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OSI approves Microsoft licenses as open-source

Group's board gives its OK to two of vendor's 'shared-source' licenses

By Eric Lai
October 16, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has certified two of Microsoft Corp.'s so-called shared-source software licenses, paving the way for developers to use them as valid ways to distribute open-source applications.

"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," OSI President Michael Tiemann wrote in a blog entry posted on the group's Web site late Monday.

The Portland, Ore.-based OSI is charged with approving software licenses for use by the open-source community. Some of the best-known licenses include the GNU General Public License, under which Linux is licensed; the Mozilla Public License, which covers the Firefox Web browser; and the Apache Software License, used for licensing the Web server software of the same name.

Microsoft has released some of its software code through its shared-source licenses, which were created several years ago. However, the vast majority of the company's revenue-generating software, such as Windows and Office, remains under proprietary licenses and won't become free as a result of the OSI board's approval of the two licenses.

According to Tiemann, who is vice president of open-source affairs at Linux distributor and Microsoft rival Red Hat Inc., OSI members discussed the licenses -- known as the Microsoft Public License and the Microsoft Reciprocal License -- in a "vigorous and thorough" way before they were approved at a board meeting last Wednesday.

"The community raised questions that Microsoft (and others) answered; they raised issues that, when germane to the licenses in question, Microsoft addressed," Tiemann wrote in his blog posting. "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, and we hope that carries forward to a constructive outcome as well."

"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, said in a statement sent via e-mail.

The approval of the licenses by the OSI "concludes a tremendous learning experience for Microsoft, and I look forward to our continued participation in the open-source community," Hilf added.

"I never doubted that these would be approved but am glad to see the studied manner in which the process was (mostly) carried out," Matt Asay, an open-source executive and a member of the OSI board, wrote on his blog today. "To me, this shows Microsoft the correct way to engage in open source: through the front door, rather than through back-door patent FUD."

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