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10.03.08

Here Come the Anti-GNU/Linux (Yet ‘Open’) Software Licences from Microsoft

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OSI, Windows at 8:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer [...] I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business. I’m an American; I believe in the American way, I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policymakers to understand the threat.”

Jim Allchin, Microsoft executive

LIKE SO MANY others, we were beyond "skeptical" when Microsoft tried to join OSI and hop on the “open source” bandwagon. Some external articles of interest include:

According to The Register, CodePlex’ morph into GNU/Linux-hostile territories is just routine. It comes ‘from above’ — from Microsoft’s own licences.

Microsoft is posting code to its much-trumpeted CodePlex open-source projects site using licenses and conditions that go against the principles of open source.

The company has been posting projects under Microsoft licenses that stop you from running CodePlex projects on non-Windows platforms or restrict access to code.

And this is the host SourceForge plays ball with?

Miguel de Icaza has complained about such things, but yesterday he ran back to Microsoft, giving them credit and thanking them. And in other related news, it turns out that even self-appointed experts fail to understand Moonlight. Here is a portion from a new article:

Microsoft announced Silverlight in May of 2007 at their MIX conference held in Las Vegas. The first Community Technology Preview (CTP) was released a few months after that. The design goal behind Silverlight was to make it possible to build applications for the Web that used essentially the same code as you would use for a desktop application. From an implementation perspective that translates to a version of Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR) running inside the browser.

Linux is obviously missing in the list of supported platforms–at least it was in the beginning. That’s where Moonlight comes in.

When asked why Siiverlight itself was not ported to GNU/Linux, Microsoft’s response was that Novell’s second-rare copycat [1, 2, 3] should do (or something along those lines). Since regulators would drag Microsoft’s feet until it supports GNU/Linux, Novell did a double favour here to Microsoft:

  1. It made it seem like Microsoft collaborates with GNU/Linux
  2. It ensured that all GNU/Linux ever gets is an inferior and incompatible thing called Moonlight, which is not SIlverlight

Worth adding are the legal barriers associated with Moonlight. It serves Novell, which spreads Mono like it’s mononucleosis. Novell has its reasons.

Bad Silverlight

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29 Comments

  1. Joshua K said,

    October 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Gravatar

    I wrote an small entry on my blog discussing two of Microsoft’s “Open Source” licenses. Give it a read.

    http://tinyurl.com/4x2m2r

  2. Bob said,

    October 4, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Gravatar

    > Novell did a double favour here to Microsoft:

    > 1. It made it seem like Microsoft collaborates with GNU/Linux
    > 2. It ensured that all GNU/Linux ever gets is an inferior and incompatible thing called Moonlight, which is not SIlverlight

    You make it sound like the GNU/Linux communities are a single entity that is of one mind. The GNU/Linux communities are communities of people that cooperate (with themselves and with other communities) in order to help each other to do their computing with GNU/Linux based systems.

    Microsoft may not be collaborating with the other communities but that doesn’t make the facts any less true: it accurate to say that Microsoft is collaborating with a community (maybe more?) that focuses on GNU/Linux. However, it is not accurate to say the “Microsoft is collaborating with GNU/Linux” as this implies that Microsoft is cooperating the whole collection of communites (they are not doing this).

    Secondly, the quality of the free Silverlight implementation depends upon the effort invested into it. If there was a great effort into implementing and developing Moonlight, I would have little doubt that Moonlight be inferior. Instead, people are relying on other people to do some work. People should invest their own resources and cooperate with like minded groups in order to make a good free software implementation a reality.

  3. David Masover said,

    October 4, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Gravatar

    It’s not clear Silverlight can do too much — it’s making progress, but it’s being seen as basically another Flash, and you can’t beat that market penetration.

    Speaking of which: Does anyone else find it disturbing that a proprietary browser plugin has more market share than any one browser? Or that there is a huge amount of content (videos, especially) which cannot be viewed any other way?

    I’m not saying Silverlight is good. I’m saying that it might be better to target the more immediate danger — the one that’s already here.

    I have selfish motivations, too — Moonlight seems a lot more likely to succeed, and a lot faster, than Gnash. Sure, I’d love to have everything be based on HTML5 Video, SVG, and Javascript, but if it’s got to be nonstandard, at least something nonstandard which has a reasonably open source, decent implementation on Linux.

    Similarly: It’d probably be better to have Ogg Theora or Dirac for video, and Vorbis or FLAC for audio, in an OGM or Matroska container. But I’ll take h.264/AAC in a MOV, or even Microsoft formats in WMV, over a proprietary player — especially a proprietary browser plugin that performs worse on my platform of choice than it did on other platforms three years ago.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Gravatar

    @Joshua K: thanks, that’s excellent.

    @Bob: Silverlight serves Microsoft because it’s its attempt at media domination. Why would free labourers help that happen?

  5. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Gravatar

    Miguel de Icaza has complained about such things, but yesterday he ran back to Microsoft, giving them credit and thanking them.

    Had you read the blog post by Miguel, you would have seen that the reason he thanked them was because they fixed the license. Originally, MEF was under the MS-LPL which Miguel had pointed out was not Free Software friendly, and apparently after some talks, Miguel convinced them to reconsider their licensing choice and they relicensed under the MS-PL, which is Free Software friendly.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 9:09 am

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    Yes, I know the story. I mentioned it before.

  7. AlexH said,

    October 4, 2008 at 12:09 pm

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    So when Miguel complained loudly and got them to fix their license, how is that him “running back to Microsoft”?

    At worst, it’s Microsoft running back to Miguel :D

    If he can convince them to re-license stuff as free software, that’s something that we should encourage.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Gravatar

    Over at Slashdot, Asay has just posted (or maybe it was the editors) a blast from 2007.

    Microsoft once again offering pseudo-open source on CodePlex

    Microsoft has been criticized in the past for how it manages CodePlex, Microsoft’s “open source project hosting site” (emphasis mine). This time, as The Register reports, Microsoft is hosting code that can only be run on the Windows platform.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10058421-16.html

    Microsoft Treating “Windows-Only” As Open Source

    “The Register is reporting that Microsoft is hosting Windows-only projects on its ‘open source project hosting site,’ CodePlex. Miguel de Icaza caught and criticized Microsoft for doing this with its Microsoft Extensibility Framework (MEF), licensing it under the Microsoft Limited Permissive License (Ms-LPL), which restricts use of the code to Windows. Microsoft has changed the license for MEF to an OSI-approved license, the Microsoft Public License, but it continues to host a range of other projects under the Ms-LPL. If CodePlex wasn’t an ‘open source project hosting site,’ this wouldn’t be a problem. But when Microsoft invokes the ‘open source’ label, it has a duty to live up to associated expectations and ensure that the code it releases on CodePlex is actually open source. If it doesn’t want to do this — if it doesn’t want to abide by this most basic principle of open source — then call CodePlex something else and we’ll all move on.”

    http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/10/04/1515244&from=rss

  9. AlexH said,

    October 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Gravatar

    That’s irrelevant in this case, as this is a recognised free software license.

    Whatever you think of Miguel, he wouldn’t be thanking Microsoft for Windows-only software.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Gravatar

    I know this. Miguel is not the bad guy. He just refuses to believe or understand how he’s being used for others to be used and sued.

  11. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:44 pm

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    Miguel has been in this industry for a long long time. He’s not new to the game. I don’t understand how you think you could possibly know better than Miguel when you’ve never even so much as left academia to experience the real world. And you’ve certainly never worked in the industry and so can’t even pretend to understand it.

    He’s not being used by Microsoft, he’s forcing their hand. He’s the one calling them out (re MS-LPL) and convincing them to play nice. He may not always be successful, but he’s accomplished a lot more than this site has toward reaching the goals of “Free Software Everywhere” than you could ever hope to accomplish.

  12. AlexH said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Gravatar

    Or, simply, he just has a different point of view.

    By saying he went “running back to Microsoft” makes it sounds like MS didn’t meet his demands, which they did. It’s a shame you didn’t point that out more clearly.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:52 pm

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    I’ll write more about it shortly. .NET clones are off the FSF’s priority list this year.

  14. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, that’s nice for the FSF – but no one can argue that the FSF’s priority list is the be-all/end-all.

    There are clearly a lot of people interested in .NET on Linux.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Gravatar

    What matters is that dotgnu was there last year, but it’s no longer a priority.

  16. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 4, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Gravatar

    Probably because they feel that Mono has filled that gap.

  17. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 4, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Gravatar

    That’s one possibility that I was going to mention. Boycott Novell is in Slashdot’s front page today, so it’ll wait until tomorrow. :-)

  18. Joshua K said,

    October 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Gravatar

    The simple fact and truth is that those ‘revised’ licenses are not and will never be considered ‘free’ licenses. I am referring to the MS-PL and the MS-RL. Both are lies by specific clause:

    “””If you bring a patent claim against any contributor over patents that you claim are infringed by the software, your patent license from such contributor to the software ends automatically.”””

    I wrote about the implications, but apparently the link was mangled.

    http://stable-entropy.blogspot.com/2008/08/extents-of-open-source-microsoft.html

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm

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    Joshua K,

    I included your perspective in this followup post.

  20. AlexH said,

    October 5, 2008 at 3:56 pm

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    @Joshua_K: that’s completely untrue.

    Both GPL and Apache V2 have a similar clause, and the FSF consider the MS-PL to be a free license.

    There’s no reason to extend patent licenses to those who attack you first, that’s not a “freedom” that needs protecting.

  21. Joshua K said,

    October 5, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Gravatar

    @AlexH
    Just because a large body declares the license to be “compatible” doesn’t actually make it so in the philosophical sense. Perhaps you missed my quotation of clauses 3B of the Microsoft Public License, and 3C of the Microsoft Reciprocal License. The difference between the General Public License Section 11 and Microsoft’s licenses is that the GPL does not self-destruct upon patent infringement claims, while the Microsoft licenses do. Although they look similar, the interpretation is vastly different.

  22. Dan O'Brian said,

    October 5, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Gravatar

    The FSF has declared the MS-PL to be a Free Software license, therefor it is compatible in the philosophical sense.

  23. AlexH said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Gravatar

    @Joshua_K:

    Except, the license doesn’t self-destruct automatically. That would be non-free.

    What happens is that you lose any patent license from that contributor. Which is the reasonably well-known “self defence” clause.

  24. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Gravatar

    Do you have a link for that, Dan?

  25. AlexH said,

    October 6, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I gave the link several comments ago.

  26. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Gravatar

    You posted no link/s here. I just want to see, explicitly, the FSF’s statement on this issue. Genuine curiously, not that I necessarily doubt it.

  27. AlexH said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: Er, I did!

    The FSF stance is no different to many other licenses: it’s a free license, but it does the same as Apache and therefore you shouldn’t use it for new software.

  28. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Gravatar

    Oops. My bad, I missed it.

    Just spotted this post in Groklaw’s News Picks:

    Microsoft bad cop is up against the wall

    “This time they are offering Windows-only code on their “open source” CodePlex site. It’s not that this is technically impossible. It’s just prohibited by license.

    [...]

    “Last time they played this game they were pushing OOXML as an ISO standard. Before that they were promising to bury open source in patent suits.

    “Now they’re trying to sneak semi-proprietary code on their own site.

    “It’s like a crime boss getting arrested for pickpocketing. Lex Luthor gets a parking ticket, and pays it. Godzilla has become Reptar.

    “So instead of taking deep umbrage, I’m just sad. You want a super villain to be, well, super. Not silly.”

  29. AlexH said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Gravatar

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that Microsoft have some particularly poor licenses in their “shared source” stink.

    However, I think Miguel did a very good thing convincing them to release something that was proprietary as free software. Microsoft are using free software themselves – witness the recent news about jQuery – and it’s good to see them give back, even if limited.

    Remember, you can take their stuff and turn it into Java or something even if you don’t like the original.

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