Microsoft Takes Shared-Source Step

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-10-24

Microsoft Corp. is edging closer to using certified open-source licenses to govern the projects it releases under its Shared Source Initiative.

The Redmond, Wash., software company last week cut back the number of licenses it will use for Shared Source projects going forward, from more than 10 to just three new template, or core, licenses and two derivative "limited" variations of those licenses, which can be used only on the Windows platform.

While the derivative licenses are modeled on existing open-source licenses—the Microsoft Permissive License follows the BSD license, and the Microsoft Community License is patterned after the Mozilla Public License—Microsoft officials are not ready to submit their three licenses to the Open Source Initiative for approval just yet. However, they have started talking to the OSI in this regard.

Jason Matusow, director of Microsofts Shared Source program, said in an interview from Amsterdam, Netherlands, that before Microsoft considers submitting its licenses for OSI approval, a dialogue has to be established and trust built.

Click here to read more about Microsofts changes to its Shared Source Initiative licensing.

"In their choice of advocacy, the OSI has at times taken positions that have made it more difficult for us to work with them," Matusow said. "I think people should be able to say critical things about Microsoft, but that should be completely separate from being a neutral body for any and all the players in the industry to be able to make use of your standard."

OSI board member Danese Cooper, in Santa Clara, Calif., said the organization believes the Open Source Definition could and should be applied equally to any license with a bearing on source code.

Cooper also confirmed that a quorum of the OSI board met with Microsoft after its license announcement last week. "[We] discussed our commitment to equal application of the license approval process and gave them very preliminary feedback on the licenses as they appear on the MSDN Web site," she said. "So far, Microsofts licenses have not yet been submitted for public discussion, but OSI is hopeful that they will be."

Tim OReilly, an open-source activist, urged Microsoft to submit the licenses for OSI approval. "They are clearly getting closer and closer to a tipping point," said OReilly in Sebastopol, Calif.

Regarding compatibility with the GNU GPL (General Public License), under which the Linux kernel is licensed, Matusow said the companys reciprocal licenses are not compatible with other reciprocal licenses, such as the GPL.

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