A Serious Wrongo

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-08-22 Print this article Print

Russ Nelson, an OSI board member and president for less than a month, advised giving Microsoft a chance to submit these licenses on its own. "I think that the general principle should be that authors have preference over third parties when it comes to submitting licenses," he said.
"Microsoft has said neither that it will nor that it wont submit its two licenses.
"Theyve said that theyre not submitting them at this time. Perhaps they have revisions to make? If so, then approving draft licenses would be a serious wrongo. If you insist, we can take it to the next board meeting, but Im reasonably confident that the boards decision will be to defer approval," Nelson said in the e-mail string. Cowan then responded that "I defer to your vast expertise." Hilf, when asked to confirm that Cowan had submitted the license to the OSI, told eWEEK that the name "sounds familiar—I think hes the one." But OSIs Nelson confirmed to eWEEK in an e-mail exchange from India that Cowan had indeed subitted Microsofts license for approval. Asked if it was common for people to submit licenses for OSI review to which they have no affiliation or connection, he replied, "It happens." With regard to the OSIs official submission policy, Nelson said, "We discourage such submissions. If the license could be improved, the third-party submittor cannot change it. Thus, we are presented with a binary approve this or not. Since our primary role is education, this is not a good situation for us to be in." Asked if he would like to see Microsoft submit its Shared Source licenses for OSI approval, Nelson questioned whether "the world needs yet another open-source license," but added, "Weve all read the licenses, and theyre reasonable, succinct and very likely to pass muster, so why not?" The submission of the license and the subsequent discussion on license-submit came several months after Microsoft said in October 2005 that it was slashing the number of licenses it used for its Shared Source Initiative to just three template, or core, licenses, while at the same time radically shortening and simplifying the text of those licenses. Click here to read more about the three new Shared Source licenses. At that time, many in the open-source community felt that at least one of the new licenses would meet the criteria for OSI approval as an open-source license. Then, in February 2006, open-source vendor SugarCRM announced plans to launch a distribution of its Sugar Suite 4.5 software under the Microsoft Community License. Full documentation, including the full text of the Shared Source licenses, can be found here. But, while Microsoft does not have a problem with one of its licenses being OSI-approved, the challenge is that the OSI has previously positioned itself as "anti-Microsoft," Hilf said, pointing to the fact that even though the OSI has removed the controversial Halloween Documents from its Web site, a link on the site still points to former OSI president Eric Raymonds Web site, where the documents are available. "The fact that people can still get to the Halloween Documents via the OSI Web site bothers us. They are old and dated, and a lot has changed since they were written. "We would like to see the OSI meet us halfway on this to indicate they have moved on from their earlier bias before we are willing to submit our license for approval," Hilf said. This means that Microsofts position has not changed from October 2005, when the OSI board met with Jason Matusow, then director of Microsofts Shared Source program, to discuss the matter. To read more about the discussions between Microsoft and the OSI, click here. At that time Matusow said that the OSI had "taken positions that have made it more difficult for us to work with them … Whats needed is a neutral environment that is comfortable for all participants in order to build consensus. They have made changes to their board and are looking at building a workable definition of open for open-source licenses and what it means to wrestle with the issues that come with that," he said. For his part, Hilf said that having an OSI-approved license was something that appeals to vendors more than customers, adding that "not once has a customer ever told me they wanted or needed this." But Diane Peters, the general counsel for the Open Source Development Labs and a member of OSIs License Proliferation committee, told eWEEK in a recent interview when asked about Microsofts feeling that the OSI was still biased against it, that the OSI Web site had been revamped fairly recently. "Part of that, my understanding is, was in response to the pressure to get rid of this legacy bad blood. We have also come quite far since the time of those documents … Microsoft is a very smart company, and they should embrace this and use it in a way that complements their business model, just like open-source companies get value out of their proprietary add-ons and services," she said. "Thats the wave of the future, which will not be all open source or free software or all proprietary," Peters said. Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from the OSIs Russ Nelson. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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