At what point do you give up the right to charge people for something you’ve given away for free? I know Microsoft has an absolute right to charge removable media vendors to use the FAT file system, but what ever happened to contributing to the common good? Microsoft has allowed anyone and everyone free use of FAT technology since it was first invented in 1976. Now, in an effort to “open” its proprietary systems, they will charge makers of removable solid state media, such as compact flash memory cards, for preformatting them to the Microsoft FAT file system format. That’s 25-cents per unit (up to $250,000). Additionally, they will charge 25-cents per unit for each digital camera, video camera, digital audio player, multifunction printer, electronic photo frame, electronic musical instrument and TV.
But, please, don’t pile on poor Microsoft for doing what they have the legal right. All this is an effort to give other companies “the opportunity to standardize the FAT file system implementation in their products, and to improve file system compatibility across a range of computing and consumer electronics devices,” not to make a quick buck. In fact, that is the aim of their brand new Intellectual Property Licensing Policy–to give poor MS a way to share. Because, you know, they never could have let people use their technology for free until it became embedded into the very fabric of the industry before. That would be un-American.