FSFE’s antitrust victory with Samba

FSFE’s role in the antitrust case was to ensure that free software developers would be able to use any interoperability information that Microsoft would be forced to publish. After 5 years of work, the last court case was won last year. There were always doubts about whether Microsoft could really be pinned down, but from Samba developer Andrew Bartlet’s blog, it seems the Samba team are now loving the interoperability information.

I didn’t do much on this case. For FSFE, it was mostly Georg Greve and Carlo Piana. This work involved filing briefs, court appearances, backing up the good parts of the European Commission’s work in the press, acting as advisors during meetings, etc. A partial list starts halfway down our antitrust project page. Generally not very visible work – they’re not the sort of meetings you can blog about when you leave. From Samba, they worked with Andrew Tridgell, Jeremy Allison, and Volker Lendecke – who were each very capable in the court rooms.

There were other organisations involved, but FSFE played two key roles.

First, we represented the interests of free software developers. Others had interests such as the ability of their private company to compete with MS, or lowering the price of X or Y, or fining MS, etc. These organisations were on our side, but they could have accepted a solution that excluded free software. FSFE was there to constantly argue that free software must benefit from the outcome, and to explain what this required.

The second key role was persistency. The case began with many companies bringing evidence against Microsoft, but one-by-one they made business deals with Microsoft and withdrew from the case. This could never happen to FSFE, so FSFE was a reminder that the European Commission would never be left alone on this case.

There are two other organisations worth mentioning. SIIA is the only other organisation that, like FSFE, stayed in the case from start to finish. And ECIS is worth a mention because although they joined late, they added a lot of strength to what we were supporting.

The antitrust case was sometimes misunderstood. The mainstream media – with its love of simplifying topics down to numbers – constantly reported about how much Microsoft were going to get fined. That’s a pity. The fines were never important for us. Helping Samba and other free software projects was the important part. Done.

Some interesting links

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Ciarán O’Riordan,
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