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OSI approves Microsoft licensesMatthew Aslett, October 16, 2007 @ 6:49 am ET
The Open Source Initiative has announced that the OSI Board has approved the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL) as satisfying the criteria of the Open Source Definition, following their submission in August.
The approval means that Microsoft can now rightly claim to offer open source software – at least when it’s using these licenses.
For some, this announcement is confirmation that the sky is falling and the end of the world is nigh. For others, it represents the conclusion to a process that has seen Microsoft engaging with the OSI on the OSI’s terms and showing that it is willing to be flexible.
For example, those with knowledge of Microsoft’s licenses will notice that the names of the approved licenses are slightly different from the Microsoft Permissive License and the Microsoft Reference License that were originally submitted.
As noted in the OSI announcement: “The community raised questions that Microsoft (and others) answered; they raised issues that, when germane to the licenses in question, Microsoft addressed.”
It adds: “Microsoft came to the OSI and submitted their licenses according to the published policies and procedures that dozens of other parties have followed over the years. Microsoft didn’t ask for special treatment, and didn’t receive any.”
Some opponents thought that Microsoft should have received special treatment, in that it should have been blocked from having its licenses approved. For me that suggestion ran contrary to the spirit of open source and the Open Source Definition itself.
As Michael Tiemann notes, that definition is a work in progress, and the OSI will continue to be vigilant to ensure that the decision to approve the licenses does not turn out to be the wrong one.
“If, as some fear, the approval of these licenses ends up damaging open source, perhaps we will learn of some 11th condition or some change to the 10 that must be made to better preserve the integrity of what we call open source,” he writes.
“Neither the First Amendment alone, nor the original 10 Amendments known as the Bill Of Rights were sufficient to establish a government truly of the people, by the people, for the people (and some would say we still have a ways to go), so why should we expect that after less than 10 years, the OSD will contain everything there is to know about promoting and protecting open source?”
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.
Now that it’s got them, will it use them to release significant code to the community?
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