April 10th, 2005

Update to: Bill Gates caught lying on camera.

This is a follow-up to an event that occurred six months ago. On October 1, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited the UC Berkeley campus. In front of a packed auditorium of Berkeley students and faculty, Gates made some false statements about the GNU General Public License (hear the audio):
The GPL . . . which is the license that says you can't enhance it and create a commercial product . . .
If you have government-funded research . . . if it goes into that GPL, you can't create a company that creates jobs that pays taxes.
The GPL contains no such restriction.

His statements were also captured on video and in the transcript of his speech on his own website (search for the word "ironic").

Is it fair for me to say he was lying? Well, either he doesn't understand the GPL, or he does and described it falsely; that is, he was either incompetent or dishonest. I personally believe he is smart enough to know his competition, but you are free to choose what you consider the more accurate interpretation.

I challenged Gates to bring his company in line with more ethical behaviour during the question period. After the event, two Microsoft developer evangelists, Mark Hammond and Keen Browne, approached me to discuss my concerns. I and several others identified his statements about the GPL as an item that needed addressing, and suggested that Gates should issue a correction or retraction.

Keen seemed to be genuinely interested in resolving these concerns. He wrote to me in December to tell me that he had tried to contact the Microsoft PR team multiple times, but did not get a response. This suggests to me that making honest statements about one's competitors is not a high priority for Microsoft. Keen said that he planned to interview Steve Mutkoski (head IP and licensing counsel for Microsoft) on Channel 9 in January about these issues. It is now April and there don't seem to be any videos involving Steve Mutkoski or Keen Browne on the site. (Searches for "mutkoski" or "browne" turn up nothing.)

Why bring this up again six months later? I wanted to give Keen and Mark a decent chance to set things right. I gave them the benefit of the doubt because they seemed to genuinely want to make things better. But it has been too long, and it's time to apply a little more pressure.

I'll be sending e-mail to Keen to get an update on his progress.