OSI approves Microsoft's open source licenses

By Tom Sanders on Oct 17, 2007 6:42 AM
Filed under Software

The Open Source Initiative has approved the Microsoft Public Licence and Microsoft Reciprocal Licence, officially branding them as open source licences.

The OSI approves licences by validating compliance to ten rules set in the Open Source Definition. The decision was reached with an "overwhelming majority " of the votes, but not unanimously, OSI president Michael Tiemann said in a posting on the group's website.

Microsoft welcomed the decision. " 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," the company said in an emailed statement.

Microsoft's submission had sparked a discussion within the open source community over the software firm's intentions. Critics charged that the addition of the licence was an attempt by Microsoft to undermine open source. The company has repeatedly flamed open source and accused the software of violating its patents.

Google's open source programme manager Chris DiBona had argued that Microsoft should be required to meet requirements beyond the ten listed in the Open Source Definition to gain approval for its licences.

DiBona's plea however was turned down. In his posting, Tiemann said that OSI and Microsoft had a constructive dialog, "in spite of recent negative interactions between Microsoft and the open source community."

The question however shouldn't revolve around the approval, but about what Microsoft intends to do with its new open source status, Matthew Aslett, an analyst with the 451 Group, argued on a company blog.

"For now though it’s all eyes on Microsoft to see what the company will do next, and in many ways this will be more interesting than whether or not the OSI approved the licenses. For reasons that were never fully explained, Microsoft wanted open source licenses," Aslett wrote.

"Now that it’s got them, will it use them to release significant code to the community?"

Microsoft has released more than 150 applications under its Shared Source licences which allow developers and users varying degrees of access to source code. Some of those projects however are believed to lack credibility because they aren't governed by an official open source licence. Microsoft sought to change that perception by submitting the licenses to the OSI.

Microsoft's shared source programme also offers the Microsoft Reference License, which was not approved by the OSI. The licence lets developers view source code to understand an application's inner workings, but doesn’t allow for distribution of the code.

The Microsoft Public License is the least restrictive license, allowing developers to view, modify and distribute code as the please. The Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL) adds a provision that imposes requirements on users choosing to combine Ms-RL code with a licensee's original code.
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OSI approves Microsoft's open source licenses
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