Did Microsoft Block Free Software from Licensing Scheme?

By Matthew Broersma  |  Posted 2005-01-25 Print this article Print

Updated: The Free Software Foundation Europe says the company is blocking Linux, Samba and other major open-source projects from taking part in a protocol licensing scheme mandated by the European Commission's a

One of Microsoft Corp.s most vocal opponents on Tuesday accused the company of blocking Linux, Samba and other major open-source projects from taking part in a protocol licensing scheme mandated by the European Commissions antitrust ruling. The criticism from the Free Software Foundation Europe came a day after Microsoft announced it wouldnt challenge a court decision requiring it to comply immediately with the sanctions imposed last year by the EC. Microsoft may have agreed to comply, but ensuring effective compliance will be another matter, FSF Europe said. The group represents the interests of open-source (or free software) developers, and its GPL (GNU General Public License) is used by major open-source projects such as the Linux operating system kernel and Samba, which allows file and print interoperability between Linux and Windows networks.
Click here to read about EU lawmakers second-guessing of a contested IT patent plan.
Microsofts licensing terms for its Windows server protocols explicitly block Linux, Samba and other projects covered by the GPL from taking part, according to Carlo Piana, a partner at Milan law firm Tamos Piana & Partners, which represents FSF Europe. "Microsoft has proposed a licensing agreement blatantly tailored to exclude free software from accessing it," he said. On Monday, Microsoft said it wouldnt appeal a December decision from Luxembourgs Court of First Instance (CFI) requiring the Redmond, Wash., company to immediately comply with the ECs remedies, but said it will carry on with its appeal on the broader merits of the case, a process expected to last five years. Victory in that process could ultimately overturn the ECs antitrust ruling. Open-source advocates have said the ruling in itself isnt necessarily significant. While the CFIs decision was a victory for open-source software, the sanctions themselves are "timid," Piana said. "It will take little effort on Microsofts side to make them ineffective," he said. Industry observers doubt that one of the remedies—that Microsoft make available a version of Windows without a built-in media player—will have much effect because its unlikely it will meet with much market demand from end-users or PC makers. OEMs received the software last week and Dell Inc., for one, has said it may take advantage of "Windows XP Reduced Media Edition" to offer a customized media PC. Next Page: Secret protocols.


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