OSI Calls for Major Revisions to Microsoft Permissive License

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-09-20 Print this article Print

Critics say the Microsoft Permissive License is restrictive and incompatible with too many other open-source licenses.

LAS VEGAS—The Microsoft Permissive License, one of two licenses the software maker submitted to the Open Source Initiative for approval as open-source licenses in August, is unlikely to be approved in its current form. There have been two principle objections to the license from the open-source community, Michael Tiemann, the president of OSI, told eWEEK in an interview here at the annual Gartner Open Source Summit on Sept. 20. The first objection is that the use of the word "permissive" in the license title implies an expectation that the license does not meet. The second complaint is that the MS-PL (Microsoft Permissive License) is incompatible with a large number of other open-source licenses, he said.
"Microsoft submitted their licenses to us and there was, of course, a certain amount of flak that went up about this. But we attempted to pre-empt some of that by saying this was not about militating for or against a given company, but rather looking objectively at the licenses and proactively at the Open Source Definition, and running the approval process in a fair way," he said.
Read more here about Microsofts submission of two licenses to the OSI. But the two primary criticisms of the MS-PL are valid, Tiemann said. "I, and others, would characterize the BSD license as a permissive license. The MS-PL, as drafted, does not have any of the properties of the combinability that BSD permits. So one of the complaints launched was that it should not be called a permissive license if it is not," he said. "My understanding is that the Microsoft guys are considering whether it is more appropriate to change the legal language to make it more permissive," he said. Microsoft could also change the name to something that was more faithful to the legal language, Tiemann said. "That is up to them and I think the community does not have a position one way or the other, except that they dont like the fact that something which is restrictive is called permissive," he said. Click here to read more about Microsofts evolving open-source strategy. The MS-PL is also particularly restrictive, and is "uniquely incompatible" with the maximum number of other open-source licenses, Tiemann said, noting that in its examination of license proliferation, the OSI had encouraged experimentation with license terms to encourage new ones to be written that were better than what currently existed. "We certainly dont want to presume that we have already invented everything there is to be invented. However, the specific innovation of maximum incompatibility of the MS-PL is not what we were looking for, so I think what we have is a submission that has two fairly major strikes against it," Tiemann said. It was also important to point out that the end result of OSI license approval is not a certification, but rather permission to use a trademark conferring the open-source brand, which means that the license name and its compatibility or utility is important, he said. Page 2: OSI Calls for Major Revisions to Microsoft Permissive License

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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