Does the DoJ Use Microsoft as a Shill Against Linux?

Posted by tadelste on Jan 12, 2006 4:37 PM EDT; By Tom Adelstein
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Have fears of a resurgence of communism led the DoJ to suspect GNU/Linux communities of having anti-capitalistic agendas? If so, have they allowed Microsoft to engage in anti-trust to stop Free Software?

Have you ever chronicled the US Government's efforts to litigate Microsoft? When you step back and take a look, it seems as though the Department of Justice shopped around for a friendly judge and finally got one. You might even consider that we had two presidents with conflicts of interest with Microsoft and their own cabinets.

Why is this important? Because Microsoft has attacked and continues to attack GNU/Linux, the Free Software Foundation and a host of projects related to open source software. With Microsoft's considerable resources, they have mounted an ambitious campaign unlike any they have undertaken in the past. They intend to wipe us from the map.

Here's the progression:

  • DoJ performs massive investigation and enters into a decree->
  • Judge Sporkin refuses to approve->
  • DoJ/Microsoft joint appeal->
  • Judge Jackson hears case and rules to break up Microsoft->
  • Microsoft appeals->
  • Bush DoJ and Microsoft reach settlement->
  • Collen Kollar-Kotelly approves->
  • Microsoft goes back to business and attacks GNU/Linux.

How did this happen? Like I wrote above, Microsoft and their partner, the Department of Justice shopped for a friendly judge until they found one. It starts with a DoJ investigation headed up by Anne Bingaman. Most people believe in the spring of 1994 that she would file a major suite against Microsoft. But, after Bill Gates visit to the White House all that changed.

Failed Decree

The DoJ reached a settlement with Microsoft and took it to the first Judge Stanley Sporkin. In a memorandum opinion on Valentine's Day 1995, he launched into Microsoft wondering why the DoJ had made nothing of Microsoft's anti-trust case. Ultimately, Sporkin refused to approve the agreement and Microsoft and the DoJ appealed the decision. That's correct Microsoft and Justice, titular adversaries, filed a joint appeal.

The following June, a federal appeals court overturned Judge Sporkin and assigned the case to a different judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson.

Bill Gates Visits China

Bill Gates soon thereafter visited China where, after meetings with Jiang Zemin, Windows was declared the official operating system of the People's Republic of China. At just about the time of Gates's visit, the government of China began putting money into the Democratic Party's coffers. Conspiracy theorists find the chain of incidents strange. They consider it an unusual coincidence.

Anti-Trust Trial

We all know what happened next. The DoJ began a trial with Judge Jackson presiding. They called the filing, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant. With an embattled President going through impeachment, Microsoft started making new friends.

Enter the Republicans

From 1998-99, Jack Abramoff received $560,000 to lobby on behalf of Microsoft. Abramoff's associate, Ralph Reed received a $240,000 annual retainer while serving as a senior consultant to the Bush Campaign 2000. Reed's company's internal documents showed that his mission involved identifying and recruiting prominent Bush supporters to personally write and lobby Bush to back Microsoft.

Reed's contract with Microsoft came to the public's attention and proved an embarrassment to the Bush campaign in the summer of 2000. While under prosecution for anti-trust, Microsoft had hired a number of Bush aides as consultants and lobbyists. But nothing came of it.

Soon after Bush's inauguration, an appeals court overturned Judge Jackson's break-up order and the new DoJ got a new judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. She approved what amounted to slap on the hand.

Ralph Nader the prophet

Lots of people thought Microsoft got off too easy and "the fix was in".

Ralph Nader wrote a">letter to the court that you may consider prophetic. Let's take a look some of his points. He wrote (excerpts):

  • We note at the outset that the decision to push for a rapid negotiation appears to have placed the Department of Justice at a disadvantage.

  • We are disappointed of course to see a move away from a structural remedy (the break-up).

  • A need to have broader disclosure of file formats for popular office productivity and multimedia applications (exists).

  • Moreover, the agreement appears to give Microsoft too many opportunities to undermine the free software movement.

Microsoft Attacks Free Software

Nader may not have won the race to become President of the US, but he saw the future. Microsoft kept its file formats a secret, went after Peter Quinn and then opened the wrapper of its MSXML format. Of course, it's not really open since the specification requires anyone who uses it to include old undocumented proprietary formats such a WordML and RTF.

Microsoft has plenty of opportunities to undermine the free software movement. Microsoft has established a slush fund of $180 million to stop Linux from gaining government adoption anywhere on the globe. They have also put forth an unprecedented lobbying effort, have brought legal action against Brazil's head of IT, funded bogus benchmarks and TCO studies while restricting others from doing the same.

They have also set up shop on Linux news sites and spent untold amounts of money on their "Get the Facts" campaign. Take a look at Figure 1 and 2 and ask yourself if Microsoft's advertising seems appropriate for a convicted monopolist.

Figure 1 shows how Microsoft can flex enough financial muscle to invade a respected Linux news site. In this case, Microsoft's anti-Linux advertising runs in the banner rotation in an article about Debian Linux and ISPConfig.

Figure 2 shows Microsoft planting itself on LinuxToday with an anti-Linux resource center.

Where's the Anti-Trust Cops When You Need Them

Governments around the world have found Microsoft guilty of Anti-Trust as if that was a stretch. What does the Bush Administration do? Our Justice Department tells South Korea's Fair Trade Commission that they went too far in an antitrust judgment against Microsoft.

Last month, I spoke to Bob Price, former CEO of Control Data Corporation and author of The Eye for Innovation. We discussed a private anti-trust suit Control Data initiated against IBM back in 1968, when IBM was the nastiest monopoly in the world. Bob recalled the problems he had with the Department of Justice bringing any action against IBM.

As we spoke, I asked a series of questions about how dirty IBM behaved at the time of the CDC suit. My questions went something like this: Did IBM ever sue a public official in another country for wanting to use a different platform? Did IBM ever call a competitor a cancer? How far did they go in influencing members of Congress, the Judiciary, state representatives?

When I finished, Bob seemed astonished. He didn't know Microsoft was that insidious. As our discussion ended, I realized that the difference between CDC then and Linux now had to do with money. CDC could afford a legal action where it received a substantial settlement. The Linux people don't have those kinds of resources.

What we do need is a government that will take care of the people in this country and enforce the laws. What laws? Primarily the Sherman and Clayton anti-trust laws against Microsoft.

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial, LXer Features; Groups: Debian, GNU, IBM, LXer, Microsoft

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Still relying on government. *sigh* *rolls eyes* halfmnhlfamazng 8 2,849 Jan 14, 2006 3:40 PM
Who Will Enforce the Anti Trust Laws? garyedwards 8 3,043 Jan 11, 2006 10:38 AM
Microsoft Attacks Free Software? ci27CTr9 1 2,752 Jan 11, 2006 5:53 AM
Reformat and reinstall: goodbye all non-MS stuff Turbocapitalist 0 2,622 Jan 11, 2006 12:11 AM
If they really want to stir things up dtfinch 0 2,394 Jan 10, 2006 5:41 PM
Do you think we'll get slash dotted? tadelste 3 2,602 Jan 10, 2006 3:37 PM
Teddy Roosevelt richo123 3 2,530 Jan 10, 2006 2:45 PM
Pulitzer Road garyedwards 1 2,537 Jan 10, 2006 2:30 PM

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