The Beat Goes On: MVP gagged, Part II

Here’s a followup to my blog of last week where I reported that Microsoft gags MVP and ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ winner. Whil posted this message today:

Hi folks,

Hey! Remember me?

Attached is an email I’ve just sent to Ken Levy and other members of the
Fox team at Microsoft. It pretty well sums up what happened last week, and
should clear up misconceptions on anyone’s part. If not, well, ask away.
I’ll be gone Thursday and part of Friday in Denver, but will be around the
rest of the time.

I was at a conference last weekend, and heard this great line: “Bill Gates
seems to me to be the type of person you’d invite over for dinner, and he’d
take all of the mashed potatoes for himself.” But even better was this one:

“The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.”

We live in pretty interesting times, eh?

Whil

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ken:

Last Wednesday you called me to tell me that the article in FoxTalk about
running VFP on Linux was prohibited by the EULA in both VFP 7 and 8. You
didn’t provide additional details, and given that you interrupted me at
dinner, I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask you to explain more.

However, I asked you to have someone on MSFT’s legal staff confirm this to
me in writing. I did this for two reasons. First, I don’t believe that you
have the authority to legally interpret Microsoft’s legal documents, nor do
I think you want to try to legally bind Microsoft to a contractual position
while you hold a job as a marketing manager.

Second, given that you were trying to impart critical information that, in
your words, couldn’t wait until I got home yesterday (Monday), I wanted to
make sure that I accurately understood what you were saying. It’s so easy for a
rushed conversation to generate misunderstandings.

Yet , that’s exactly what has happened.

The article discussed how to run VFP on a machine running Linux as a
development environment, and was explicit in reminding the reader that they
would need to have the proper licenses. You stated that this is a violation
of the VFP 7 and 8 EULA. However, in the next 48 hours, you then told both
Ed Leafe and Ted Roche that as long as the licenses were in order, this
activity is indeed permitted by the EULA.

Well, I’m confused. Why did you tell me one thing, and then them something
completely different? Perhaps one of us has misunderstood. Three separate
voice conversations – very easy to happen. But this apparent contradiction
is exactly why I wanted this matter settled explicitly in writing.

To date, I have not received anything. Perhaps my request slipped through
the cracks; perhaps you didn’t understand during our rushed conversation
exactly what I was asking for.

As I understood from our abbreviated conversation, you said the activities
described in the article were prohibited. But after reading the EULA a
number of times, I can’t see how you come to that conclusion. Nor can a
number of other folks with whom I’ve talked. To wit:

1. Your statement to me indicates that it was illegal for an individual
to run the development version of VFP 8 on a machine running Linux even
if the developer has a license specifically for that machine. It is our
opinion that this is permissable by the EULA, since hubbub surrounding
the EULA only makes reference to redistribution.

2. The EULA seems to prohibit the distribution of certain Microsoft
components on non-Windows operating systems – specifically, the files listed
in REDIST.TXT, which include the MSMs. However, it is physically possible to
distribute and run an executable created by the VFP project manager in
conjunction with the VFP runtime DLLs, without needing to bother with the
MSMs. Thus it is our opinion that deploying VFP apps to customer
workstations or servers using a developer created EXE and the VFP runtime
DLLs, regardless of the operating system, is legal.

3. In a bigger context, it appears that Microsoft is tying the use of
applications (their developer tools) to their operating system. Given the
legal difficulties that Microsoft has encountered over the years, we don’t
believe that this is legal, and thus we don’t believe that this is the
intent of the EULA. Rather, we believe that some overzealous, but
inexperienced, legal staffer drafted a poorly worded EULA, intending to
ensure that the appropriate licenses are in place for applications as well
as operating systems.

To repeat my request, and to be explicit about it:

Please have an individual authorized by Microsoft Corporation to speak on
its behalf with respect to legal affairs provide me, in writing, the
following clarifications about the VFP 7 and 8 EULA. The specific questions
for your legal department to answer are:

1. Can an individual developer run Visual FoxPro 8.0 on a machine
exclusively running the Linux operating system, assuming that the
appropriate VFP
license was paid for, for development purposes? (In other words, that a
copy of VFP
was licensed strictly for that machine.)

2. Can an individual deploy VFP apps to customer workstations or servers
that are running Linux using a developer created EXE and the VFP runtime
DLLs (without using Installshield or another mechanism that relies on the
MSMs)?

3. Is the EULA restricting the manner in which the developer creates and
deploys an application for a customer – meaning it prohibits an installation
that bypasses the MSMs?

I do not want you to get stuck in the uncomfortable position of trying to
act as Microsoft’s counsel when you do not have the authoritiy to do so. You
certainly don’t want to attempt to make legal committments on Microsoft’s
behalf! However, I welcome your offer to intercede and make the appropriate
contact with Microsoft legal so that they can put what we can and cannot do
in writing.

As you know, the computing industry is in difficult times, and all
players are doing what they can to make ends meet. Deploying VFP
applications on Linux brings a new standard of application quality to
that platform, and lets Visual FoxPro developers exploit their
advanced skills in new markets. It would be disappointing to find those
skills going to waste. Please help clarify what is and is not allowed.

I need to hear back by Monday, April 21. If I don’t, we’ll go ahead with
the assumptions that (1) we can run VFP 8 on Linux, and (2) we can deploy
applications on Linux via EXEs and DLLs.

Thanks!

Whil

Fox is Everywhere
Hentzenwerke InterGalactic: http://www.hentzenwerke.com

[Ted notes: some updates in the past two weeks. See these links:

Updated by Ted Roche, 30-April-2003]

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