[lug] Microsoft charging fee for each digicam made

Bear Giles bgiles at coyotesong.com
Mon Dec 8 13:31:33 MST 2003

Ferdinand Schmid wrote:
> I would expect them to also enforce a patent fee for Linux since it can
> read
> and write fat.  FreeDOS, BSD, oter OSs use it also.

Unlike trademarks, Microsoft doesn't have to enforce its patent 
against all infringers.  It could decide to ignore infringing 
operating systems, or single out Linux for a $1000 per CPU license 
fee while letting Macs and the BSDs off the hook for now.

But cameras and computers are two very different uses.  Microsoft 
could legitimately argue that camera vendors use FAT because they 
were too lazy and/or cheap to design their own file system and 
write their own device drivers for it.  It might have been a good 
engineering decision, but legally there's no doubt that the camera 
manufacturers are leveraging off of Microsoft's product.

(It's less clear WRT media.  This media might usually be formatted 
with FAT, but people can and do reformat it to use other 
filesystems if the primary use is not in devices that require a 
particular FS.  E.g., name any other media that allows you to 
transport a gigabyte or two comfortably in your wallet.  A MS tax 
on media starts sounding uncomfortably like the RIAA demanding I 
pay them royalities for every mail spool backup disc I burn.)

In contrast, anyone who isn't running Windows simply doesn't use 
FAT that much anymore.  Floppy drives are too small for most uses 
anymore, and samba eliminates the need to use them when 
transporting files between * and Windows systems anyway.  FAT's 
only used in embedded situations, e.g., the smart media card used 
in a digital camera or MP3 player, or maybe the floppy boot image 
on a bootable CD.

If Microsoft tried to get a license fee from these users, it might 
find it counterproductive since it would be easier for these users 
to drop FAT than to pay for a licensing fee.  What would even be 
the mechanism for paying this fee?  Would they be expecting 
millions of people to be mailing individual checks for 25 or 50 cents?


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