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MS Gets Whupped - No Delay on EU Sanctions
Wednesday, December 22 2004 @ 06:04 PM EST

Microsoft has lost its attempt to delay European Commission sanctions [PDF, 302 pps.] ordered by the EU's Court of First Instance. Here's the order [click on the top link]. The press release from The Court of First Instance is available as a PDF from this page. The court rejected Microsoft's application "in its entirety." The company hasn't decided yet whether to appeal to the higher European Court of Justice. Yesterday it said it probably would not.

"We need to focus on doing an excellent job with complying with today's decision," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a conference call with reporters. That includes sharing technical information so other software and hardware manufacturers can develop products that work with Microsoft's Windows.

Microsoft immediately announced that it will create a website later today to begin processing requests for the interoperability information. It will unbundle Media Player by January, it says.

Microsoft has now twice been convicted of abusing its monopoly, once in the US and now in Europe, and let's all keep that clearly in mind when they tell us and show us that they would like to set up a software patent club. And I wish to thank the SAMBA team, FSF Europe for carrying the legal burden necessary to make this happen, and RealNetworks for *not* dropping out of the EU antitrust process. This is a victory for them.

Here's the FSF-Europe Microsoft EU litigation page, where you can find links to documents they submitted along with the SAMBA team to the EC and their motion to intervene before the EU. The page also contains a nice explanation why the EC decision is not a perfect outcome for F/OSS.

Speaking of thanking people, here's the FSF Europe statement on the Microsoft ruling:

"Those who value freedom and competition have received two nice Christmas gifts this week. First, new EU member Poland does not allow the introduction of innovation- and job-killer software patents through the diplomatic back-door. And now the European Court decides that Microsoft should not get another four years to further harm its competition" says Georg Greve, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

Bo Versterdorf, President of the European Court, has today rejected Microsoft's appeal to delay execution of the sanctions. Microsoft has been forced by European Commission to publish technical information about the interfaces of their Windows operating system to enable competitors to reach interoperability between their systems and Windows.

While the software giant claimed that following the tradition of the technical industry to publish formats and standards will do irreparable harm to them judge Bo Vesterdorf agreed with European Commission and FSFE that this was not a convincing thesis.

Legal and technical competence brought in by the Samba Team and FSFE in the process helped the European Commission to resist to the attack of the most important law firms in Europe. The Free Software community, represented by lawyer Carlo Piana, kept defending european consumers and the interests of European citizens and of all companies that base their business on Free Software.

"Microsoft now will have to explain how they have arbitrarily modified public standards they use in their servers and work hard to re-establish competition in the small server market. On the other end we are sure that it is an opportunity for the market to compete on quality of code and services, respecting interoperability" says Carlo Piana.

"This is a great success of an international community that is really able to coordinate and obtain excellent results: technical, legal and political. We have always thought that Microsoft's arguments were poor and we are glad we were able to explain this to the judge so well" says Stefano Maffulli, Italian Chancellor of the FSFE.

But this success did in fact cost something: the FSFE, who played an important role in the decision, was only able to put this much resources into these cases due to the ongoing financial support from the Free Software community as well as from several companies. "The more donations we get, the more we will be able to extend our engagement for Europe's freedom from monopolisation", Stefano Maffulli concludes.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charitable non-governmental organisation dedicated to all aspects of Free Software in Europe. Access to software determines who may participate in a digital society. Therefore the Freedoms to use, copy, modify and redistribute software - as described in the Free Software definition- allow equal participation in the information age. Creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central issues of the FSFE. The FSFE was founded in 2001 as the European sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation in the United States.

Further information:

We've all seen the legal bills incurred by SCO in its various litigations, so that should give you an idea of how expensive it is to litigate. The more money donated to help fight back, the more effective FSF can be.

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