Saying The DOS Microsoft Originally Used Was A Rip-Off Isn't Libel

from the talk-about-sore-winners dept

Back in 2005, we wrote about the case of Tim Paterson, the creator of QDOS (which was eventually sold to Microsoft and became the basis of Microsoft DOS — and, with it, the Microsoft empire). Paterson was pissed off at author Harold Evans for claiming in a book that Paterson had ripped off Gary Kildall’s CP/M. It really isn’t disputed that QDOS was modeled on CP/M — or that Microsoft (and Paterson) eventually won out in the marketplace. So it’s hard to see what the beef is here, and as Slashdot points out, it appears the judge agreed. The judge tossed out the suit saying that there didn’t appear to be any libel in what was said. Most of the statements were opinions, so they can’t be shown to be provably false. Also, they found no evidence of malicious intent, which would also be needed in this case. In the end, though, this certainly seems like the case of a sore winner. Paterson’s software was the one that went on to greatness, whether or not it was a rip-off over Kildall’s stuff.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: microsoft

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Saying The DOS Microsoft Originally Used Was A Rip-Off Isn't Libel”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Nasty Old Geezer says:

Re: greatness?

From (a prtial list of meanings):

1. unusually or comparatively large in size or dimensions: A great fire destroyed nearly half the city.
2. large in number; numerous: Great hordes of tourists descend on Europe each summer.
3. unusual or considerable in degree, power, intensity, etc.: great pain.
12. much in use or favor: “Humor” was a great word with the old physiologists.

I think these meanings are all applicable to DOS and is Windows succors.

Krayol says:

Stating the obvious!

It was always known and reported (even back when CPM was still around) that DOS was based on it.

No one disputed that “fact” 20+ years ago when there was plenty of cross pollination between CPM and QDOS and later DRDOS, etc.

Thank goodness that folks can still (occasionally) state the obvious truth without fear of libel action!

Tom (profile) says:

Ripoff, homage or bkwd compat

DOS may have been based on CP/M, it certainly used various “calls” to provide some degree of compatibility for programs ported FROM CP/M. It was only a rip-off the way that Apple ripped off Xerox for its Mac OS and Windows ripped off Apple for Windows. “Ripping off someone is the most sincere form of flattery”, to rip-off some great writer.

The first few versions of DOS were certainly NOT an improvement on CP/M. DOS won in the marketplace for the same reason VHS beat Beta – nobody cared which was better, only “want did everybody else buy?”.

Joe Smith says:


The problem here is the uncertain meaning of rip-off. If Paterson did a clean room clone of CP/M (the way that Compaq did of the IBM BIOS) then some people would still describe that as a rip-off but there would be nothing legally wrong in what Paterson did. On the other hand if Paterson got an unauthorized copy of the CP/M source code and copied it then that too might be described as a rip-off and would pretty clearly be wrong in the legal sense.

Personally I disagree with the Judge. The common use of the expression “rip-off” clearly connotes something which is illegal or otherwise improper.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...