Feeds

MS shared source twitches towards liberal licensing

A small twitch, but a twitch, nevertheless...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

A new form of Microsoft's shared source licence agreement unearthed by Microsoft Watch suggests that The Beast is at the very least experimenting with forms of words that might work, as opposed to engaging purely in propaganda efforts. The strapline to Mary Jo Foley's report says that the licence "seems to be inching closer - at least in spirit - to the GNU GPL" - this is clearly not true, but we nevertheless think we detect some element of constructiveness.

Microsoft's attitude to open source is schizoid. On the one hand the company's hierarchy categorises it as some kind of communistic peril that will eat all your IP if you touch it, while on the other Microsoft is very jealous, and really wants to figure out how it can similarly benefit from scads of happy developers making Microsoft software better for fun, because it's a mission. There are obviously fatal contradictions in Microsoft trying to set such processes in motion while continuing to keep all the money for itself, but one of the reasons Microsoft got where it is today is that it looked after developers, so aspects of the shared source initiatives represent a serious attempt to learn from and to reinvent successful models from elsewhere.

OK, it's a serious attempt to do this for ultimately devilish ends, but it's not wholly a marketing gag.

The current serious attempt appears in the ASP .Net Starter Kit License, a text of which you'll find here. It's short, and the salient features are that you can modify the software, distribute in source code form and create derivative works without having to check with Microsoft or pay royalties. You do have to tell the recipients you've made changes and when those changes were made, and you have to distribute under the new Microsoft licence, but that's pretty much it. It moves away from the 'look, don't touch' approach that's previously characterised shared source, and gives the impression that developers using this licence model will be doing so to develop software of value, rather than operating largely as unpaid bug-hunters for Redmond.

On its own it's clearly not enough, because one probably experimental wording for one thing certainly doesn't signal a revolution in Microsoft's approach to licensing. But if we sight a few more swallows, then it may take on significance.

Microsoft's terror of open source however remains all too obvious. The licence stresses:

"That you are not allowed to combine or distribute the Software with other software that is licensed under terms that seek to require that the Software (or any intellectual property in it) be provided in source code form, licensed to others to allow the creation or distribution of derivative works, or distributed without charge."

That is, Microsoft's lawyers still insist that you'll catch something nasty if you let open source touch your stuff. But nevertheless there are signs of movement here; Microsoft clearly will never adopt the GPL, but it might - over a long period, and at the expense of some considerable pain - eventually end up devising and employing something more BSD-ish. Could save itself a hell of a lot of time if it just stopped bitching about the open source peril and focussed positively on new models now, we reckon... ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.