The Microsoft Bogeyman

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-08-02 Print this article Print

Nothing got members of the working group more upset and caused the chair to threaten banishment more than complaints about Microsofts involvement in the drafting of the specification. Midway through the process, Microsoft and Meng Wong negotiated a convergence of SPF with Microsofts Caller ID for E-mail specification.

While many participants objected to working with Microsoft simply on principle, the biggest objection had to do with intellectual property rights. Microsofts contributions to Sender ID are based on their Caller ID for E-mail specification, and they make unspecified patent claims on this technology. Many participants and outsiders, including free software luminary Richard Stallman, spoke up in objection to the Microsoft license for this technology, which effectively prohibits its inclusion in programs using any major open-source license.

The IETF has no formal objection to standards based on patented technology, but there is a part of the standardization process that deals specifically with intellectual property issues. Some have observed that the Microsoft patents are probably defensive in nature (against so-called "patent trolls") and asserted that the real threat is not the existence of patents, but a license to that patent that is too restrictive.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. The working group has issued a request to Microsoft to clarify its position with respect to its intellectual property claims. Microsoft employees on the working group say they are working on their response, but that it needs the appropriate approvals, which have not yet been completed.

Andy Newton, one of two chairs of the IETF MARID working group, says of the licensing issue that "it is the working group that decides if it can abide by the terms of any license for any claimed IPR within any document it wishes to standardize. In short, the working group will decide the issue."


Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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