Feeds

Cautious welcome for new MS shared source licences

OS community not horrified

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Microsoft has announced three new licence templates for its Shared Source Initiative that it says should help combat the problem of licence proliferation in the open source developer community.

Jason Matusow, director of the SSI, said Microsoft has tried to write licences that are simple to understand without the assistance of a highly priced lawyer, that make it easier for the developer to know what is and isn't allowed under the licence conditions, and makes it easier for Microsoft developers to get code shared.

He made the announcement at the EuroOSCON conference in Amsterdam. The three licence templates will not retrospectively replace licences already issued, but Matusow says Microsoft will consider changing projects over to one of the new templates on a case by case basis, if developers ask.

The first of the three templates is the Permissive Licence - Ms-PL. As its name suggests, this is the most flexible of the three. Matusow says the only restrictions it places on what you do with the code are that you mustn't use the Microsoft trademark, and that the code must carry proper attribution. "It should be compatible with most open source licences, but I think it would still conflict with the GPL," Matusow said.

Second is the Community licence, Ms-CL. This is a reciprocal licence that Matusow says is probably most similar to the Mozilla public licencing model. "It basically says that if you modify and distribute the code, you must give that file back to the community," Matusow told us. There are also limited versions of both the Ms-PL (Ms-LPL) and the Ms-CL (Ms-LCL) that restrict the use of source code to the Windows environment.

The final template is the Reference Licence, MS-RL, which essentially is a look-but-don't-touch licence for developers working on interoperability issues and so on.

Georg Greve, president of the Free Software Foundation in Europe, says that on first glance, the licences look "quite interesting", adding that more careful analysis is required. "At a first glance, the Ms-PL and Ms-CL both appear to satisfy the four freedoms defining Free Software. In particular the Ms-CL also appears to implement a variation of the Copyleft idea, which was first implemented by the GNU General Public License (GPL)," Greve told The Register.

This, he added, is something of a turnaround for the company, which he says has previously referred to GPL as "viral", "cancerous" and "communist".

He went on to stress that while publishing well crafted licences is one thing, making software freely available is quite another: "It would have been preferable if Microsoft had made the decision to use the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Lesser General Public License (LGPL) for its Shared Source program."

Professor Larry "Creative Commons" Lessig and Ronald Mann, Law Professor at the University of Texas have also given the licences the thumbs up.

Lessig welcomed the move because it reduced the number of licences floating around the OS community, arguing that the proliferation of licences is the single most important problem in the world of free and open source licensing, because many are incompatible.

You can read the new licence templates for yourself here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bada-Bing! Mozilla flips Firefox to YAHOO! for search
Microsoft system will be the default for browser in US until 2020
Be real, Apple: In-app goodie grab games AREN'T FREE – EU
Cupertino stands down after Euro legal threats
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Nexus 7 fandroids tell of salty taste after sucking on Google's Lollipop
Web giant looking into why version 5.0 of Android is crippling older slabs
SLURP! Flick your TONGUE around our LOLLIPOP – Google
Android 5 is coming – IF you're lucky enough to have the right gadget
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.