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EU browser case: FSFE says details of settlement will be crucial

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Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) congratulates the European Commission on its firm stance in the antitrust investigation against Microsoft, which has led the company to offer a settlement. For any such settlement, getting the details right will be crucial for competition and innovation in the web browser market.

"To ensure genuine consumer choice, the ballot screen must be made available to Microsoft Windows users around the world, not just in Europe", says Karsten Gerloff, President of FSFE. "The company is upholding its dominance thanks to the network effects created by its illegal practice of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows operating systems in all markets where it sells its software. In a globally interconnected market, remedies must be global."

As an interested third party in the case, FSFE maintains that any settlement must put competing browsers on an equal footing with Internet Explorer. They must be accessible just as easily as Microsoft's own browser, and must provide users with at least the same degree of integration into the operating system.

The procedure for selecting the browsers to be included in the ballot screen is a key issue of the proposal. This procedure needs to be based on a clearly defined algorithm, closely controlled by the European Commission.

"Simply including browsers according to usage share would freeze the market in its current state, rather than invigorate it. Instead, market trends and cross-platform availability of each browser should be the key parameters for this selection", says Adriaan de Groot, FSFE's Legal Coordinator.

FSFE will continue to support the European Commission in its effort to bring fair access, competition and innovation to the web browser market. FSFE considers anti-competitive behaviour unacceptable, whether it occurs through 'tying' products, or in circumventing standards and fair access.

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.

For FSFE's previous statement on this issue 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.

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