A Microsoft Shared Source license was submitted to the Open Source Initiative for official approval as an open-source license—but it wasnt Microsoft who submitted it.
"Someone submitted the Microsoft Community License, one of our Shared Source licenses, to the OSI without our knowledge or approval, but the OSI contacted us and asked if we wanted them to proceed with that," said Bill Hilf, Microsofts director for platform technology strategy.
"We told them that we did not want to be reactive and needed time to think about it."
Hilf said he could not remember who had submitted the license to the OSI, saying "it was some name I hadnt seen before."
But, in an extensive search of the OSIs license-submit archives, eWEEK found that the license was submitted by John Cowan, who is a programmer and blogger in New York and who also volunteers for the Chester County InterLink, a nonprofit organization in Chester County, Pa., that promotes e-literacy and community development using information technologies.
Chester County InterLink was founded in 1993 by former OSI president Eric Raymond and Jordan Seidel.
Raymonds personal Web site also hosts the controversial "Halloween Documents," a series of confidential Microsoft memoranda on potential strategies related to open-source software and Linux, written in the late 1990s.
In his submission e-mail, Cowan said that "Microsoft is adding new licenses to its Shared Source Initiative, which I believe qualify as open-source licenses. The second of these is a simple permissive license called the Microsoft Community License (MS-CL) … I include the full text in plain form here for convenience in commenting.
"I believe that this license should be approved by OSI even though it is basically similar to more widely used weak-reciprocal licenses, because it is better to encourage Microsoft in particular to release under an OSI-approved license than not--I think it very unlikely that they will go back and adopt some existing license," the e-mail stated.
In response, Brendan Scott, an open-source advocate and a proponent of customer copyright, who set up OSL (Open Source Law), a "micro boutique" legal practice based in Sydney, Australia, noted that "the process of approval is undermined unless the copyright holder of the license submits to the jurisdiction of the OSI. Exactly who does it is not to the point, but there must be a clear chain of authority from the ultimate copyright holder. I would repeat similar comments in relation to licenses which contain a trade mark as part of their name."