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October 24, 2002
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Microsoft, the House technology committee, and a Washington state congressman are involved in a flap over free software.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., whose biggest campaign contributor is Microsoft, was criticized by the technology committee Wednesday for an addendum to an official letter that criticized open-source software distributed under the GNU General Public License. GPL software competes with Microsoft Windows and some of the company's other products. The controversy started when a bipartisan group of lawmakers submitted a letter to White House computer security adviser Rickard Clarke urging him to find sales opportunities for government-funded software projects. The letter's authors want the White House's national cybersecurity plan, due for completion next month, to ensure that companies that develop software using federal money are free to sell the resulting products for commercial gain. The letter made no mention of open-source software. But when Smith, whose re-election campaign has received $22,900 from Microsoft employees and its political action committee, began circulating the letter to fellow Democrats asking for their signatures, he attached a correspondence saying that open-source software "threaten(s) to undermine innovation and security." A spokeswoman for Smith says the congressman spoke with Microsoft about the issue, but there wasn't a direct link between those conversations and his letter, according to reports. The original letter was written by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, and Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas. A spokeswoman for the subcommittee says Smith "twisted" the letter into a "debate over the open-source GPL issues." Sixty-seven representatives--mostly Democrats--signed the letter to Clarke.
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