I've been getting so much email on this, I decided to drop what I was doing and quickly respond here. Slashdot has posted an article about a report to the New Zealand State Services Commission regarding FOSS:
Gavo writes "Law firm Chapmann Tripp advises New Zealand State Services Commission that the New Zealand Government should be wary of using 'infectious' open source software. They claim 'While the use of open source software has many benefits, it brings with it a number of legal risks not posed by proprietary or commercial software.'"
Here's the scoop, although I don't know if the New Zealand government is aware of it. Chapman Tripp works for Microsoft.
Here's the proof, if you don't mind a .doc file downloading on to your computer a page of copyright notices on Microsoft's behalf by the firm:
Under Section 136 of the Copyright Act 1994
Copyright Holder: Microsoft Corporation
Date Accepted: 18 September 1998 (re-accepted 15 August 2003)
Date Expires: 7 August 2008
[list of works]...
The company for all inquiries on the notices is:
Attention: Justin Graham
Chapman Tripp Sheffield Young
[address, phone, fax]
They don't even hide it. They list Microsoft as a client on their site:
Advising Microsoft Corporation on digital copyright, parallel importation and copyright enforcement issues, including submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development and the select committee.
Might this be why Microsoft is now sending out "Get the Facts" style FUD to the New Zealand government?
Open source software: briefing to the Minister of State Services - March 2003
4 March 2003
The State Services Commission provided a briefing to the Minister for State Services on the potential for the use of open source software within government, and any associated risks or limitations, in March 2003. As a result of the briefing, it was:
* noted that open source software is generally a viable alternative to commercial software, and that it is increasingly used in both the private and public sectors globally;
* noted that 'value for money' and 'fitness for purpose' principles should continue to underlie any software procurement decision made by government agencies; and
* agreed that government agencies, when acquiring, upgrading or relicensing software, be encouraged to assess open source alternatives (where these exist) and should choose based on cost, functionality, interoperability, and security;
Hence the Microsoft effort to create antiFOSS FUD. As I always say, they have altogether too much money. Of course, the report is chock full of FUD. Here is one example:
5 A "strongly infectious" open source licence will infect any redistributed piece of software that contains or is derived from software licensed under it. It is generally very difficult to modify or integrate software licensed under a strongly infectious open source licence without the resulting product, when redistributed, becoming "open source" on the same terms as the original. The GPL is an example of a strongly infectious open source licence.
At least the GPL allows you to use the code, modify it and redistribute at all. Let's think for a minute, something FUD purveyors hope you will never do. Suppose you redistribute modified Microsoft software instead. What will happen to you? That's right. They'll sue your pants off.
So I'd say if FOSS is "infectious," Microsoft is flesh-eating bacteria.