CyberTech Rambler

March 2, 2006

Storm about a not-so-new potentially Microsoft-penned report

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:52 pm

[Updated March 07 2006: Karipuf has pointed out an serious flaw in my assertion that microsoft actually ghost written the report. On further investigation there is no evidence to support it. I apologize for the misunderstanding and withdrawn the blog entry. I am still leaving it online for the record]

There is a storm brewing over an old report that might as well be “ghost-written” by Microsoft for New Zealand government. I say it might has well been ghost-written by Microsoft because the person who penned the report is a law firm that works with Microsoft, and the content is virtually parroting all Microsoft’s argument against open source.

According to this Groklaw article, if you download the .doc version of the report, Microsoft is the copyright owner of the document. (Update March 07 2006: There is where I misread PJ’s article, thus misassociating two possibly independent piece of work, the .doc file and the report) How strange. A report written by State Services Commission (SSC) to assist NZ government agencies is not copyrighted by them but by someone else. I am not a lawyer, but I would think that any policy document/important guide authored for SSC is Crown-copyrighted. Unless, of course, the document is not as important is it looks.


It is an old report, written in 1998 to be precise. If my memory serves me correctly, it is about the time Microsoft started the anti-FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) FUD campaign. Of course, at the stage, the conflict-of-interest and self-serving purpose of Microsoft penned report on software development were not yet known or not impressed onto the government. As far as government agencies are concerned, Microsoft is a big software house, and they have long experience in software licensing and their views was (and still is) valuable in formulating policy. There is also a blind trust on Microsoft, which is now severely eroded.

Hence it is not surprising that SSC bought Microsoft’s view outright back in 1998. The re-acceptance of the report back in 2003 raise slight concern because it does not seems to be revised. In particular, it fails to consider the evolving open source landscape. Either the reacceptance process is simply a standard process, was done blindly, or its re-acceptance simply means it was taken into account when a policy was made, i.e., this is not a policy statement. The evidence support the last scenario when viewed in the context that SSC briefing on Open Source Software in NZ government was a good piece of work worthy of a neutral party in the Proprietory vs Open Source debate.

As for its release in 2006, it is probably because someone in NZ government managed to dig it out from the archive and put it out for pulic access. Someone was tasked to write a brief introduction and he/she got the context wrong. This is possible, I did it sometime. Hence, I do not read it as something sinister or a Microsoft plot behind this 2006 release.

Is the report all bad? No. A quick glance of the report shows that if you take out the biases against open source, it is a good recommendation on how to manage software, any software, in government and in business. To do so, you replace “Open Source Software” with “Any Software, proprietory or open source” in the document and consider all license-specific comments as evaluation criteria when choosing whether to license software. It outlines the due-dilligent process one have to follow before adopting any software, contracting software development to third party and how to maintain changes to source code etc.

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3 Comments »

  1. Hmm… interesting article. Couldn’t find the .doc article which you mentioned though, but not quite sure how it could establish that the document was “ghost-authored” by Microsoft though (except that it is unfashionably opposed to OSS)

    Comment by karipuf — March 6, 2006 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  2. oh, sorry that was written after reading the article – just only saw your reference to the groklaw piece, which explains things a bit!

    Comment by karipuf — March 6, 2006 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

  3. Dear Karipuf,

    After rereading Groklaw’s article, I think PJ is simply using the .doc file to demonstrate the link between the law firm and Microsoft. I do not think the .doc file has anything to do with the article. Thus, I have to withdraw this blog entry because the timeline premise cannot be substantiated.

    Thanks for the head up.

    Comment by ctrambler — March 7, 2006 @ 11:14 am | Reply


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