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[FSF] Microsoft's Codeplex Foundation

From: Peter Brown
Subject: [FSF] Microsoft's Codeplex Foundation
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2009 09:26:26 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20090817)

Microsoft recently announced the creation of the Codeplex Foundation.
What does it mean for free software? FSF president Richard Stallman

Original article at

Lest CodePlex Perplex

by Richard M. Stallman

Many in our community are suspicious of the CodePlex Foundation. 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 organization. But that doesn't prove its actions will
be bad.

Someday we will be able to judge the organization by its actions
(including its public relations). Today we can only try to anticipate
what it will do, based on its statements and Microsoft's statements.

The first thing we see is that the organization ducks the issue of
users' freedom; it uses the term "open source" and does not speak of
"free software". These two terms stand for different philosophies which
are based on different values: free software's values are freedom and
social solidarity, whereas open source cites only practical convenience
values such as powerful, reliable software. See for more

Evidently Microsoft would rather confront the practical competition of
open source than the free software movement's ethical criticism. Its
long standing practice of criticizing only "open source" does double
duty: attacking one opponent while distracting attention from the other.

CodePlex follows the same practice. Its stated goal is to convince
"commercial software companies" to contribute more to "open source".
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.

This foundation is not the first Microsoft project to bear the name
"CodePlex". There is also, a project hosting site, whose
list of allowed licenses excludes GNU GPL version 3. Perhaps this
reflects the fact that GPL version 3 is designed to protect a program's
free software status from being subverted by Microsoft's patents through
deals like the Novell-Microsoft pact. We don't know that the CodePlex
Foundation will try to discourage GPL version 3, but it would fit
Microsoft's pattern.

The term "commercial software companies" embodies a peculiar confusion.
Every business is by definition commercial, so all software developed by
a business--whether free or proprietary--is automatically commercial
software. But there is a widespread public confusion between "commercial
software" and "proprietary software". (See

This confusion is a serious problem because it falsely claims free
software business to be impossible. Many software companies already
contribute to free software, and these commercial contributions are
quite useful. Perhaps Microsoft would like people to assume these facts
are impossible.

Based on these facts, we can see that CodePlex will encourage developers
not to think about freedom. It will subtly spread the idea that free
software business is impossible without the support of a proprietary
software company like Microsoft. However, it may convince some
proprietary software companies to release additional free software. Will
that be a contribution to computer users' freedom?

It will be, if the software thus contributed works well on free
platforms, in free environments. But that is just the opposite of what
Microsoft has said it seeks to achieve.

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
( 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. These programs are
caught in a trap similar to the former Java Trap (see

That would be harmful if it succeeds, because a program that doesn't run
(or doesn't run well) in the Free World does not contribute to our
freedom. A non-free program takes away its users' freedom. To avoid
being harmed in that way, we need to reject proprietary system platforms
as well as proprietary applications. CodePlex free add-ons to a
proprietary base increase society's dependence on that base -- the
opposite of what we need.

Will free software application developers resist this attempt to
undermine our progress towards freedom? Here is where their values
become crucial. Developers that adhere to the "open source" philosophy,
which does not value freedom, may not care whether their software's
users run it on a free operating system or a proprietary one. But
developers who demand freedom, for themselves and for others, can
recognize the trap and keep out of it. To remain free, we must make
freedom our goal.

If the CodePlex Foundation wishes to be a real contributor to the free
software community, it must not aim at free add-ons to non-free
packages. It needs to encourage development of portable software capable
of running on free platforms based on GNU/Linux and other free operating
systems. If it tries to seduce us into going in the opposite direction,
we must make sure to refuse.

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. 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.

Copyright 2009 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and distribution of
this entire article are permitted worldwide without royalty in any
medium provided this notice is preserved.


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