Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/06/20/gpl_pacman_will_eat_your/

GPL Pacman will eat your business, warns Gates

Timely warning from The Great Engulfer himself

By John Lettice

Posted in Software, 20th June 2001 14:06 GMT

Microsoft's latest shot in the anti-GPL war comes from His Billness himself and - bizarrely - likens it to a small yellow blob that starred in 1980s arcade games. Mike Ricciuti of Cnet should be given due credit for extracting this BillBlurt, in an interview conducted this week at TechEd.

Protesting that Microsoft's views on open source have been "misunderstood," Gates comes up with something not so much misunderstandable as only marginally comprehensible: "But if you say to people, 'Do you understand the GPL?' (then) they're pretty stunned when the Pac-Man-like nature of it is described to them."

Think hard about that one - it's a little thing that runs around gobbling up everything it comes across, like alternative GUIs for Dos, disk compression, independent TCP/IP stacks, the browser market, email clients, instant messaging, digital audio and CD burning... No wait, that's something else entirely. What Bill really means is that the GPL is the Borg/bodysnatcher de nos jours, tainting everything it comes into contact with and assimilating it to The Hive.

Which takes us back to previous Microsoft claims that it's a cancer, un-American, a virus, communism. One does puzzle about why these claims could be deemed to have been misunderstood. Widely-mocked, yes...

Aside from his weird new image, Gates seems largely to be peddling the current Microsoft line on the GPL, claiming that it makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of that [i.e. GPL] work or build on that work." This line is of course almost entirely untrue, the small nugget of veracity being that you can't just lift GPL code and shove it straight into Microsoft Bloat 2002 without there being some kind of come-back. Whereas you're perfectly free to swipe any of that source code that Microsoft is so busily sharing, amend it as you wish then resell it as part of your own product line.

Well all right, you can't do that either but presumably these two situations are entirely different for reasons that Bill Gates can, but we cannot, fathom. Bill adds that what happened with Sendmail and TCP/IP couldn't have happened under the GPL; we could at this juncture conjure with the notion that not being able to swipe things and run off with them would inconvenience certain large commerical developers greatly, but on reflection we fear we'd better not.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's latest tack in the anti-GPL FUD war is a document authored by the "Shared Source Initiative" (presumably the Redmond Green Beret team on this particular case) and aimed at 'explaining' the issues associated with GpL software to businesses. One of the highlights of this wondrous document is that "Because the GPL is so frequently misunderstood and because it attempts, under certain circumstances, to impose significant obligations on licensees and their intellectual property rights, no responsible business should use GPL software without ensuring that its lawyers have read the license and explained the business’ rights and obligations."

We at The Register shamefully neglected our fiduciary duties to our shareholders by letting our techies shove Red Hat onto the server without first commissioning a detailed legal analysis of the implications And now we're going to get sued, die and go to hell, oh dear oh dear. Much more similar hilarity can be downloaded in Word .doc format here, while Professor Eben Moglen mounts a counter-blast in LinuxUser here. Thanks to LinuxUser for drawing the document to our attention.

Much more information about the wonderful world of shared but not touched or interfered with in the slightest source code can be found here. Delightfully, the "licensing" link at the top of the page simply leads to an explanation of how to give Microsoft money in volume. But obviously you don't need a lawyer to read a Microsoft licence anyway, because they're so straightforward - just remember it's not yours, you have no rights, and your rental period is up soon. ®

Why GPL software strangles babies and leaves stains on the carpet:
Ballmer: Linux is cancer
Microsoft torches RMS, RMS torches Caldera
Microsoft co-opts Caldera, Torvalds in Shared Source offensive