Incompetence and falsehood from American industry

February 27, 2010

It is perhaps comforting to know that some believe American Empire is not doomed to irrelevance. But much of American Industry seems bent on trying. Aside from their usual shabby treatment of their customers with lawsuits and wholesale purchase of politicians through lobby organizations, they love to write law that suits their complacency, hoping to snuff out competition through litigation.

Now that American Industry has seen that other nations can catch up, many companies are trying to change the rules to keep their advantage. One way they do this is through trying to force the US Trade Representative to ban trade with other countries because they have no use for crappy software from Microsoft. Now, they don’t mind if the country doesn’t pay for the software as long as they use it because they know at some point these foreign governments and companies will get caught out and be forced to pay Microsoft for some license or other. What these trade organizations, like the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), do not want to see is a choice in the marketplace. Choosing something other than a product from one of these organizations threatens the high paid lawyers and ex-CEOs who can’t find work from earning a handsome living making fools of themselves in the press.

Recently the IIPA, whose members include the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA, (litigious hobgoblins all), issued a report trying to strong arm the USTR into banning countries that use “Open Source” software. The report is conveniently available in pdf (a proprietary format of course) on their web site. A quick gander at that didactic screed brings us some useful nuggets, also highlighted by the Gaurdian. Of course the Guardian, like any good news organization, got it’s news from a blogger, who deserves the real credit.

I point out the Guardian article because they have a useful quote from the report so you don’t have to go through the whole thing:

“The Indonesian government’s policy… simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market.

Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations.

As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions.

There is a distinct and glaring lack in these paragraphs from the report. In fact I would say there is a complete absence of truth. Let’s help the author(s) with some corrections shall we?

The first paragraph goes off the rails early with the claim that recommending open source software weakens the software industry. Far from it – it strengthens the software industry, particularly the software industry in Indonesia. Because you are allowed to study and modify Free Software, you can learn about programming and become a better programmer. You can create innovative products and sell them. Perhaps even to the United States? It follows that the long-term competitiveness of the industry would be furthered by the use of Free Software in Indonesia, at least the Indonesian software industry. And call me crazy but I believe sovereign nations have a right to their own software industry.

What the heck is an artificial preference they refer to in the first paragraph? Is that the opposite of the “natural preference” of Microsoft software? Somebody better run and tell the busiest web sites in the world, along with two-thirds of the rest of the web, to stop using the apache web server – it just ain’t natural. They follow that odd statement up with claiming legitimate companies will lose access to the government market. Here is where the arrogance that borders on pathological rears its pointy head. Closing a market by allowing only proprietary software denies access and competition – in short free trade – not the other way around. Their statement is transparent falsehood so contrived you’d have to be dense as a lead cupcake not to see through it.

Now in the second paragraph we begin to see the real incompetence that American jurisprudence has so sweetly bestowed upon the world. Rather than say, research their topic, they inform us of what it isn’t, setting up a straw man cum sock puppet. Fortunately this straw puppet is highly flammable – let’s set it alight; Free Software is built upon copyright.

Boy that was easy. Easy because it is so damn simple. Free Software relies on copyright law for its existence. You assign a copyright when you write software, often that copyright goes to a company if you are working for them, but sometimes it goes to individuals and organizations. They can license their software as they see fit if they possess the copyright. Many companies see a strategic advantage in using Free Software licenses like the GPL because it allows them to re-use high-quality software from other large companies, like Intel, IBM, Red Hat, Sun, Oracle, (stop me if this is boring you) Novell, Nokia, Microsoft, oh yes – even Microsoft has released Free Software. Presumably because it allows them to make money. But I’m just guessing here.

Clearly the IIPA lawyers either do not understand the law or they lie to protect their business. Free Software is directly built upon copyright law and to say “it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights” is to babble illogically. How can copyrighted works undermine copyright? How can you claim that following law does not respect the law? You can’t of course, these are logical impossibilities. You would think it would also be a bit illogical to rail against “open source” software and then go ahead and run your web site on that self-same open source, but this is precisely what the IIPA does; their ranting nonsense web site is hosted on a Solaris machine. Did I mention they were incompetent?

Free Software is a material product which lends itself to capital markets. It is an efficient use of capital and brings with it huge return on investment. Companies large and small use Free Software daily to help them grow and prosper, that is a fact that IIPA fails to mention and one cannot help but wonder why.

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