For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Chris Travers chris at
Sat Aug 25 23:47:56 UTC 2007

I have one concern that the board should evaluate regarding whether to 
approve the MS-PL.

I have recently been made aware of the report by the license 
proliferation committee to the Board regarding the recommendations 
relating to license proliferation.  I believe that the Board should be 
free to apply those recommendations to license approval processes.

I believe that the MS-PL (and the GPLv3 too-- note on the related For 
Approval thread) fail one of the committee's key recommendations:  
require certain things of approved licenses including that "the license 
must be clearly written, simple, and understandable."

Obviously if the GPL3 meets this criteria than so does the MS-PL (in 
fact, one would be hard pressed to find an example that didn't). 
However, I believe that the MS-PL of these licenses are quite difficult 
to understand given the other discussions on the list, opinions of 
different lawyers (some of which come to us second-hand), etc.  The key 
questions include whether or "the software" in the MS-PL refers to mere 
source code, or whether it extends to original copyrighted aspects of 
the software (such as copyrighted graphical designs for screen output or 
story lines), or extend in other ways to derivative works.  The MS-CL is 
probably less ambiguous in this area and easier to avoid running into 
trouble (in my view).  I think we would be well within our rights to 
reject the MS-PL as "confusing" and ask Microsoft to resubmit after 
including such a definition.

This is not about favoritism.  I would actually like to see the GPL3 
rejected on the same grounds.  Of course if the GPL3 were approved, I 
would favor approving the MS-PL as well.

Chris Dibona may have a point about license proliferation.  It may be 
time to start using reasonable guidelines in the approval process in 
this area provided that they are applied both reasonably and evenhandedly.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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