Well folks, it's been quite a day really.. although a rather anti-climatic one at that. Microsoft have decided not to continue to appeal the ~€500,000 fine imposed by the European Commission and release their technical documentation to the open source community, so that open source developers can provide decent interoperability with the MS protocols without fearing patent infringement lawsuits.
Unfortunately, I do not yet know enough about it to be able to provide an informative opinion, but I can provide some of the 'facts' to come out of the decision. Many FLOSS advocates aren't fond of Microsoft, for obvious reasons - but the following announcements have been made
today fairly recently.
The OSI has approved two Microsoft 'Open Source Licenses'
The first licese is the Microsoft Reciprocal License. (Ms-RL)
The second is the Microsoft Public License.(Ms-PL)
Whilst these are great for the community to access MS published code, I think a rule-of-thumb would be to only use these licenses on the files provided by Microsoft, rather than use the license to cover one's own code. There are already an abundance of licenses, and adding more is adding to the confusion.
One of the commentators on The Register was rather fed up with all the doom and gloom and posted a short section on 'was was actually in the announcement' :
"I told Microsoft that it had to make interoperability information available to open source developers. Microsoft will now do so, with licensing terms that allow every recipient of the resulting software to copy, modify and redistribute it in accordance with the open source business model."
"I told Microsoft that it should give legal security to programmers who help to develop open source software and confine its patent disputes to commercial software distributors and end users. Microsoft will now pledge to do so."
"That said, Microsoft’s obligation to document its protocols is an ongoing one – the documentation needs to be maintained as its products evolve, and new issues may arise once it is being used by developers."
In my opinion, this is good news for projects that rely on decent Microsoft Interoperability to survive. Projects like SAMBA, and OpenLDAP have done a fantastic job of reverse engineering some MS protocols and code. Ubuntu have managed to release a stable NTFS writer in their latest version; Gutsy Gibbon. I hope this announcement isn't from the same poisoned-chalice as the Novell Deal, and due to the European Commission's vested interest I think, and hope, that we'll see a more positive outcome.
I'm eager to read what more established and knowledgeable commentators will make of today's announcement, and also what the public at large (or at least my Open Source peers) make of it.
One of the things that does strike me is the increase in licenses. We have the Mozilla licenses, the BSD licenses, and each of them has their place - but looking on the OSI WebSite there are 62 licenses approved by the OSI. I read recently that the BCS are considering creating some more Open Source licenses too. Is this a good thing or a bad thing. Whilst we all want control over our software, how much is a single organisation's need/greed to protect its own brand a necessity for a new license? Please tell me if I'm being ignorant; whilst I understand the intricacies and differences there may be between the licenses - but to what end should these intricacies exist? - and how much negotiation would it take to simplify the licensing process? Hmm..