OSI gives nod to Microsoft shared source licences

Lions lay down with lambs

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The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has approved two of Microsoft's shared source licenses. The controversial move paves the way for developers to use the Microsoft Reciprocal License and the Microsoft Public License as a valid methodology for creating open source applications.

Microsoft's relationship with the open source community has long been antagonistic, as exemplified by the contention of Steve Ballmer last year that Linux violates Microsoft patents.

Since then, Microsoft has been active in seeking to persuade open source vendors to sign cross-licensing agreements that some in the open source community have suspiciously viewed as an attempt to back up these patent claims. More recently, Ballmer suggested open source development ought to take place on Windows.

The OSI said the decision to approve two of Microsoft's shared source licenses was considered on its merits. "The decision to approve was informed by the overwhelming (though not unanimous) consensus from the open source community that these licenses satisfied the 10 criteria of the open source definition, and should therefore be approved," OSI president Michael Tiemann wrote in a blog entry posted on Monday.

OSI approves software licences used by the open source community, such as the GNU General Public License under which Linux is licensed, and the Mozilla Public License that covers the Firefox web browser. Microsoft's shared-source license, created several years ago and covering only a minority of its software code, was put through much the same process.

No special privileges

OSI president Tiemann described Microsoft's licences as "refreshingly short and clean compared to the GPLv3 and the Sun CDDL". Tiemann added that Microsoft's license included a patent peace clause and a no-trademark-license clause, differing from Larry Rosen's Open Software License, for example, only in the essential clause of reciprocation.

"Microsoft came to the OSI and submitted their licenses according to the published policies and procedures that dozens of other parties have followed over the years. Microsoft didn't ask for special treatment, and didn't receive any. In spite of recent negative interactions between Microsoft and the open source community, the spirit of the dialog was constructive," Tiemann said.

Over the last nine years, the OSI has approved 50 licences but rejected more than two dozen.

Microsoft execs welcomed the approval. "This is a significant milestone in the progression of Microsoft's open source strategy and the company's ongoing commitment to participation in the open source community to effectively meet the evolving needs of developers," Bill Hilf, general manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy, told Computerworld in a statement. ®

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