Stallman slams Microsoft’s Codeplex Foundation

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

It may come as no surprise to some that GNU founder Richard Stallman has launched a stinging attack on Microsoft’s open source motives with its Codeplex Foundation

The chairman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is less than impressed at Microsoft’s recently created open source body, Codeplex, after he launched a stinging attack on Redmond’s motives behind its open source agenda.

Writing on his blog this week, Richard M. Stallman, GNU founder and president of the FSF, took issue with Microsoft over Codeplex, and made clear his distrust of the body.

“Many in our community are suspicious of the CodePlex Foundation,” he wrote. “With its board of directors dominated by Microsoft employees and ex-employees, plus apologist Miguel de Icaza, there is plenty of reason to be wary of the organisation.”

“The first thing we see is that the organisation ducks the issue of users’ freedom; it uses the term “open source” and does not speak of ‘free software’, he wrote. “Evidently Microsoft would rather confront the practical competition of open source than the free software movement’s ethical criticism. Its long standing practice of criticising only ‘open source’ does double duty: attacking one opponent while distracting attention from the other.”

Stallman said that he felt that CodePlex follows the same practice.

“Its stated goal is to convince ‘commercial software companies’ to contribute more to ‘open source’,” he wrote. “Since nearly all open source programs are also free software, these programs will probably be free, but the ‘open source’ philosophy doesn’t teach developers to defend their freedom. If they don’t understand the importance of this freedom, developers may succumb to Microsoft’s ploys encouraging them to use weaker licenses that are vulnerable to ’embrace and extend’ or patent co-optation, and to make free software dependent on proprietary platforms,” he warned.

He also hinted at other motives Microsoft has for creating CodePlex.

“Sam Ramji, now president of CodePlex, said a few months ago that Microsoft (then his employer) wanted to promote development of free applications that encourage use of Microsoft Windows,” Stallman wrote. “Perhaps the aim of CodePlex is to suborn free software application developers into making Windows their main platform. Many of the projects hosted now on are add-ons for proprietary software.”

Stallman warned non-free software takes away user freedom.

“To avoid being harmed in that way, we need to reject proprietary system platforms as well as proprietary applications,” he wrote. “CodePlex free add-ons to a proprietary base increase society’s dependence on that base – the opposite of what we need.”

“However good or bad the CodePlex Foundation’s actions, we must not accept them as an excuse for Microsoft’s acts of aggression against our community,” Stallman concluded. “From its recent attempt to sell patents to proxy trolls who could then do dirty work against GNU/Linux to its longstanding promotion of Digital Restrictions Management, Microsoft continues to act to harm us. We would be fools indeed to let anything distract us from that.”

A Microsoft spokesman told eWEEK Europe that it would comment on statements by Richard Stallman or the Free Software Foundation in general.