Looking further at the troubles with the e-gov-os conference and after reviewing the opinions of Bruce Perens, Richard Stallman, David Sugar, Jay Sulzburger, David Wheeler, Stanley Klein, Chalu Kim, Claus Sørensen, Jason Faulkner, Russell McOrmond, Louis Suarez-Potts, David A. Hammond and others, comments which have expanded over 10 mailing lists, and which have generated a few hundred private emails to me in my private email box, I'm forced to draw several conclusions.
First, as President of NYLXS and President of New Yorkers for Fair Use, my primary concern is two fold:
First, in my role as President of NYLXS, my primary goal is to cater to the needs of the membership, and the extended constituency of the organization, the Free Software development community and users in the New York City area. In truth, all organizations have a primary responsibility to their constituencies. It is time for others to look at their constituency and see how they are serving them. An organization which doesn't serve a constituency is an organization in name only.
Secondly, as an individual citizen and active member of the Free Software movement, I'm concerned with broad policy decisions of others in regards to individual rights with in our digitalized communications network. I'm focused on practical activities which protect the freedom of individuals and empower individuals and communities in education, government and business.
These are the only two prisms in which I can view the planned events of EgovOS conference.
I tend to be very thorough and deliberate in my conclusions. When I work through the process of developing activities and actions, or when I write in regard to issues of importance in a proper fashion for publication, or when I give a formal opinion piece representing any of our organizations journals, radio shows, public speeches, or other formalized media outlets, I bring to bear on that presentation, not only thorough research of the issue and much consultation, but also my 30 years of political and practical experience in affecting positive political and social outcomes.
I bring this same effort to this current letter, which I am opening up to the public and which will be published on http://fairuse.nylxs.com and which will be included in the coming NYLXS Journal.
First, let's look at the stated goals of the sponsored event. As listed on htttp://www.egovos.org/, the goals of this conference is:
Open Source for National and Local eGovernment Programs in the U.S. and EU
NYLXS has, for a couple of years, worked to sell Free Software on both the local, New York City Level and in the Federal Government. We'll had a variety of experiences in this regard, many of them very negative. As such, this conference seems to be important to the economic and political health of the NYLXS membership, including The Free Software Chamber of Commerce, our Public Educational initiative in New York City Public Schools, and New Yorkers for Fair Use. Our direct prosperity as a community is tied to the stated goals of the conference, and in fact, members of the Free Software Chamber of Commerce had prepared to make presentations at the conference. It was the concerns of members of the Free Software Chamber of Commerce which brought the problems which have enveloped the conference to my attention.
The main problem is the participation of Microsoft as a speaker and presenter at the conference. In a previous email, I have already listed the problems that Microsoft presents. But for the sake of making this a complete document, I will reiterate them and expand upon the Microsoft issue.
First of all, Microsoft is a reckless company which operates above the law. It has recently been convicted twice for antitrust activities, and has been guilty of numerous other illegal competitive practices which have gone without prosecution. http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/ms_index.htm is a rundown of the current conviction of Microsoft for antitrust actions which is still going through the courts. Microsoft was not only determined have acted illegally in regard to browser technology, but they have also had their CEO, Bill Gates, lie under oath. The testimony can be searched here:
investigation of his perjury is here:
They even doctored their prepared testimony which got much press:
http://www.idg.net/crd_microsoft_67162.html and to quote:
Chase's testimony last week struck a note similar to the previous week's fiasco over a Microsoft videotaped demonstration. Government attorney David Boies had scored by pointing out inconsistent details in a videotape, submitted by Microsoft as evidence, that showed that Microsoft had used multiple PCs to film a demo the company first implied was a seamless segment filmed on one computer. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said he did not believe that the Microsoft witness who had testified to the truthfulness of the tape lied about it, but trial observers said the incident undermined the defense's credibility.
Further discussion of the Gate's Perjury includes http://groups.google.com/groups?q=Bill+Gates+testimony+Perjury&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=nobody-0602002327560001%40adsl-209-233-20-69.dsl.snfc21.pacbell.net&rnum=5
In fact, this reprint of the original Ziff Davis Net article with a John Hall interview is in my private archive of resources. The article quotes Mad Dog Hall as properly urging the government to jail Bill Gates for his illegal activities:
Microsoft has competed unfairly with Borland, FoxPro, Netscape, Sun, Apple among others. They have actively pursued a business plan designed to strip individuals and organization from the fruits of their efforts by tweaking the desktop making others products function worse than Microsoft's products. They have repeatedly hindered the empowerment of people and prevented the empowerment of individuals, especially negatively impacting disenfranchised communities, such as those that NYLXS represents in Brooklyn, and the City of New York. 60 minutes even broadcast a show which showed to fear that developers have of Microsoft and the expectations of these developers to be damaged by their 'Partner'
Of the many corporations in the global economy, Microsoft alone has distinguished itself as a proactive opponent to Free Software.
Things began to heat up with the Halloween Papers.
Microsoft then made a frontal attack on the Free Software Foundations GPL, the most potent tool which protects the community from hostile activities by businesses and individuals who wish to destroy our ability to collaborate.
This article by The Register at http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/25891.html
looks at how DRM (trusted computing) attacks the GPL.
This certification scheme will rip the guts out of the GPL. That is, the minute I begin tinkering with my software, my ability to interface with the Great PKI in the Sky will be broken. I'll have a Linux box with a GPL, all right; but if I exercise the license in any meaningful way I'll render my system 'unauthorized for Palladium' and lose business. So instead, I imagine I'll be turning to my vendor for support, updates, modifications and patches. And I'll be dependent on them for support services at whatever price they can wheedle out of me because I dare not lose my Palladium authorization. I wonder if the cost of ownership of an open-source system will actually be lower than the cost of a proprietary system under such circumstances.
Prior to this, Microsoft's Craig Mundie made several false statements against the GPL at New York University.
Some of the most successful OSS technology is licensed under the GNU General Public License or GPL. The GPL mandates that any software that incorporates source code already licensed under the GPL will itself become subject to the GPL. When the resulting software product is distributed, its creator must make the entire source code base freely available to everyone, at no additional charge. This viral aspect of the GPL poses a threat to the intellectual property of any organization making use of it. It also fundamentally undermines the independent commercial software sector because it effectively makes it impossible to distribute software on a basis where recipients pay for the product rather than just the cost of distribution.
Microsoft had mailed to every IT director in the US brochures which vilified the GPL, the Free Software movement, and by extension, the Open Source advocates. These mailings contained blatant lies about the contribution of Free Software to the economy and threatened IT directors and developers with unfounded negative consequences if they deploy or use Free Software. The recent GPL FAQ, for example, has the following excerpt:
Have your lawyers read the GPL (and the LGPL)? Because the GPL is so frequently misunderstood and because it attempts, under certain circumstances, to impose significant obligations on licensees and their intellectual property rights, no responsible business should use GPL software without ensuring that its lawyers have read the license and explained the business’ rights and obligations. They should also review and explain the Lesser General Public License, or LGPL, a related license that is sometimes used with open source libraries.
Businesses every day uses Microsoft Software and the software of others which contain intrusive and abusive licensing which is directly in conflict with logical business practices. They would never be accepted by legal teams if the process was open to genuine contract negotiation. The contracts with Microsoft foists on businesses through its abusive monopoly powers constrains segments which allow the disabling of the software and intrudes on the private ownership of data and systems by businesses which purchase Microsoft products today. This is in addition to the clauses which waves them from any responsibility for damages done to business through security violations or the failure of products to perform according to their expectations. And then they sponsored UCITA to make sure that downloaded software from Free Software vendors can not get the same level of protection in a blatant effort to damage efforts of distributors of Free Software to comply with the GPL.
Microsoft has been such an aggressive enemy of Free Software, and the general public that they have used the BSA to do witch hunts against users and business.
They have threatened lawsuits against those who have reversed engineered their document formats They moved their free font access because users downloaded them for Free Software systems. They have proposed a DRM system designed to circumvent the freedom of Free Software development. They have fixed benchmarking studies versus Free Software systems. They have obstructed the legally required refund for operating systems which are forced on consumers with preinstalled systems. They built spyware into their multimedia players, twisted the Java programming language to be incompatible with the implementation on other platforms, refused to release products on Free Software platforms, which includes Microsoft Internet Explorer, introduced in NT4 service pack 3 changes to the SMB protocols to make it break with the Free Software SAMBA product, built back doors into in it's CryptoAPI, deliberately broke the Opera Web Browser when used with the MSN network, have brought down the internet through viruses TWICE in the last year, supported DRM in concert with Record Labels
broke basic TCP/IP protocols with IE5 and IIS
( http://grotto11.com/blog/slash.html?+1039831658 ), advertised recently for advanced Free Software administrators to work for Microsoft in order to create a strategy to force businesses off of Free Software, and more.
Overall, Microsoft alone as a corporation has distinguished itself as an entity which, as a core business policy, is set to enslave Free Software and the general population. Their mission is to dehumanize and embarrass our membership, and to impoverish our community.
This body of evidence would be enough to reject out of hand the entry of Microsoft to the conference. But NYLXS and NY Fair Use has a growing new concern which is pushing it to action. In the face of the growing threat by the Microsoft Corporation to the well-being of Free Software developers, a threat that can be seen by Microsoft hiring GNU/Linux experts in the effort to undermine the business efforts of our community through lies and falsehoods, as well as technically breaking the beneficial integration of mixed environments, and which can be further seen by the 'shared source' media campaign which lies about the foundation of a free society and the stake of businesses in the promotion of both Open Sourced and Free Software legal foundation, there is an increasing knee jerk reaction by organizations supposedly representing the communities interests to give Microsoft a platform and a business advantage at conferences and shows which are designed to promote the community's effort in establishing digital rights and economic development. This started at 'Linux World Expo' in San Fransico and has moved into the New York 'Linux World Expo', where it directly damaged the well being of my membership through the winning of an award which rewarded them for creating a program only could properly write if you have the Windows code base, and it is now making its way to the egov-os conference.
The inclusion of Microsoft at this event directly threatens the health of the Free Software Chamber of Commerce in New York City. There are places for an academic style debate for Free Software versus Sun's community license and Microsoft's “Share Source' . A conference whose stated goals is to raise awareness of Free Software and Open Software benefits, to present the best practices for government, and to share experiences about the benefits of using Free Software in government, is not such a venue. This venue is about selling Free Software and the community's efforts to the government. It is hoped to and create a much needed stable economic pipeline for free software vendors with government, based on its technical and political merits. Microsoft's goals are in direct conflict with the stated agenda of the conferences. Allowing them to participate, based on the sole attribute that they are Microsoft and feel that they have something to say, is not enough reason to allow them a platform which will be used to hurt members of the community.
Because of the growing misconduct of those who are presenting Free Software and Open Sourced Software to the public, first IDG and now egovos, NYLXS and New Yorkers for Fair Use is now contemplating action, not so much directed against Microsoft, but those wolves in sheep closing who are more directly hurting my membership and the community at large.
In considering actions to take, we are looking at a number of possibilities.
First, it is the opinion of Jay Sulzburger that we can use a hour of time to counter the arguments of Microsoft. My experience is that this will not work. On July 17th, I lead NY Fair Use to Washington to argue against the inclusion of DRM. Despite the fact that our presence was the most important part of the conference, to the point where we engaged productively from the audience both Jack Valenti and Philip Bond, we got no mainstream press. This was despite the presence of the New York Time's Amy Harmon and others. But our action was famous on Capital Hill. When we went back for the Peer to Peer/Berman Bill hearing two months later, several congressional staff members sought me out to ask what we did and to give us compliments. Simply, in regard to Jay's suggestion, nobody will attend such a session outside of the choir, and it will receive no press. On the other hand, Microsoft will get much press.
It has been suggested that egov-os is better to concede a place for Microsoft to allow an open debate. This will not be affective, and the alternative of being tongue whipped by Microsoft in the press is far better since they simply don't qualify for a placement at the conference, and it will allow us to present to the government administrators without interference. It is not NY Fairuse's policy to play 'whack the mole' with DRM issues. Instead, we focus on specific actions which will have broad affect and undermine the ability of our political foes to bring endless action again and again through the governments entire alphabet soup of bureaucracy and congressional committees. If Microsoft objects to being excluded, NY Fair Use (http://fairuse.nylxs.com) would be all to happy to provide a forum for both Microsoft and Richard Stallman, and others, for the benefit of academic debate. It would be a good fund raiser for the Free Software Institute in the coming months. My guess is that Bill Gates has no interest in such a real debate. His company is only interested in marketing and damaging the community. Therefore, participation by any Free Software advocates, or Open Source advocates, in this egov-os conference is highly damaging to the community if it includes Microsoft. And we are therefor calling on a boycott for this event.
It has been said that nobody is stupid enough to believe that Microsoft's 'shared source' promotes Open Source software. Unfortunately, this is very wrong. On the Open Office.org website, every day people ask if they can use and distribute the products. While I wouldn't say people are as dumb as rocks, I will say that they've been so conditioned to think out software as a super-restricted, crash inducing, virus ridden products, that they often have trouble thinking straight about what they should expect from business and software providers.
NY Fair Use is now looking to organize a protest of the event in Washington. A protest will at least give those genuinely from the community an uninhibited outlet. However, NY Fair Use, in general, dislikes protests as a vehicle of change, as we feel they mostly are ignored by a public besieged by 'the protest of the day'.
As a result, we are looking at a more organized campaign against this convention and those who would put events like this one together without considering the moral imperative of not harming the community by giving those who wish to destroy use a platform such as this. Egov-os supposedly advocates Free Software usage in business and government. It should do so without constraint and without apologies.
We are calling for an investigation of the egov-os organizers for misconduct. I've spoken with Tony Stanco many times and it's not possible that he doesn't grasp the basics of the issues outlined here, or how including Microsoft will negatively affect our community. Therefor, the invitation of Microsoft to this conference must be either a direct payoff, or self promotion. Since they are moral equivalents, they are both both equally condemnable.
We insist that Microsoft should not be given any platform at this event, because it is their purpose to undermine the community and its efforts. Since this is not being promoted as an academic debate, but instead is a marketing tool for Open Source and Free Software, we reject any arguments which are based on the concept that we should open the floor to them in order to dispel Microsoft corporate lies. This venue does not have the most basic format to handle this problem.
If, for contractual reasons, it is impossible to remove them from the conference, we ask the organizers to give NYLXS's subcommittee, New Yorkers for Fair Use, both the keynote and the Microsoft slot in the speaking arraignments. David Sugar will represent NYLXS, and I will represent NY Fair Use.
Finally, the website for the event needs to have on the front page a clear statement that it has determined that Microsoft's 'shared' code' program to be directly in opposition to both Free Software and the Open Source ideals, in that it does not promote the empowerment of the community through the freedom of innovation and digital systems ownership by individuals, the government or businesses.
I do not expect that these suggestions will be taken by Bruce Perens, or the other organizers of the egov-os events. So I expect that we will have to work to oppose the event.
President New Yorkers for Fair Use