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Thread: Army to Gates: Halt the free software

  1. #1
    AO French Antique News Whore
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Army to Gates: Halt the free software

    This is unbelievable!

    Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office productivity software to government employees, but CNET has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics policies.
    Since the launch of Office 2003 last year, Microsoft has given out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software, which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers. The giveaway was expanded to government workers this year, but ethics offices at the Department of the Interior and Department of Defense have said the offers constitute unauthorized gifts and must be returned.

    The Department of the Army went a step further, calling on Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to stop sending the software to Army personnel.

    "We ask that you cease immediately the mailing of free software, and other types of gifts, to the Department of the Army personnel," Deputy General Counsel Matt Reres said in a Feb. 19 letter seen by CNET "Your offer of free software places our employees and soldiers in jeopardy of unknowingly committing a violation of the ethics rules and regulations to which they have taken an oath to uphold."

    The issue comes up as many governments are looking at open-source alternatives for Office and the Windows operating system. The British government has been evaluating a switch to the Linux OS, while open-source software is also being eyed in Korea, China, India and even at some local agencies in the United States.

    Microsoft's giveaway also comes as the company faces ongoing oversight by the Justice Department as part of its settlement of antitrust allegations.

    A Microsoft representative said giving away the software is a way to let some customers experience new features. "The goal of the program was to give customers a taste of the software and allow them to learn how it might be of use to their organizations in a positive way," Microsoft spokesman Keith Hodson said.

    Although Office has captured more than 90 percent of the market for productivity software, convincing customers to upgrade to the latest versions of Office has become a growing challenge for the company. And upgrades are essential to Microsoft: Office and Windows produce substantially all the company's profits.

    To address ethical concerns, Microsoft includes a note with copies of the software letting government workers know that they can send the software back to Microsoft without charge if receiving such a gift violates their agency's rules.

    "Government Entities: Microsoft intends that this product be used in accordance with applicable laws and regulations for the evaluation, use and benefit of your government agency only," Microsoft states in the note. "You may, at your discretion, return this product package to Microsoft at its expense."

    Hodson said the company hoped such language would allow any agency that did not appreciate the offer to easily send back the software.

    "Not every government organization, as we're learning, finds it to be a valuable program," Hodson said. "We would like to think that there will be a variety of government organizations that will find value in the program."

    For now, Microsoft said it will continue the strategy but will stop sending software to any particular agency that requests the company do so. The software maker did not say how many copies of the program have been sent to government employees.

    According to the Department of Defense, delivery of the software was preceded by a card explaining that Office would be arriving "in the coming weeks" and that the software was being sent "without obligation."

    The Defense Department's Standards of Conduct Office was among the first to take action, warning its workers in a Feb. 13 advisory not to accept the software.

    "These items have been determined to be gifts from a prohibited source, and may not be accepted by (Defense Department) employees," the agency said in its advisory. "If received, the items should be returned to Microsoft."

    The ethics office of the Department of the Interior said it had not heard reports of its employees receiving the software, but decided last month to warn its 65,000 workers after hearing about the Department of Defense's reaction.

    "We looked at it as a marketing gambit," said Arthur Gary, deputy director of the Interior Department's ethics office. "We just wanted to apply the gift rules to it."

    The department, which oversees national parks and other federal lands, concluded last month that the software constituted an unacceptable gift--one valued at more than $20 and from a party with whom the department does business or whom it regulates. Since issuing the memo, Gary said, the agency has heard of at least one employee receiving the software.

    "We just kind of wanted to spread the word," Gary said. "We want to head off any problems."

    If the response of those two government agencies is any indication of how other departments will respond, Microsoft may back away from the program.

    "Based on an overall response we receive from governments," Hodson said, "we may look at doing things differently the next time."
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    -Simon \"SDK\"

  2. #2
    Jaded Network Admin nebulus200's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    While you may find it hard to believe, every federal worker is under very strict rules and regulations for accepting gifts, under the belief that such gifts are a form of bribery ($25 I believe is the max) and can result in a federal felony:

    WIth that being said, Congress pretty much exempted themselves from it, the same way they exempt themselves from other things. The law still applies to federal workers, and the Army falls under the DoD, which is a cabinet level federal organization, hence federal worker.

    IMHO, I'd like to see that limit extended to every federal employee, congress included.
    There is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action. Reaction. Cause and effect...There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the 'why'. 'Why' is what separates us from them, you from me. 'Why' is the only real social power, without it you are powerless.

    (Merovingian - Matrix Reloaded)

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    So I can send copies of GNU/Linux to whomever I want, since the software is free right? As long as I do not send more than 50 distributions to any one person [the price of 50 blank CDs should be around US$25].

    So, let's start a campaign!

  4. #4
    Macht Nicht Aus moxnix's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Huson Mt.
    Well, Microsoft can send me any free software it wants to, and that won't violate anyones policy as I am a privarte citizen. (Can I request certain software that I would like, or do I have to make use of what you send?)

    Actually, I think that is a great policy, and I think it should apply especially to congress. Federal employees should not be put into a conflict of interest by gifts. Congressional employees and congressmen should have their pork barrels cut out from under them, but I will never live to see it happen.
    \"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand - strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO - What a Ride!\"
    Author Unknown

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Microsoft has given out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software, which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers.

    10,000 x $500 = $5,000,000. I guess that would be pocket change for microsoft, seeing how they have billions in the bank. They probably can write some or all of that off on their taxes. I just love how our big Corps. work.

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