The think tank strikes back

Tom Giovenetti, the president of the Institute for Policy Innovation has responded to my story on the Microsoft-funded think tanks attack on open source. It’s rather an odd response—he’s angry that I dared to suggest that they were funded by Microsoft, but he’s not going to deny it. Anyway, here it is, with my comments:

* Your journalism is as lousy as your software.

My software works fine, thank you.

First, you accuse IPI of taking money from Microsoft, but you have no facts or proof. True, you’d LIKE us to do your homework for you, but in absence of proof, a decent journalist never makes an accusation.

Actually I didn’t accuse IPI of taking money from Microsoft. I presented the evidence that suggests that they have and allowed my readers to form their own conclusions.

The best you can do is say that a former member of IPI’s board of directors went to work for Miscosoft like 8-9 years after leaving IPI’s board? Pretty tenuous connection, don’t you think? By the way, he doesn’t work at Microsoft any longer, if that means anything. But of course, it doesn’t.

He was their chief of external affairs at Microsoft at a time when they gave money to many think tanks (including $380,000 to Citizens for a Sound Economy). If he was spreading the money around so extensively, why wouldn’t he think of his old think tank?

Second, regarding whether we take money from Microsoft, IPI has an absolute policy of protecting our donors’ privacy. I’m sure if you donated money to IPI, you would appreciate that policy. When people are publically identified as donors to an organization, they are beseiged by new requests for money. So we absolutely protect their privacy.

You’re not going to admit that they funded you because otherwise Microsoft will be beseiged by requests for money? Err, everyone already knows they give lots of money to think tanks ($380,000 to CSE, for example). And if they didn’t fund you, saying so would not damage their privacy.

And, finally, we have 2 more studies on open source coming out later this summer, so keep your inkwell full.

Let me guess, your studies will conclude that Open Source is lousy?

More criticism of the IPI attack on Open Source is here. Notice that Dan Geer states that IPI is funded by Microsoft.

Giovenetti’s views on intellectual property are interesting:

I have always believed that there is absolutely no difference between “real” and “intellectual” property. I agree that Jim Henson’s descendants should control and own the rights to his creations, in perpetuity, unless they sell those rights to someone else, who THEN should control them in perpetuity. All the arguments about the benefits to society of something moving into the public domain are unsupportable. In fact, it is generally recognized that the minute something moves into the public domain, it disappears, because there is no longer any incentive for anyone to do anything further with it.

Shakespeare, Darwin, Mozart, Dickens, The Bible, all disappeared! Who knew?

And what happens if a think tank isn’t on Microsoft’s side?:

[Microsoft] stopped donating to the respected conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, even though the AEI has no official position on the case and most of its antitrust and technology experts are pro-Microsoft. But the institute happens to be home to Robert H. Bork, the legal scholar and former appellate judge. Bork, known for his minimalist views on antitrust enforcement, shocked the company when he took the other side. Microsoft has also funded a newspaper ad campaign of conservative academics under the auspices of the Independent Institute and underwrote the cost of drafting the sympathetic book Winners, Losers & Microsoft.

Update: Tom Giovenetti replied to this post. He does not want his reply posted so I will summarize it:

  1. There is no legal requirement for IPI to disclose its funding sources, so no-one can know for sure if they are funded by Microsoft or not.
  2. Open source software is lame.
  3. Open sourcers spend their time writing viruses and worms, hacking websites, and asserting things without proof.
  4. In any case, if IPI is funded by Microsoft (not that Giovenetti is admitting this), criticizing IPI will just make them seem more heroic and ensure continued funding.


  1. #1 bigring55t
    July 3, 2004

    No difference between real and intellectual property, huh… Then perhaps Mr Giovanetti won’t mind when I move into his “real” house. because he can continue living in his “intellectual” one. Perhaps he can live on his “intellectual” salary while letting me use his “real” one. I mean really. And by whom is “it” generally recognized that items lose their value in the public domain, the sorry bunch of cretins that are paid to agree with him.. Well, it is generally recognized that there is no significant difference between a round earth and a flat one, so be careful not to fall off the edge.. Besides which, public domain by definition belongs to the public. Why would that deprive something of its value? In jazz, everyone borrows from everyone else, and we all become richer for so doing. Chet Baker’s Summertime is not John Coltrane’s is not Janis Joplin’s, none of these is what Gershwin probably heard when he wrote it, but all are immeasurably valuable. In fact, Gershwin’s Summertime is worth more, because so many people have appropriated it and made it their own. As a result it has become a part of our national consciousness and conversation. I feel sorry for anyone whose intellectual viewpoint is so limited that they can’t see the value in the public domain. Unsupportable my ass..Anyone who sees no value in the public domain deserves to live in the sorry little world they would imagine for themselves, if they had any imagination to begin with.

  2. #2 Darin Ohashi
    July 4, 2004

    I don’t understand why Mr Giovanetti is so defensive about whether or not IPI
    receives money from Microsoft or not. Shouldn’t the conclusions drawn in a
    study be based on evidence? If the conclusions drawn in the study are valid,
    then the evidence should support that, independent of issues like who paid for
    the study. The only context in which the funding would become an issue is if
    the funding did bias the study.

    If I were in Mr Giovanetti position and a study was accused of being biased,
    when it was not, I would simply respond by saying the evidence supports the

    I also find it interesting that Mr Giovanetti accuses the
    “foaming-at-the-mouth open sourcers” of being the authors of viruses and
    worms. That just shows how poorly he understand the culture and people
    involved in open source. Considering that he is the president of an institute
    that does research on the Open Source, you would think he would understand the
    movement better.

  3. #3 Ed
    July 5, 2004

    I briefly thought of writing to Mr. Giovanetti to offer my opinion on some of his assertions, but decided not to waste my time. It seems he suffers from the same sort of mental deficiency as Ken Brown. Judging only by what’s attributed to him above, he’s so far away from any understanding of what open source is about, what motivates its developers, and why some would be interested in evidence that suggests where funding for these think tanks might come from.

    There’s a huge difference between “here’s some evidence that suggests these think tanks receive money from Microsoft” and “when you take a break from writing your viruses and worms.” I don’t know if Mr. Giovanetti’s is willing (or capable) of engaging in rational discourse on these topics. If so, I’d spend the effort to provide a thoughtful reply, as I’m sure would many others. However, until I see evidence of that it’s not worth the time.

    His replies are good for a little amusement though.

  4. #4 Lion Kuntz
    July 5, 2004
  5. #5 Michael
    July 5, 2004

    So Giovanetti asked you to remove his reply? What a coward.

    I’ll quote one line from the original response, without Giovanetti’s intended sarcasm: “Keep up the good work”

  6. #6 dj
    July 6, 2004

    “Open Source software is lame” – hilarious!

  7. #7 Anon
    July 6, 2004

    We’ve got a perfect word for everything I’ve read here coming from this Giovanetti character: Horseshit.

    “My argument is baseless, so I’m going to make it true by becoming louder and more abrasive. And you can’t post it anymore because it will make me look like an ass.” That seems to accurately sum up his side(ways) arguments..

  8. #8 Tim Worstall
    December 21, 2005

    Good grief. I hadn’t realised that anyone was so on the IP bandwagon that they thought it should be owned in perpetuity. 17 years perhaps as a patent, 50 (now raised to 70) after death for copyright (with some extension for corporations) yes, although one can always argue about the exact number of years.

    But perpetuity? Nonsense. The aim of granting such monopolies is to encourage the creation of more such IP, that monopoly being limited in time.

    Again, one can (and some do) argue with that idea but forever? That’s insane.

  9. #9 Tim Lambert
    December 21, 2005

    I doubt that he thinks it should be forever. The idea is to make folks arguing for an increase to 100 years seem moderate.

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