Microsoft, OSI Discuss Shared Source Licenses

Despite Microsoft's decision not to submit its new Shared Source licenses for approval by the Open Source Initiative, the issue may still be on the table.

While Microsoft Corp. has publicly said it has no immediate plans to submit its newest Shared Source licenses to the Open Source Initiative for approval, the company met with the OSI board this week to discuss the matter.

At issue for Microsoft is the fact that the OSI has, at times, taken positions that could be viewed as anti-Microsoft.

"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," Jason Matusow, the director of Microsofts Shared Source program, told eWEEK in an interview from Amsterdam.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Microsofts decision not to seek OSI approval in the short term.

In response to questions from eWEEK about Matusows comments, OSI board member Danese Cooper posted an item on her Weblog saying the OSI "believes that the Open Source Definition can and should be applied equally to any license with a bearing on source code.

"It is not uncommon for organizations wishing to submit a license to contact the board for a conversation ... After their announcement this week, Microsoft did meet with a quorum of the OSI Board and 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. So far, Microsofts licenses have not yet been submitted to License-Discuss for public discussion, but OSI is hopeful that they will be," she said.

Others in the free and open-source software industry also called on Microsoft to make the move. Tim OReilly, an open-source activist and founder and CEO of OReilly Media, urged Microsoft to go ahead and to go ahead and submit them for OSI approval and "become a full-fledged member of the open-source community. They are clearly getting closer and closer to a tipping point. Lets encourage them to go all the way," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about the move to reduce the number of open-source licenses, click here.

Asked why Microsoft had not just used an existing license like the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution), Matusow said the company wanted to make sure that its new licenses contained terms it was comfortable with as the holder of the intellectual property, "just like the Mozilla Foundation wanted to write their own license and IBM did for their property and Lucent for their property," he said.

Ronald Mann, a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said two of the new licenses—the Microsoft Permissive License, which is modeled on the existing BSD license, and the Microsoft Community License, based on the Mozilla Public License—appeared to satisfy the Open Source Definition administered by the OSI.

"One of the most interesting things about those licenses is that in technical respects, at least as compared to other open-source licenses, they take relatively moderate positions in protecting Microsofts patent portfolio, and in protecting Microsofts other software products from patents held by people using open-source software covered by these licenses," he said.

But Matusow acknowledged that combining these new Microsoft licenses with other open-source and commercial licenses was a complex issue, and one that would have to be looked at closely.

"This is a very complicated discussion and there is no uniform way to answer questions about this. If someone asks us about a specific license combination, we will look at it. It always depends on the project and what people are trying to do," he said.

Next Page: Reciprocal licenses and Microsoft.