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FUD watch: Microsoft calls FOSS “non-copyrighted”

Earlier this month, the government of Kenya announced that in the next three years it will move its IT operations to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), a move that will reduce its IT costs by more than 50%, according to a report on the Kenyan news website Standard Digital.

Needless to say, the announcement hasn’t gone down too well with the major supplier of the present IT systems used by Kenya’s government and as a consequence, Paul Roy Owino, technology advisor, Microsoft East and Southern Africa, has launched a campaign of misinformation, aka FUD, against it.

Firstly , he alleges FOSS is more insecure: “The Government stands to lose to hackers, freedom to third party modification coming with Free and Open Source Software it plans to adopt increases chances of Internet attacks. I do not think the Government has competent expertise to handle the challenges that comes with the free and Open Source Software.

Secondly and more importantly, Mr Roy believes FOSS isn’t covered by copyright: “Just like other players in the copyrighted software, we are accountable when our software is hacked, the case is different with the non-copyrighted software”.

Mr Roy clearly doesn’t understand FOSS licences such as the GPL. The software is subject to copyright, just like the proprietary products peddled by his employer. The major difference is the licences under which FOSS is provided assign certain rights (e.g. copying, redistribution and so on) to the end user. Interestingly Mr Roy seems to intimate that customers can sue Microsoft if they suffer losses due to ‘hacking’. However, any damages for which Microsoft may be held liable are specifically limited are limited to a refund of the amount paid for any of its software, as exemplified the Windows 7 EULA:

26. LIMITATION ON AND EXCLUSION OF DAMAGES. You can recover from Microsoft and its suppliers only direct damages up to the amount you paid for the software. You cannot recover any other damages, including consequential, lost profits, special, indirect or incidental damages.

This limitation applies to

  • anything related to the software, services, content (including code) on third party Internet sites,
    or third party programs; and
  • claims for breach of contract, breach of warranty, guarantee or condition, strict liability, negligence, or other tort to the extent permitted by applicable law.

It also applies even if

  • repair, replacement or a refund for the software does not fully compensate you for any losses; or
  • Microsoft knew or should have known about the possibility of the damages.

Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of incidental or consequential damages, so the above limitation or exclusion may not apply to you. They also may not apply to you because your country may not allow the exclusion or limitation of incidental, consequential or other damages.

One can only hope Kenya will be happier and better off with software suppliers with more integrity.

Hat tip: Roy Schestowitz