Richard Stallman: Bill Gates and other communists - Politics | PoFo

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Bill Gates and other communists
Article from CNet
February 15, 2005, 3:55 AM PT
By Richard Stallman

When CNET asked Bill Gates about software patents, he shifted the subject to "intellectual property," blurring the issue with various other laws.

Then he said anyone who won't give blanket support to all these laws is a communist. Since I'm not a communist but I have criticized software patents, I got to thinking this might be aimed at me.

When someone uses the term "intellectual property," typically he's either confused himself, or trying to confuse you. The term is used to lump together copyright law, patent law and various other laws, whose requirements and effects are entirely different. Why is Mr. Gates lumping these issues together? Let's study the differences he has chosen to obscure.

Software developers are not up in arms against copyright law, because the developer of a program holds the copyright on the program; as long as the programmers wrote the code themselves, no one else has a copyright on their code. There is no danger that strangers could have a valid case of copyright infringement against them.

Patents are a different story. Software patents don't cover programs or code; they cover ideas (methods, techniques, features, algorithms, etc.). Developing a large program entails combining thousands of ideas, and even if a few of them are new, the rest needs must have come from other software the developer has seen. If each of these ideas could be patented by someone, every large program would likely infringe hundreds of patents. Developing a large program means laying oneself open to hundreds of potential lawsuits. Software patents are menaces to software developers, and to the users, who can also be sued.

A few fortunate software developers avoid most of the danger. These are the megacorporations, which typically have thousands of patents each, and cross-license with each other. This gives them an advantage over smaller rivals not in a position to do likewise. That's why it is generally the megacorporations that lobby for software patents.

Today's Microsoft is a megacorporation with thousands of patents. Microsoft said in court that the main competition for MS Windows is "Linux," meaning the free software GNU/Linux operating system. Leaked internal documents say that Microsoft aims to use software patents to stop the development of GNU/Linux.

When Mr. Gates started hyping his solution to the problem of spam, I suspected this was a plan to use patents to grab control of the Net. Sure enough, in 2004 Microsoft asked the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) to approve a mail protocol that Microsoft was trying to patent. The license policy for the protocol was designed to forbid free software entirely. No program supporting this mail protocol could be released as free software--not under the GNU GPL (General Public License), or the MPL (Mozilla Public License), or the Apache license, or either of the BSD licenses, or any other.

The IETF rejected Microsoft's protocol, but Microsoft said it would try to convince major ISPs to use it anyway. Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism; it was set up by that famous communist agent, the U.S. Department of Defense.

With Microsoft's market clout, it can impose its choice of programming system as a de-facto standard. Microsoft has already patented some .Net implementation methods, raising the concern that millions of users have been shifted to a government-issue Microsoft monopoly.

But capitalism means monopoly; at least, Gates-style capitalism does. People who think that everyone should be free to program, free to write complex software, they are communists, says Mr. Gates. But these communists have infiltrated even the Microsoft boardroom. Here's what Bill Gates told Microsoft employees in 1991:

"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose."

Mr. Gates' secret is out now--he too was a "communist;" he, too, recognized that software patents were harmful--until Microsoft became one of these giants. Now Microsoft aims to use software patents to impose whatever price it chooses on you and me. And if we object, Mr. Gates will call us "communists."

If you're not afraid of name-calling, visit (the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure), and join the fight against software patents in Europe. We persuaded the European Parliament once--even right-wing MEPs are "communists," it seems--and with your help we will do it again.
User avatar
By Potemkin
If people like Bill Gates call anyone who opposes their monopolistic practices "Communists" often enough, they may give Communism back its good name. People may start saying, "well, if fighting against monopoly capitalism and exploitation is Communism, then maybe I am a Communist." Good work, Bill! :up: :lol:
By malachi151
This is scary fucking shit, which I really hate because I m a software developer. I, of course, am highly against software patents.

It simply doesn't make any sense. What makes software developement so effective and useful is the relatively low cost of entry into the market, which is a quality OF perfect competition.

I think that everyone needs to be afraid when the richest man in the world is stating that he needs more control and that he isn't "making enough money".

If Gate's idea of "software patents" were to be applied to everything, then it would be like this:

Let's say that e apply these patents to all industries across the board.

The auto industry makes a car. When they build the car the get a patent on the process used to do an engine install, on the process used to repair a break line, etc, etc, etc.

Anyone, then, who wants to repair that car woudl then have to pay a licensing fee to the corproation in order to allow them to do something like remove the bolts in proper order using a wrench.

That's exactly the type of shit they are talking about here with software patents.

Software patenting is SO fucking scary because it can set presidents for this type of thing, where EVERY function of life can become patented. Its totally insane and a completely contrary to a functioning economy.
By malachi151
My comments on Cnet:

As a software developer and also someone who is currently getting my MBA, I am deeply troubled by the software patenting movement, as well as the larger patent movements in general.

The patenting of processes and general concepts as used in software development is highly problematic, and I'm outright opposed to it, but not only this, but its only a matter time before Mr. Gates sets the presidents so that every new action and technique known to man can become patented and owned by law under a forced monopoly.

Think of the implication in something like the auto industry.

When Ford makes a new car, they could conceivably patent every process for putting the car together and taking it apart, there creating a monopoly on the ability to do any work on the cars, putting every independent mechanic out of business.

Think it won't happen? It will.

When Ford builds a car certain processes are needed to take any part of the car off and put it back on. Break line replacement, engine swap, changing the spark plugs. All they have to do is outline a unique set of steps, which they can engineer into the process through the design of the car, and then patent that process and then require anyone who does any work on their cars to either pay them a licensing fee, or face court.

This would effectively make it illegal to work on your own car.

And guess what, they will call you a Communist with a capital C for doing so.

Many of you people don't seem to understand where this yellow brick road is leading....
By Haraldur
I agree with malachi151, and would like to add:

By SpiderMonkey
Are there any countries where these crappy laws won't happen? We need somewhere that can host the free software they find so threatening. Of course, they will then go after the ISPs that connect us to these hosts. Then we will have to start using proxies to get to them. Or go really low tech and dial them up directly.
User avatar
By arcis
#572904 ... .php?t=363


According to today's issue of leading Danish newspaper Børsen, Bill Gates threatened to kill 800 Danish jobs if Denmark opposed software patent directive -- Philips said to have threatened Dutch government, rumors of more such blackmail.

Companies should never be allowed to become big enough, so that they can blackmail the governments of countries.

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