For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Chris Travers chris at
Fri Aug 17 16:42:36 UTC 2007

Chris DiBona wrote:
> Actually, if you read my original email, you'll see that I don't have
> a lot of issues with the licenses themselves, outside of their
> redundancy. But I think that Microsoft's behavior deserves discussion,
> because the reality is that Bill's employer will use OSI's approval
> against it.
I don't know.  I have been around Microsoft professionally since 1999 
when I was hired there as a temp.  Today, I have done work for the Open 
Source Software Lab (several of my papers have appeared on Port 25 and 
several more are awaiting feedback from that team) and so although I 
cannot speak for Microsoft I can provide a close third-party point of view.

Microsoft is changing.  My own view as an outsider is that they 
understand that open source is a serious threat to their revenue streams 
but don't really know what to do about it (i.e. there is no real plan 
yet).  The response seems to include on one hand the OSSL which has done 
a lot of work in the area of improving interop, providing recipies for 
interop, and even working with potentially directly competing projects 
like Samba.

On the other hand, I think that Balmer has done what he can to assure 
stockholders that Microsoft is able to monetize the open source trend by 
threatening patent litigation.  (They can't because they would probably 
never get out much more than they would put into it as patents when 
named would be worked around quite fast, and getting enough revenue to 
support their growth would probably be impossible through such suits.)

In short I don't see an organized response from Microsoft.  I don't 
think that an organized response to the questions is therefore 
possible.  My thoughts on what Microsoft needs to do to survive the 
coming market changes is off-topic for this thread though ;-).

> OSI should not trade on its reputation lightly. Again, this is not a
> discussion about licenses but whether or not it is wise for OSI to
> enable its most vicious competitor.
I dunno about whether Microsoft is our "most vicious competitor."  I can 
think of a number of other potential candidates some of whom have 
submitted licenses which were approved.  At least one of these 
candidates has even directly attacked the OSI and the "Open Source" 
movements.  Microsoft's attacks have been limited to competing projects 
and only one class of licenses (and unlike a different candidate, they 
aren't directly involved in any legal activity against open source 

Or maybe you have a less inclusive first person plural which does not 
relate to the people involved in "Open Source?"
> You may want to try to paint this as personal disapproval, but if you
> look on any search engine you would be hard pressed to find anything
> from me personally about Microsoft outside of windows refund day in
> 1998. Note that trying to turn this into a discussion about FSF or
> Google or me completely dodges the issue, so , you know, nice try and
> all. I'm more than happy to discuss Google's frankly incredibly
> awesome open source practices (including pr, press quotes, not
> creating new licenses, marketing and the rest) in a  different thread,
I would think your above comments make it clear this is about personal 
disapproval of the organization.  Once again, we don't and shouldn't 
hold RMS's comments or FSF pages which complain about our lack of ethics 
against them when we consider licenses for approval, nor do we consider 
RMS's comments against BSD and Apache licenses against approval of the 
GPL.  We don't do this because they are not relevant to the discussion 
of whether the license can be used by other parties in the development 
of Free/Open Source Software.

Since my concerns haven't sunk in, let me put it this way:

Why should we hold Steve Balmer's comments against the GPL, Linux, etc. 
against Microsoft and use this as a basis to reject the license when we 
are not considering statements made by the FSF directly against the OSI 
as grounds to reject the GPL v3?

Why should we hold Microsoft's position against the GPL against it, when 
we do not hold attacks by RMS against the BSD licenses against them when 
approving the GPL v3?

Should these be relevant?  If they should, I am more than happy to raise 
them on the appropriate threads.  Even though I *have* looked for a 
basis for us to reject the GPL v3 within the confines of the OSD, I have 
never brought in things outside the license because I do not believe 
that they are relevant.  But if they are, then let's consider them on 
the appropriate threads.

(I think the general concensus is that they are *not* relevant, and 
therefore we should suggest that they be used as the basis for such a 

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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