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FSFE Newsletter - May 2011

Competition authorities: Free Software protects competition

882 software patents, likely related to GNU/Linux, in the hands of people who could use them to pressure Free Software companies and developers? Maybe in the hands of Microsoft, which has for years used nebulous patent claims to extract licensing fees from companies that use the Linux kernel in their products. This month the German and the US competition authorities approved the sale of those patents to CPTN, a consortium consisting of Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and EMC. But, barring nasty surprises in the still to be published detailed decision, we neutralised the danger for Free Software.

Software patents are a very complex matter, and competition authorities are not used dealing with them. So beginning from December 2010 we explained to the German competition authorities why the patent sale was highly problematic. In our first, and second submission we explained the mechanics that some companies use to compete in the software market, and how they preserve their monopolies.

In their press release the authorities have not only highlighted the importance of Free Software for competition, and that actual patent lawsuits are anticompetitive but also that threatening with patent lawsuits, like the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) strategies from some non-free software companies, can be anticompetitive.

So for the first time, competition authorities have acknowledged the essential part of Free Software for competition, and that patent lawsuits by dominant market participants can be anticompetitive. This will also be important for future debates, when the behaviour of big non-free software companies has to be evaluated from a competition law perspective.

As the devil is in the details, we hope to hear about the exact wording of the CPTN contracts to evaluate them. Such work is very time consuming, and we would not be able to keep track of those activities, without the support of one time donations and regular ones by our Fellows.

Mission is possible

To date, 17 percent of the public institutions, we contacted, already replied and removed the non-free PDF reader advertisements from their websites. The current progress of the campaign can be seen on our buglist. Until now we have only received one negative reply. However, as about 83 percent of the contacted institutions have not responded yet, we want to remind them about the letter we have sent, and ask for a reply. This works only with your help. To take part, follow the actions from our follow-up guide. In short this is:

If you discover non-free PDF reader advertisement, and is not on our list, you are encouraged to contact them on your own. For public institutions use a modified version of our letter, for companies and non-profits we are working on a template, after volunteers have convinced organisations like Greenpeace Germany to link to pdfreaders.org instead.

Something completely different

Get Active - Internships at FSFE

We are looking for smart, motivated interns to join our team. Apply for an internship position yourself, or distribute the information about it. We offer:

Beside the current interns Natalia Evdokimova, and Nicolas Jean, past interns include our Italian coordinator Giacomo Poderi, Fellowship representative Hugo Roy, our president Karsten Gerloff, UK coordinator Sam Tuke, Swedish team member Stian Rødven Eide, education team coordinator Thomas Jensch, and your editor, who was FSFE's first intern. So as you can see, the internship is a good start to get more involved in FSFE.

Matthias Kirschner - FSFE

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