was a patent infrigment, not copyright, but similiar to this case in many ways).

    Microsoft might be evil, but they aren't stupid. I'll reserve final judgement until more facts are known.

    • Sounds to me like Softimage didn't report the fact that they were licensing apparently key tech from Syn to MS when MS bought them out. So then MS finds that it has an unexpected liability.

      Then it appears, from the limited info available, that MS decided to play hardball, and just lawyer the opposing side to death rather than negotiate.

      And it worked, too... US$400,000 is one ten-thousandth of MS's cash reserves.

      • I'm surprised with the amount of lawyers M$ has, they could have missed it. The only answer is they ignored the issue, which makes them software pirates. And when your a big corporation its not Piracy, its a contract dispute.

        Kinda funny. :)

    • Microsoft might be evil, but they aren't stupid.

      Well, you certainly couldn't prove that by their track record: Stac Micro (which you allude to), the DR-DOS/Windows incidents, MS Bob, NSA_KEY, "Netscape engineers are weenies", Clippy, faked videotape evidence in court, et bloody cetera...

    • But what they learned from "the Stacker incident" is that crime pays. And if you have the lawyers that MS has, and don't have any ethics that you count as worth anything, then they may be right.

  • by lildogie ( 54998 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:05PM (#3486154)
    If this news came out in September of 2001, it was probably (figuratively) buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

    A shocked and grieving nation could be forgiven for missing a legal event or two in France.
  • But then again, is Bill Gates going to notice even that much money leaving his company in fines. All he really needs to do is sell more operating systems or office suites.
  • by davmct ( 195217 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:08PM (#3486173)
    SoftImage is a Canadian-based CGI software company that was bought out by MS, plugged to Hollywood to be used in such films as Jurassic Park, and then promptly sold off. MS has since sold SoftImage and has no control of the code they write. It seems that the code in question was actually being used by SoftImage before it was bought out by MS. (although under license). This just seems like a red herring to shovel dirt on MS over an inherited problem from buying out SoftImage. Seems like the /. crowd is getting desperate for MS dirt to me...
    • by tinahdee ( 135200 ) <nfwriterNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:13PM (#3486213) Homepage
      See, the problem with that theory, is that Microsoft knew what the deal was before they bought SoftImage. Right before MS bought SoftImage, they sent them over to Syn'X to present this new deal, i.e., hand over the rights to your code or it's no go. They probably thought Syn'X would cave in, but they walked instead, and that killed SoftImage's usefulness to MS. It doesn't take a lot of deep speculation to imagine that MS/SoftImage probably had some commitments with the product already, and got kind of burned when Syn'X pulled out of the deal.

      • See, the problem with that theory, is that Microsoft knew what the deal was before they bought SoftImage. Right before MS bought SoftImage, they sent them over to Syn'X to present this new deal, i.e., hand over the rights to your code or it's no go.

        Interesting theory. The articles didn't say that Micorsoft did this. Do you have some other source or are you just making this up as you go? It's possible that what you're saying is true, but you'd think that if Microsoft so blatently stole this code there's be a large financial verdict. The amount was tiny. Maybe the one function that was pulled out contained most of the functionality, and the ones that remained were relatively insignificant. The article is very vague on what Microsoft was found guilty of. Actually about the only thing the articl really shows is that Microsoft bought a company, that company broke the law, and then Microsoft sole the company.

        The French govenment has always seemed to like to take shots at Microsoft. Why didn't they do it in this case? If this is a case where Microsoft did something really bad, why not put the details of what Microsoft was found guilty of in the article? I want facts, not spin and FUD.
    • by mikosullivan ( 320993 ) <miko@idocsAUDEN.com minus poet> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:33PM (#3486361)
      Maybe MS isn't any more at fault than the school systems they are threatening, but if we hold them to the same standards as they hold others, they are guilty. MS is willing to claim that the owner of a computer system is guilty of piracy if that system has any unlicensed software on it, regardless of who actually put the software there. OK, now we hold them to the same standard: if you distribute programs without the appropriate licenses to do so, you're responsible, no excuses.
  • Quick! (Score:3, Funny)

    by SLot ( 82781 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:09PM (#3486180) Homepage Journal
    Call the BSA!
  • I can't remember the title, but it's the one where they spy on this kid and take his code to make their software.... the guy from Shawshank redemption plays the Bill Gates type character, and some nutjob plays the "hero" computer guy. Anyway, Microsoft really is as evil as the movies say, huh?
    • Antitrust (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by freeweed ( 309734 )
      Actually was a not half-bad movie, if you can get past Ryan Phillipe (sp?) as a l33t computer geek.

      Tim Robbins' portrayal of the evil CEO was spooky - part Bill Gates, and to me part Steve Jobs. Hell, he even LOOKED a lot like a hip Gates.

      VERY overboard movie in terms of the paranoia/conspiracy theory angle, but still, a fun watch, and a fair bit of industry jokes aimed squarely at Microsoft.
      • You know, I forgot about the Jobs-esque-ness of Robbins, but you're right, he was like a mix of Jobs and Gates. Gates has business-speak down pat, but Robbins in that movie was more concept/philosophy oriented, like Jobs. As a "mac lover" though, I prefer to think of the evil lead character as more of a Bill Gates.
    • This was called "Antitrust".
    • _Antitrust_ Tim Robbins and Ryan Philippe [I think]
    • I can't remember the title, but it's the one where they spy on this kid and take his code to make their software.... the guy from Shawshank redemption plays the Bill Gates type character, and some nutjob plays the "hero" computer guy. Anyway, Microsoft really is as evil as the movies say, huh?

      That moview was Antitrust, and they specifically mentioned Microsoft as being a competitior to the company in question so people wouldn't draw parallels between the company in the movie and Microsoft.
  • Cause for an audit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikosullivan ( 320993 ) <miko@idocsAUDEN.com minus poet> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:12PM (#3486206)
    I wonder if this could be cited as a reason to call in an audit on Microsoft. After all, there's now more evidence that they pirated software than the school systems they are accusing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Here's a project for people with free time. Put together a list of terms that might be seen in GPL code, and then grep various Microsoft products for them. If you get a hit, open up the binary with a good editor, and have a look.
      • But they'd probably have compiled it with their own compiler, so the binary would likely be different. You might look the the GPL license though. I wonder what would happen if someone found a copy.

  • Balmer called the GPL a cancer for intellectual property. What is oughtright theft? Cardiac arrest?

    That arguement was a load of crap anyway - as many have posted, the GPL *PROTECTS* authors' IP rights in ways you don't get from BSD-style licenses. Don't like the terms? DON'T USE THE CODE. Exactly the same calculation with MS Eulas. The BSD license allows more or less unfettered code-poaching, which is what authors who use that license prefer. Cool, either way.
    • The BSD license allows more or less unfettered code-poaching

      BSD == poached code

      GPL == hard boiled code

      LGPL == soft boiled code

      Apache license == code over easy

      Artistic license == code Benedict

      Mozilla license == code McMuffin

      Sun == ... aw, you know.
  • by Dr. Bent ( 533421 ) <benNO@SPAMint.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:21PM (#3486282) Homepage
    I've gotten to the point where no news of Microsoft's misdeeds would shock me anymore.

    Microsoft is cutting up babies to make their user manuals! So what.

    They're attempting to terraform the earth's atmosphere to more closely resemble Bill Gates' home planet! Big deal.

    Steve Ballmer has Stalin's brain implanted into his skull to make him a more effective leader! What else is new.....

    Seriously, anything you could say about something evil that Microsoft does...I wouldn't disbelieve it. I don't know if this speaks more about Microsoft's trashed reputation, or my jaded attitude toward MegaCorp(tm) style policies.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I've gotten to the point where no news of Microsoft's misdeeds would shock me anymore.

      Microsoft is cutting up babies to make their user manuals!

      Actually, this would shock me a great deal.

      I mean, when was the last time you got an actual manual with an MS product?
    • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:53PM (#3486478) Homepage Journal
      I'm the same, basically no more shock value. What truely surprises me, though, is how fans of the company aren't shocked either and remain fans! If I found a company that made a burger I really loved, then found out they were cutting up babies to add flavor, I'd turn around and dislike the company. It's amazing how some fans make excuses for all of the bad press (I have a co-worker notorious for this), but at some point any reasonable human being will have to see all this bad press is created because of a bad company. It's hard to believe so many people choose to remain so blind.

      It doesn't bother me that I'm no longer shocked. It bothers me that fans of MS and their software aren't shocked.
      • Unfortunately, most people on Slashdot don't care to really think about Microsoft or really look into the events that make the press. They just repeat "M$ sucks! Linux is l337!" drabble.

        The truth is that Microsoft is out to make money, like any other company. And MS isn't particularly worse than any other big company. Apple has a very draconian history in terms of licensing technology. IBM ran the accounting machines for the Third Reich. Big car companies (all of them) decide to issue recalls on defective products only if the cost of litigations will exceed the cost of the recall--not because the defective product will kill people. Big media companies like Disney are far worse than MS because they are trying to control flow of information (all forms of it), and directly influence the way people think. And they aren't out to preserve an ideal democratic society.

        I know a number of folks who work at Microsoft. It's an awesome place to work, and MS employees are good people. There certainly isn't a company policy of stealing code, killing babies, or whatever else you read on Slashdot. If MS stole code, I'm sure the developers honestly thought that it was legit, and some manager and/or legal person fucked up. People screw up.

        As for "fans" of the company, there are a number of legitimate reasons to like Microsoft:
        • The company's vision statement is "A computer on every desk and in every home." That vision is seeing completion (at least in the Western world). How much of it being attributed to Microsoft can be debated. However, Microsoft has been instrumental in enforcing standards upon the industry so that an open PC platform could flourish. Microsoft also provides software that almost anyone can use and use to be productive.
        • Microsoft is consistently one of the most philantropic corporations around. They gives tons of money to schools, libraries and universities. They just gave 8 million bucks to build my new CS building. How many of y'all got donations from MS while you were an undergrad?
        • Bill Gates has given $24 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, which will spend the money on AIDS research, cancer research, and vaccinations for the third world (among God knows how many other uses).
        • Microsoft products are actually pretty nice. If you're an experienced Unix administrator or do-it-yourself Linux guru, I'm sure you can find lots of reasons to not like MS software. But it's typically easier for common folk to use than competing products (Windows) and sometimes just downright superior (Office).
        I'm not saying you have to like Microsoft, I'm just saying that there are reasons why a person would.

        Unfortunately, the anti-MS bias is so strong here on Slashdot, I'll probably be modded down like nobody's business. Well, go ahead, mod away.
  • Weak Argument (Score:5, Informative)

    by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:21PM (#3486284) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I walked by Softimage's offices a few minutes ago on my way for a pastry

    MS's involvement in this was pretty minimal. They bought Softimage, there was no, shall we say "meeting of the minds" and they soon gave up and sold 'em off. Any IP violations were pretty much Softimage-responsability and not their corporate masters du jure.

    Of course Softimage is notable for being, as far as I know, the only shop that was ever bought up by MS that then succesfully fought it's way free.

    • I would not say Softimage foughts its way free (I worked at Softimage from August 1995 to September 1996, an event chronicled in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of my book [proudlyserving.com], which you can start reading right here [iuniverse.com]).

      It would be more accurate to say Microsoft bought Softimage for unclear reasons, tried to Microsoftify it to some extent, decided it wasn't really worth owning, and found Avid as an exit strategy. Softimage was completely owned by Microsoft, and the decision on what to do with Softimage was made by Microsoft.

      So how are things up there in the tundra...is Marche Michel still around?!?

      - adam

      • Nice story about Softimage.

        I developed a physics plug-in for Softimage|3D during that period, so I recognize many of the people mentioned there. The description of the acquistion and selloff by Microsoft seems accurate.

        But, having used Softimage|3D extensively, I have no idea what the "Character" feature was supposed to be. Softimage|3D didn't have anything like 3DS Character Studio in those days. The highest-level construct was an IK chain with an envelope.

    • Any IP violations were pretty much Softimage-responsability and not their corporate masters du jure.

      Hmm...how does that work, exactly? They were wholly owned by Microsoft, so doesn't that make them responsible for decisions made during this period of ownership?

      Although Softimage had its own leadership within the company, they were owned by MS, so I don't get how they couldn't be found liable.

      I really don't give a rat's ass about this issue at hand, but was just kind-of curious about that statement.

  • HAHAHAHA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aengblom ( 123492 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:22PM (#3486286) Homepage
    The biggest mystery is the obscurity of the story until now. "It looks to me as if the whole U.S. press missed the story," says Joe Barr, a technology journalist who frequently writes for IDG's LinuxWorld.

    So let me get this straight. Two weeks after Sept. 11 and in the middle of the anthrax attacks [imdiversity.com]the U.S. press missed a story about $400,000 fine issued (IN FRANCE) against Microsoft (with $40 Billion on hand) for putting unauthorized code in an obscure software package that it no longer owns [avid.com] (Avid). No shit. Really! They must be biased!
  • Not Newsworthy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:23PM (#3486298) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft has already been down this road with file compression code that went into MS DOS 6.

    They're a business plain and simple. I'm sure they evaluate every decision and every public comment carefully in terms of cost, benefit, risk of getting sued and for how much money.

    Just because some people [like me] hold that ethics exist which are above this kind of cost/benefit analysis does not mean that MS cannot make a successful business strategy from subjecting ethics to fiscally responsible analysis.

    Shoot, it could well be argued that their entire antitrust trial is just a continuation of similar business practices. There may even be some at Microsoft who are actually surprised (but will not admit it for a few years) that they were able to continue as long as they have with their strategy.

  • $422,000 (Score:2, Interesting)

    He got $422,000.
    Can you even Buy SoftImage for that price?
    I don't have the numbers on me here but I seriously doubt it. At least not outfit an office with that much. Shoot Maya and Max can top 50 grand per workstation. They are not even near SoftImage's price range as it's directed mainly towards Hollywood.
  • not really MicroSoft (Score:4, Informative)

    by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:29PM (#3486335)
    SoftImage was a temporary subsidiary of MicroSoft, purchased then sold. They specialized in 3D CAD, mainly for the film industry. They were a pretty independent operation off in Canada, not really a part of the core Redmond culture.
  • Someone suggests using an MS product, you should kindly remind them of the kind of company that Microsoft is:
    • Unable to write the code, they bought their first operating system and sold it for a hefty profit
    • They were convicted by a French court of stealing code from competing companies.
    • They were convicted in the U.S. of violations of the Sherman act.
    • Two of their most popular products, Internet Explorer and Outlook, have had security and virus propagation problems with every single release!

    When asked what I think of using Microsoft software, I simply reply, "It's against my moral and professional standards to encourage the use of software written by criminals." The events of the past 20 years have shown that Microsoft has little regard for either it's customers, or the law.

    Think about this one, folks. I know there are many arguments for/against open source, but the most powerful one may be that of ethics. You can argue up and down about the relative merits of the software, but Microsoft is undeniably a criminal organization - a fact brought to light by the courts of the United States and other countries. The next time someone asks why you don't run a Microsoft OS, simply reply that you don't feel like funding organized crime.

    • And considering the BSA, software audits, etc. I think it would be fair to characterize them as a racketeering organization. So if the laws were really enforced equally, then the govt. would immediately sieze all of their assets before starting prosecution on the charges. Then, since they couldn't hire any lawyers they would be quickly convicted, which would really prove their guilt, and the govt. wouldn't have to return any of the booty.

      I sometimes don't know which I think is more evil, our government, or the people it "protects" us against. Sometimes, however, I do.

      If you want to see where this kind of law can lead, check out the history of the inquisition. It has already seriously corrupted at least some of the US law enforcement.

      Yes, MS is guilty. But using government approved laws to validate this is .... they're so bad it's non-sensical. I respect copyrights. But since the DMCA, I seriously doubt the justice of "legal copyrights". (I've been dubious about it ever since the Sonny Bono copyright extension act, but now... UGH!)

      Justice needs to be defined in terms that pay no heed to the laws, because the laws are corrupt. Legal punishment is defined in terms of the laws, because there isn't any other way. If you know a decent way out of this, I'd sure like to hear it, because I sure don't.

    • by cygnusx ( 193092 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @05:17PM (#3487014) Homepage
      This is honestly one of the funniest posts on /. for a while.

      > Microsoft is undeniably a criminal organization

      Because they are embroiled in a civil suit?

      So... let's see, which of these heart-warmingly goodfellas do you recommend I start using instead: Adobe, Macromedia, Sony, Disney, US Steel, AOL TW, Walmart, Oracle, Nike?

      > The next time someone asks why you don't run a
      > Microsoft OS, simply reply that you don't feel
      > like funding organized crime.

      Ask any activist who has a worldview even slightly broader than yours, and they'll tell you that Microsoft would not even figure on their radar of exploitative transnational corporations. Walmart, Nike, etc would. Organized Crime my left foot. Some people take software too damn seriously.
  • by dbretton ( 242493 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:42PM (#3486402) Homepage
    This is not terribly surprising, considering that Microsoft has been down with OCC (other companies' code) for years.

    Don't forget about one of the best arguments against Microsoft's FUD regarding the evils of OSS:

    OSS is what keeps Windows connected to the Internet [bsdtoday.com]


  • by tinrobot ( 314936 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:46PM (#3486423)
    When the deal was struck, in 1992, Softimage was an independant company run by Daniel Langois. Microsoft didn't buy Softimage until 95 or 96 or so...

    Even after the purchase, Softimage was still treated as a independant arm of MS, and still maintained offices in Montreal. The big reason MS bought Softimage in the first place was to push NT into the workstation market. It worked, and soon SGI was on the ropes. After that, MS sold Softimage to Avid in 1999 or so...
  • Finally, we find out what the deal is between open/closed source and Microsoft. They just steal everyones code like in Antitrust, and use it in their own closed source software. I know this incident was probably unprooven, and even if it was true you can't just assume that they do it all the time, but dude! Microsoft are theives, let the FUD, smear and witch-burning commence :)
  • by KillerKane ( 260666 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @03:54PM (#3486490)
    MS was caught red-handed stealing quicktime code, line for line, for Windows Media Viewer.

    I believe that was part of the reason for the settlement several years ago, where they bought $150 million of non-voting stock, agreed to continue Office for the Mac for five more years and paid Apple some ungodly (rumored to be $1.2 billion) amount in undisclosed damages. Can someone correct or flesh this out further?

  • Stacker (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr ( 88570 )
    http://www.base.com/software-patents/articles/stac . tml

    Microsoft Corp. was found guilty of patent infringement and ordered to pay $120 million in damages to a tiny California firm in a rare setback for the giant computer software company.

    However, the federal jury on Wednesday also ruled that the violation was not willful and awarded Microsoft $13.6 million on a counterclaim against Stac Electronics, which makes a data-compression program called Stacker.

  • by macsox ( 236590 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @04:05PM (#3486575) Journal
    i know this will get modded, if at all, flamebait or offtopic, but i think the expression FUD has reached over-saturation. it's not really applicable in this case, beyond adding a veneer of bias to the article summary, and often is over applied in posts anyway.

    i hereby offer an appeal to move away from the thick, dripping brush of FUD henceforth. let's see things as they are and not make summary pronouncements, eh? (and then we can unfreeze hell.)
  • by mikosullivan ( 320993 ) <miko@idocsAUDEN.com minus poet> on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @04:28PM (#3486720)
    ... and now for another point of view. Microsoft may well be able to work this development to their advantage. I envision a debate where someone says "Ah hah! You were caught pirating yourself, Microsoft!", and Microsoft simply responds "You're right, we did make a mistake. We owned up to our mistake, paid the fine, and fixed the problem. We've proven our dedication to anti-piracy. Now those dirty pirating public schools need to do the same."

    In politics, that's known as "innoculation": you accept a small penalty for a problem so that you avoid bigger problems later. I wouldn't be surprised if MS did that here.

  • by BitMan ( 15055 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @04:33PM (#3486740)

    Microsoft will go into negotiations with a company. Their engineers will also be working with the prospective company while they happen. The deal goes sour, so Microsoft pulls out. But some schmuck engineering manager or possibly some exec decides it's not worth it to re-write the code from scratch, let alone create a "clean room" version. The code stays, it's not published, it's hidden from view and few know about it because the software is "closed source." This fact makes me laugh when Microsoft says Freedom Software "violoates IP" -- because Microsoft has blantantly plagerized actual source code verbatim over and over!

    Microsoft has done this to such companies as IBM, Digital, SCO, Pen Computing and Micrografx -- none of which would ever see a dime in compensated, even though their code is in Windows today. Another, non-software product where this has happened has been the Microsoft erogonomic mouse (cannot remember the company's name). Verbatim rips of the design, down to the tenth of a millimetter. As Microsoft is finding out, it can no longer sustain the legal issues of this common practice in its own organization.

    • I mean, why do you think the Microsoft "Shared Source" agreement prevents you from suing Microsoft over IP violations???

    • I completely agree, and I think that one of the main reasons MS is willing to go to the wire against opening the code to their OS or APIs is that if that happens other companies and perhaps even open-source projects will find that MS has directly plagerized code, or done the plagerize + touch-ups thing.

      I suspect they're scared to death at the thought of others seeing 1 - how badly produced & managed the code either is or has been before 2000/XP, 2 - parts that've been lifted illegally from other projects or companies, 3 - how whole parts of the OS could be interchangeable with other companies' products contrary to their claims, and 4 - how MS has hidden APIs that allow their own products to function with the OS better than their competitors. Of course I can't prove the above. It's just an extremely strong suspicion.

  • by Forager ( 144256 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @04:48PM (#3486829) Homepage
    Some gems from the response letter:

    "... in defining any kind of purchase, the buyer sets conditions which relate to the proposed use of the good or service. From the start, this excludes certain manufacturers from the possibility of competing, but does not exclude them "a priori", but rather based on a series of principles determined by the autonomous will of the purchaser, and so the process takes place in conformance with the law. And in the Bill it is established that *no one* is excluded from competing as far as he guarantees the fulfillment of the basic principles."

    "... the huge costs caused by non-functioning software ("blue screens of death", malicious code such as virus, worms, and trojans, exceptions, general protection faults and other well-known problems) are reduced considerably by using more stable software; and it is well known that one of the most notable virtues of free software is its stability."

    "Your first argument, that migration implies high costs, is in reality an argument in favor of the Bill. Because the more time goes by, the more difficult migration to another technology will become; and at the same time, the security risks associated with proprietary software will continue to increase. In this way, the use of proprietary systems and formats will make the State ever more dependent on specific suppliers. Once a policy of using free software has been established (which certainly, does imply some cost) then on the contrary migration from one system to another becomes very simple, since all data is stored in open formats. On the other hand, migration to an open software context implies no more costs than migration between two different proprietary software contexts, which invalidates your argument completely."

    "Questions of intellectual property fall outside the scope of this bill, since they are covered by specific other laws. The model of free software in no way implies ignorance of these laws, and in fact the great majority of free software is covered by copyright. In reality, the inclusion of this question in your observations shows your confusion in respect of the legal framework in which free software is developed. The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one's own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietary software. As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity)."
  • bank account (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fishebulb ( 257214 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @04:50PM (#3486854)
    Microsoft did similar with the XBox. They just started using the name without checking if someone else has it trademarked, well someone did. that would have been fun to be one of the XBox consulting lawyers, "Yes, Microsoft you are going to write a check so large, it hurts, or we will get a cease and desist order until after xmas"
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday May 08, 2002 @09:46PM (#3488176) Homepage
    It has been all but acknowledged by Microsoft that MS-DOS 1.0 contained code directly borrowed from CP/M. _The MS-DOS Encyclopedia_, for example, notes that "the resemblance [between CP/M and MS-DOS] was even more striking at the rpogrmaming level, with an almost one-to-one correspondence between CP/M and MS-DOS in the system calls available to applications programs."

    This was not a matter of common design or reverse engineering; there was actual CP/M code in MS-DOS, I believe specifically in the FCB-oriented file services.

    I wish I could remember where I read the interview where Tim Paterson acknowledged "low-level borrowing" from CP/M. I can't seem to find it right now.

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