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Microsoft should license its protocols for free, says a lawyer representing its legal opponents including IBM, Nokia, Oracle and Red Hat.

The company has been obliged to open up its protocols as a result of the Antitrust settlement in the US, but the fees it's charging don't reflect that it was found guilty, and is being punished, says lawyer Thomas Vinje. Vinje, a counsel for Clifford Chance and representing the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, says they should be licensed for free.

"The general practice in the industry is to license protocols for free,'' he says, according to an AP report. "The only time you have an incentive not to facilitate interoperability ... is when you have a monopoly.''

The original fee schedule looks like this. If you're creating a piece of network software or hardware that needs to talk to a Microsoft file system - a printer, storage server, or a piece of middleware - you must agree to pay Microsoft $50,000 up front in Prepaid Royalties. The fee then depends on how many users the product has, and what is accessed. For the 'Print and File Server' portion you pay on a user basis up to $1,900, but no less than $80 per server. For workgroup access (Domain Controllers command a higher royalty) you pay up to $600, but no less than $100 per server.

It isn't clear if Microsoft has agreed to reduce the fees. It balks at Vinje's suggestion that the protocols should be free. ®

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