Boycott Amazon.com

A rant i sent to Amazon.com

To: [email protected]
X-Mailer: NMH 1.02
Subject: Insubstantial Patents and Lawsuits
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 14:32:37 -0500
From: "Johan A. van Zanten" 


 Dear Amazon.com,

  While i and many friends and colleagues have admired the superior
service your company provides, i am afraid i will boycott (and encourage
others to boycott) Amazon.com as long as it attempts to defend
insubstantial patents with litigation or threats of litigation.
  (see http://www.noamazon.com/)

  I have been an Internet user and UNIX system administrator for about 10
years now.  Without the "free software" (as in "free speech," not "free
beer") movement, and the tradition of collaboration, the Internet would
never have become anything more than a private military research network.
Projects like BSD UNIX, Linux or Apache, which involve the non-profit
collaborative work of hundreds or thousands of programmers were and are
the driving force behind the growth and innovation of the Internet.

  If UC Berkeley patented and licensed TCP/IP and SMTP, or Tim Berners-Lee
patented and licensed HTTP, or various developers patented and licensed
*parts* of Apache, or Larry Wall patented and licensed Perl, or Richard
Stallman patented and licensed Emacs, Amazon.com would NOT EXIST today.
Amazon.com should ask its own programmers and system administrators how
many of them could do their work without such free software.  Imagine how
much more in the RED Amazon.com would be if it had to pay usurious and
exploitative licensing fees to patent holders for to use of what would
otherwise be free.

  Amazon.com is beholden and eternally indebted to the spirit of free and
collaborative software development that thrives on the Internet. Whether
Amazon.com realizes it or not, its lawsuits are an attempt to kill this
productive and free collaboration.  Just because the U.S. Patent office is
staffed with brainless morons who are incapable of legitimately evaluating
patent applications for virtually *any* software, does not mean that
Amazon.com should take advantage of the situation to establish a monopoly.

  If Amazon.com had come up with some unique solution to a business problem
that required a substantial amount of cranial work (like the PostScript
typesetting language, for example), i would have a very different view of
this situation.  But the concept of "one-click" shopping is *immediately
obvious* to anyone who considers the problem for more than a few minutes,
and is simple to implement.

  In the late-1980's, AT&T filed suit against UC Berkeley for copyright
infringement of the UNIX operating system. Berkeley counter-sued, and
accused AT&T of not properly acknowledging use of "free" BSD code in
AT&T's releases.  The suits were eventually settled, but effectively
killed both entities interest in further development of UNIX, though BSD
UNIX did manage to survive. Further, one can argue that the void of BSD
UNIX development created by the legal restrictions during the suit are
what gave birth to Linux.

  Just as Berkeley filed a counter suit against AT&T, if Amazon.com
continues to litigate these bogus patents, i fully expect Amazon.com's
LICENSORS of free software distributed under the GPL to defend their way
of life by filing suits against Amazon.com.

  Ultimately, no one wins in these types of situations. Valuable resources
that would have otherwise been used for development of software or
business are squandered on legal skirmishing, until both parties are too
tired to fight anymore. In such an outcome, Amazon.com will loose business
because of negative publicity, and from restraining orders issued against
use of free software, which Amazon.com depends upon.

 I will boycott Amazon.com as long as Amazon.com continues attempts to
enforce these insubstantial patents, because i believe that such actions
by any entity are "patently" wrong, and are a threat to the existence of
the Internet as a free and open medium.

  I imagine many like-minded computing professionals make up a distinct
group of your potential customers, and we will be watching very carefully
to see what Amazon.com does, and advising friends and colleagues
accordingly.



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