Intervention to the Court of the European Union
on behalf of the Free Software Foundation Europe
Thursday Sept 30th. 2004
Introduction by Carlo Piana:
My name is Carlo Piana, I appear on behalf of the Free Software Foundation Europe. The Free Software Foundations have a 20 year history of starting, developing and furthering the GNU and after the GNU/Linux system, often referred to as "Linux". FSFs are in particular the single largest fiduciary of the interests of the thousands of authors of that system, especially their legal interests through defense of their Copyright and Licenses (precisely the GNU GPL and LGPL, published by the FSF).
One of these groups of authors is the Samba Team. May I therefore introduce Mr. Jeremy Allison of the Samba Team whose first hand experience will represent and show further how the factual assumption on Microsofts part are flawed and overstating the consequences of the remedies.
Intervention by Jeremy Allison:
My name is Jeremy Allison, and I'm speaking on behalf of the FSFE who is representing the Samba Team, who have a great interest in this case. Samba is one of the few competing products to Microsoft in the Workgroup server market. It is commonly shipped with Linux, but is developed separately. I am one of the original authors of the Samba code, and with my colleague from Germany Volker Lendecke have been working on interoperating with Microsoft software for over 12 years. I speak from many years of experience of implementing Workgroup server software.
In the development of Samba Microsoft has already disclosed to us specifications similar to those that we are now requesting. Microsoft has given to the Samba Team in the past internal documents describing exactly the level of protocol information we now need. These documents are now no longer useful, as Microsoft creates modified versions of its protocols on a regular basis, as it releases new versions of its Windows software. The documents given to us were marked internal we used them to create Samba code, as Microsoft intended when they gave them to us. They gave us these documents knowing we would create code with them, and they encouraged this. We were not required to sign non-disclosure agreements to obtain this information, we were simply treated as a trusted third party, as I believe we have been. We have never disclosed their contents publicly, only the code we created.
What we are requesting via these remedies is that Microsoft return to the policy of openness and co-operation with others that they followed in the past. The claims that we have not requested information on the protocols is not true. We have made repeated requests to Microsoft that they continue the kind of disclosures they made before they came to dominate this market.
A protocol, like a language, is a convention for communication. We need to know if the noun comes before the verb. We can learn ourselves by listening to others speak, this is what we do now to teach ourselves how to talk with Microsoft software. But such a self-taught student will always be behind someone properly taught by a native speaker well versed in grammar.
Microsoft claims that to disclose interoperability information would cause them irreparable harm. However, we believe the information that they are being asked to disclose is not of the immense value they claim.
The protocols Microsoft uses to prevent interoperability are mostly based on open and standard protocol specifications. Microsoft have added undisclosed extensions and additions to standard protocols that create dependencies between their clients and servers. For a non-Microsoft server to provide services to Microsoft clients these interdependencies must be understood by the programmers involved. Microsoft uses this lack of knowledge in third party servers for competitive advantage ("tying together" of clients and servers). Microsoft is building on the standards work of others, and adding small but critical changes for the pure purpose of making Windows clients depend on the presence of Microsoft servers, and Microsoft servers depend upon Microsoft directory servers.
A good analogy would be with the telephone network. The Microsoft documentation for the phone network would tell you how voice is transferred over the lines, but would neglect to tell you how to dial a number. As you can imagine this would cause difficulty for other phone manufacturers. Microsoft is trying to claim that the particular tones that they have chosen to use to dial 1-2-3 are a multi-million dollar investment.
The protocols Microsoft wants to keep secret to prevent interoperability are *not* of high intrinsic value. These protocols are not kept secret by Microsoft because they are valuable, they are valuable to Microsoft because they are kept secret, and thus prevent competition.
Whilst we are proud of Samba, it is not yet up to the level of interoperability of a Windows Workgroup server of 1996 (NT4). This is due to the lack of timely information from Microsoft on how their products talk to each other. Without this it is impossible to fairly compete on the merits of our products, as we are always without the basic levels of interoperability that Windows servers can provide. We are always scrambling to try and catch up to work out how the latest version of Windows has modified the protocols we implement.
We are not able to achieve interoperability by the existing methods we use, sophisticated though they are and there are no others available to us. We are 8 years behind and will only fall further behind if these remedies are delayed. It is trivial for Microsoft to change a detail in the protocol in a service pack or new release, and we need to first write our own protocol spec. before we can even begin to implement that change.
We do not wish to copy the Windows Operating System or to see any of the code that implements it. We wish to be able to expose our own merits, which we believe are considerable, not to reproduce the features of the Windows Operating Systems. Such a task does not require Microsoft to provide details of Windows internals, only network protocols. We wish to have the opportunity to provide file, print and authentication services with the same amount of network protocol information that is available to Microsoft engineers.