Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Faced with the prospect of being held hostage to expensive software extortion or watching the information age pass them by, Brazil has become a champion of the open software movement, subsidizing the purchase of 1 million computers for lower income citizens that run Linux.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, world's richest man Bill Gates is alarmed at this new digital socialism, and he's lobbying heavily for a sit down with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former union leader turned Brazilian President (and the new darling of the global left) at the World Economics Forum next week.
It's a strategy switch for Microsoft, who last year sued Sergio Amadeu, head of Brazil's national technology institute, for saying that Microsoft was like a drug pusher who gives free samples to get consumers hooked. The suit was dropped when Amadeu pointed out he was only repeating what he read in economic textbooks.
Amadeu is not high on the meeting. "Brazil wouldn't gain anything from this, but Microsoft would gain a lot," he noted.
There is good reason for Gates et. al. to be concerned about the Brazilian government's williness to stand up to US corporate extortion; in the late 90s, they threatened to break patents on anti-AIDS drugs unless multinational companies cut prices. The strategy worked.
And jazz-star-turned-Minister of Culture Gil Gilberto last year gave his blessing to Lawrence Lessig and the EFF's plan for an all-free downloadable online music archive by agreeing to put several of his own songs under the new Creative Commons license, free for anyone to download and mix with.
Now it looks like the revolution is spreading; Spainish social workers are carrying around versions of Linux for distribution to schools, municipal offices and city-funded ISPs.
We can't imagine where this insane bout of progressive and visionary governmental public service started, but we're trusting Bill will do everything in his power to put a stop to it.