Microsoft v. Brazilian official – for moving to drop Windows

People ask me why I won’t let my kids buy an XBox. I explain our family policy: “Our family doesn’t support Microsoft. In any way.” Many hearing this think my view is seriously radical (not to mentioned extremely flawed). After all, XBox graphics are great and the games are cheap. “But, buying a kids’ gaming system? That’s not supporting a company!”

“To you it isn’t, which is completely fine. But to me, it is,” I reply. “Microsoft manufactures XBox, so my boys can’t have one.”

Sometimes this remark sparks off a dialogue about why I dislike Microsoft so much. There’s a bit on this subject at the end of my last blog post, but what really convinces people I may have legitimate grounds as a basis for my opinion is when I ask if they’ve heard that Microsoft sued the Brazilian government for abandoning the use of Windows on government computers in favor of using the free Linux-based operating system – and according to Microsoft (phrased this way when I first heard it) interfering with the company’s ‘g-d given right’ to earn a profit.

Lawrence Lessig, currently Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and formerly at Stanford Law School (where he founded Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society), wrote in this 2004 article

Apparently Microsoft has taken the first steps to filing a criminal defamation action against a Brazilian government official who was quoted criticizing Microsoft in a magazine article. Sergio Amadeu, head of the agency responsible for spreading free software within the Brazilian government, is reported to have accused “the company of a ‘drug-dealer practice’ for offering the operational system Windows to some governments and cities for digital inclusion programs. ‘This is a trojan horse, a form of securing critical mass to continue constraining the country’.”

Online petitions support Mr. Amadeu and Brazil’s “right to choose”

Pedro Cadina in a Linux Journal article comments

The Brazil Free Software Project launched the “Brazil has the right to choose” campaign, backed by a digital petition which, by June 27, had received more than 8,000 signatures from around the globe. His supporters include Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Constitutional Law at Stanford University; and Richard Stallman, head of the Free Software Foundation (FSF); Hipatia, the Italian NGO; and others.

The petition asserts (Portuguese language version here) states

In the middle of the week of the largest free software event in Latin America and one of the most important in the world, the president of Microsoft Brazil, Emilio Umeoka, has begun the attempt at intimidation declaring that the decision of the Brazilian government to support free software on computers in the public sector is being “influenced by ideology”. The salesman with the monopolistic megacorporation, Mr. Umeoka, goes further, afirming that the sovereign decision of our government, legitimately elected, can lead the country in “the wrong direction”. The right one, in the opinion of the salesman, would perhaps be to maintain the “market reserve” for MS in the government, fatten the wallets of the richest man in the world and continue sending, annually, billions of dollars out of the country in the form of royalty payments, in a country where 22 million people go hungry and 46 million live below the poverty line.

It’s so bold for a company to attempt by court action to hold an entire government hostage to its profit motive. Don’t you think?

I’m glad the Brazilian people seem not to be giving in on this one – see CNET’s 2009 article Brazil’s Love of Linux.

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