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Editor's Note: Waiting for the Black Helicopters

Not Everything About Microsoft is Evil

December 14, 2000

I usually don't spend a lot of time defending Microsoft, but there's a case where some highly irresponsible writing is making the Linux community look extremely bad.

I'm speaking of Joe Barr's piece of tripe in LinuxWorld, where he takes Microsoft to task--calling them the "piracy police"--for asking Virginia Beach, Va., to verify that no unauthorized copies of Microsoft products were in use. (I'm not even going to dignify the article with pointing you toward a URL and a cheap page view.) Let's just say that Barr isn't a lawyer: he throws a lot of stuff against a wall to see what sticks. He throws out legal concepts like the presumption of innocence (which pertains only in criminal law, not in civil law) and the role that anti-trust plays in this case (Barr seems genuinely confused by the notion that anti-trust laws exist to protect the consumer, not competitors)--neither of which have a thing to do with basic contract law.

In fact, the only thing missing from Barr's piece was the whirring blades of the black helicopters overhead.

The story in Virginia Beach is simple. Microsoft had a contract that it wanted to enforce. It sent a letter to the municipality, asking for verification that the terms of the contract were being met--a verification process that Virginia Beach agreed to when it purchased the software. Nothing evil in this--it happens in the corporate world every day.

Yes, it cost Virginia Beach to perform the audit--but this is due to disorganization in Virginia Beach government. A well-organized company or municipality keeps records on its software usage. To argue that Microsoft is evil because Virginia Beach is disorganized is perhaps the dumbest argument made in the piece.

Bashing Microsoft does not elevate Linux. And bashing Microsoft for enforcing a legal contract--the type of contract, by the way, that many other firms in the Linux community use--doesn't even rise to the level of flamebait. We in the Linux community should be better than that.

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