Antitrust the Movie

I was watching TV late at night yesterday and an interesting movie came up. It’s title was Antitrust which immediately piqued my interest. If you ever plan watching this movie and do not want to get spoiled, stop reading now – you have been warned.

The basic premise of this movie is this. Two young promising programmers want to make run a small startup from their garage. They are both open source enthusiast and are working on some sort of media compression, and transmission algorithms. The movie uses allot of buzzwords, but they never clearly say what exactly are they working on. Anyways, before they do anything they get contacted by a huge, software company which offers them jobs.

The company is a software juggernaut and a convicted monopolist. No, it’s not Microsoft – but it’s not like they are fooling anyone. It essentially is Microsoft, just without mentioning the name. Even the CEO has that Bill Gates look. One of the young programmers accepts the job offer, and the other one refuses it because working there would be against his principles. So far so good.

The guy goes to work at the company, and all is cool. He becomes the favorite pupil of the evil Bill Gates incarnation. After some time, he becomes suspicious as the boss keeps giving him really great code, and brilliant algorithms to use in the project. No one knows where he gets that code.

At this point I’m really excited! The movie is really skimpy on technical details, but it makes sense so far. I’m thinking – they probably didn’t want to scare the average movie goer with techy details. But they have something here!

Unfortunately, from that point on the movie turns to shit. Main character’s friend (the one that went to work in the startup and refused the job) gets killed. It turns out that he was working on the same type of software and was in direct competition with the big bad company. Next day, boss hands Milo (the main character) fresh batch of brilliant code – which, unmistakably comes from the dead friend. At this point he freaks out.

So he breaks into one of the buildings and finds a monitoring center which keeps track of hundreds of young programmers working on competing products. Apparently the big bad company has cameras installed in their offices and bedrooms keeping track of what they do, and stealing their code. Furthermore he finds a footage of his friends death, and evidence that his girlfriend is actually hired by the corporation to keep him in check…

Sigh… This was around the time that I lost interest and started dozing off. I think I fell asleep sometime after that because I can’t remember how the movie ended. My brother said that it was a really holywood style ending with Milo bringing down the conspiracy using some suspense filled ploy, the girlfriend coming clean and helping out and etc… In other words – crap.

I hate how Holywood takes great ideas, and fucks them up beyond recognition. I was really enjoying the first half of the movie, but the spy cams in people’s rooms and killings were a little to much. It seems that whoever wrote the script didn’t really get what MS Antitrust case was really about. He got a general idea, but then he went for the cheep evil conspiracy crap instead of following through with a good anti-MS message.

It also appears that the creators did not really understand the concept of open source. Why did they kill the startup guy? Why did they even have a camera in his room? His project was Open Source – that means uninhibited public access to the code. They could have easily went and downloaded the code from his repository. And they could get away with it because their software was closed source!

It would be great to see them to really tackle the issue of big corporations illegally using GPL’d code. But the creators of the movie seem to have a very shady concept of GPL in general. For example – the two guys talk on the phone. The Open Source guy says something among the lines of “I can’t talk to you about work… We’re in direct competition now”. Erm…

Ok, so he can’t talk about work, despite his code being open source? I think they mixed up their lines. It should be the corporate guy being all uptight about this – after all he works on proprietary project, and leaking implementation details could cost him the job. And peeking at GPL’d solutions could “contaminate” him and they might need to take him off the project.

It was a really cool idea for the movie, but they completely missed the boat on this one. It could have been great commentary on MS monopolistic practices, and corporate ethics. It still carries some of that message, but it’s half assed and diluted by the made up conspiracy and evil empire crap… Come on, MS can be ultra evil without ever killing anyone. Geez…

This movie would be so much better if they used the put more emphasis on the theft of the GPL’d code. They could have the big company run the startup out of the business by both taking their code, and then suing them into oblivion over patent infringement. And then they would get away with it, and Milo would quit in disgust and move on to do bigger and better things in Open Source world ending up being poorer but much happier with his job. But no, they had to make the boy a hero, and the Bill Gates equivalent an evil prick with world domination plans…

Strangely enough, for an obscure movie like that they did have decent cast. They somehow got Clarie Forlani, Tim Robbins and Rachel Leight Cook on it. Go figure…

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