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Microsoft indemnifies Novell Moonlight users

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Mix 08 The Novell-sponsored project porting the Silverlight cross-browser plug to Linux is getting patent protection from Microsoft, indemnifying users from aggressive patent holders and litigators such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Microsoft will provide codecs worth $1m to every user downloading Moonlight from Novell under a special patent covenant. This is separate to the companies' broader - and controversial - patent protection and interoperability deal of November 2005.

Miguel de Icaza, Novell developer platform vice president leading Moonlight, told a panel on open source at Microsoft's Mix 08 conference anyone who downloads a codec from Novell under the patent covenant is covered. "If you download from a third party, you probably have to speak to Microsoft," he added.

de Icaza, who led the Mono Project putting .NET on Unix, Linux and Mac, was unhappy about the fact such an agreement had to be made and said Microsoft would take heat for continuing to own patents in its own products. However, he accepted the need for a patent protection clause as the price of doing business.

"We should have stayed with the open source community," de Icaza said but added: "That's better than saying we might be infringing but we are going to stick it to the man... I think we've done as well as we could."

Sam Ramji, Microsoft's director of open source and Linux strategy, told Reg Dev after the panel that Microsoft is supporting Moonlight to give developers greater choice in target platforms. Moonlight kicked off precisely because Microsoft was unable to commit to Linux in Silverlight version one, which supported Safari, Firefox, and Mac versions 10.4.8 or higher on PowerPC and Intel, in addition to Internet Explorer and Windows

Patent protection stems from Microsoft's existing canon of agreements negotiated with owners of codec patents in order to ship products such as Media Player and Silverlight. Microsoft has volume licensing agreements with major codec patent holders worth more than $1m, according to Ramji.

The deal is the latest example of the support Microsoft is providing Moonlight. Microsoft has also provided regression testing for Moonlight that de Icaza told Reg Dev was important because it gave his team access to the people who wrote the code for Silverlight, instead of simply being left with the specification.

de Icaza, meanwhile, is excited by Silverlight 2.0, released to beta this week. He highlighted the inclusion of .NET class libraries, integration with LINQ, integration with sockets and the ability to program with Silverlight using a choice of languages as important features.®

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