10 Feb 2003


There’s plenty of uneasiness in Redmond, Washington, these days. Microsoft has begun to internalize the recognition that the next, and quite probably final, period of its existence will be dominated by competition with free software. That competition presents challenges the monopoly has never faced before, and already it has become necessary, at what Microsoft hopes is still an early stage in the confrontation, to take steps that no other competitor has ever had the power to force.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.02.10-00:00.00

10 Jan 2003

Free Software and the Broadcast Media, II

In my last column I discussed the pending proceeding of the US Federal Communications Commission to consider copy-protection for broadcast digital television. I described the significance of the GNU Radio program, which allows general-purpose computers to process waveform data received from wireless receivers and thus to interpret digital TV signals. Because GNU Radio is free software that any user has the right to understand and to modify, when GNU Radio is configured to receive broadcast digital TV, a user could modify the program to ignore the copy-protection—in the form of the so-called “broadcast flag”—under consideration by the FCC.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2003.01.10-00:00.00

05 Dec 2002

Free Software and the Broadcast Media

Just as free software has been a particularly scary subject for the music and film industries in the past several years, threatening their control over their content, it is about to become excessively frightening to their television and radio lordships as well.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.12.05-00:00.00

30 Oct 2002

Free Government, II

As I wrote last month, we’re in the middle of a quite intense controversy in the United States over the use of free software by government, as a result of a global movement towards public adoption of free software—a movement that has Microsoft very worried indeed.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.10.30-00:00.00

14 Sep 2002

Free Government

Eighteen months ago I said, in this space, that government adoption of free software was the next objective of the Free Software Movement in our campaign to bring freedom to technology. I said it was also the development Microsoft most feared. My forecast has turned out correct.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.09.14-00:00.00

10 Aug 2002

Untrustworthy Computing

“Ideas are not often hard,” the great American judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once wrote, “but words are the devil.” Particularly when the words are deliberately twisted. One word that’s going to sustain a good deal of devilish twisting this coming year is “trust.”

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.08.10-00:00.00

10 Jun 2002

Security Through Freedom

Software security is all the rage this year, for predictable reasons. It’s hard to talk about public policy with respect to software, at least in Washington, without talking about security. For Microsoft, continuing its attack on free software and the GNU General Public License in particular, security is the new favored place to attempt to undermine the free software movement.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.06.10-00:00.00

10 May 2002

Exploring the Frontiers of Unfreedom

Last month I was writing about Disney’s Michael Eisner and his legislation in the US Senate to prohibit free software, declaring his movie company’s divine right to control all the technology on earth in order to keep Mickey unfree. Mr Eisner is a serious nuisance, but he is by no means the only part of the content distribution system actively trying to eliminate free software at the moment.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.05.10-00:00.00

19 Mar 2002

More Menace from The Mouse

MR Michael Eisner, Disney CEO, has recently been demonstrating once again why there is no democracy in Disneyland. Testifying before the United States Senate in support of proposed legislation by Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina–who has received large political donations from Disney—Mr Eisner tactfully gave voice to his view of the computer hardware and consumer electronics industries. “We’re dealing with an industry where an unspoken strategy is that the killer app is piracy,” Mr Eisner said. “Their quarter-to-quarter growth is definitely pushed forward by people wanting to get anything for free on their television or computer or handheld device.” For this reason, Mr Eisner decreed, the market could not be trusted to keep his content safe from all that overwhelming human desire to share; the only acceptable solution for Disney is Senator Hollings’ proposal—drafted last summer in closed meetings with Disney lobbyists—which would require all hardware and software in the United States to obey mandated content protection rules, and give a right to copyright owners to prevent the distribution of any software or hardware that doesn’t meet the mandates. By something less than coincidence, this proposed legislation would make free software multimedia implementations illegal.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.03.19-00:00.00

28 Jan 2002

Shaking Up The Microsoft Settlement

The deal between Microsoft and the United States government has now met the force of electronic democracy. Back on November 6, the Bush Administration made a settlement with Microsoft, apparently designed to compromise the long-running antitrust action brought by the Clinton Administration. The settlement contained numerous provisions seemingly designed to control Microsoft’s market conduct, including requirements that Microsoft make available information about its application program interfaces (APIs), in order to permit competitors to interoperate with Microsoft products.

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permalink | columns/lu | 2002.01.28-00:00.00