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FSFE engages in the EU browser case

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Free Software Foundation Europe today announces that it will support the European Commission's antitrust investigation against Microsoft and to this effect it has formally requested to be admitted as an interested third party.

The investigation began on the 16th of January when the European Commission DG Competition reported that it had issued a statement of objections regarding Microsoft's abuse of web standards and the tying of Internet Explorer (IE) to the Windows Operating System product family. It is based on a complaint submitted by Opera, a European company involved in web browser development, which FSFE publicly supported in 2007.

FSFE considers anti-competitive behaviour unacceptable, whether it occurs through "tying" products, or in circumventing standards and fair access. FSFE will seek to support all processes that ensure competition and enable innovation.

FSFE promotes freedom of choice and protects Open Standards. This includes working against abuse of standards through proprietary extensions that unlawfully segment the Internet. FSFE welcomes the participation of any company in the browser market, including the optimisation of their products to work well on target platforms.

But no company should be in a position to dictate what the Internet will look like by leveraging platform dominance into erosion of standards through control of server and client.

FSFE President Georg Greve comments: "Antitrust law has to step in when there is consistent and massive abuse of a dominant position that is damaging competition in other areas. In this case, Microsoft first used the platform monopoly to create artificial ubiquity for Internet Explorer, and then modified the standards on both ends to distort compatibility and competition."

"The design decisions that give IE better integration than alternative browsers and to change web standards in undocumented ways were not technologically justified. The consequences that made the intervention of the European Commission necessary were intended, not accidental," Greve concludes.

"Microsoft's pleas to be in favour of competition and interoperability must be followed by real acts of goodwill," states Carlo Piana, counsel for FSFE. "So far we have seen little of it: recent actions taken against Free Software are eloquent. We will be restless in demanding that real competition be restored and that all players are treated equally."

For FSFE's previous statements, please see:

For FSFE's letter to the European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, please see:

Background

FSFE previously supported the European Commission's DG Competition in its 2001 investigation against Microsoft's non-disclosure of interoperability data. This was the first time the Free Software community became involved in such a case, and helped lead to a final decision in 2004 against Microsoft demanding that interoperability information be made public.

The ruling was upheld by a 2007 ruling at the European Court of First Instance, and eventually, Samba and the entire community received access to the interoperability information upon conditions compatible with the GNU General Public License, which is now being implemented into better and more interoperable software that will benefit the entire IT ecosystem.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and involved in many global activities. Access to software determines participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study, modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues of the FSFE.

You will find further information about the work of the FSFE at http://www.fsfeurope.org/.

Contact

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