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Microsoft to carry out EU ruling

 4:22 pm on Oct 22, 2007 (gmt 0)


Microsoft has finally agreed to start complying with a European Commission 2004 anti-monopoly ruling against it.

The commission said the US firm would now "comply with its obligations"...

The European Commission said Microsoft will now charge a one-time fee of 10,000 euros to firms that want "complete and accurate" technical information on Windows software.

In addition, it will also allow the data to go to open source software developers...

Further, Microsoft will cut the price it charges for worldwide licenses and patents to less than 7% of previous levels.

Better late than never!



Mathieu Bonnet

 7:59 am on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I do wonder how this will work, for open source developers... Will each developer, who might want to implement or improve the implementation of some MS protocol/file format/system library (like MSNP, NTFS, MS Doc and other MS Office formats, and anything which could be useful to the Wine project -all of which I would obviously like to avoid, but we all know how it goes, in today society), have to pay 10 000 euros? (notably, when they have not created a legal organization, to group their developers).

Could IBM, Novell, or other such companies, pay, and let other developers access the data? I guess the access from Microsoft comes with an heavy list of conditions and restrictions.

Will they donate to other developers, so they can pay for the access? Will they make their own developers work on this?

Are the 10 000 euros, a permanent, or a yearly fee...? a "one-time fee of 10,000 euros", might be interpreted as not having to pay for each and every pieces of specifications... maybe there is still a yearly fee... (and again, maybe this is a per-individual fee...).

Or would this be a per-final-product fee? (every products using the specifications, even maybe, as library...?).

[edited by: Mathieu_Bonnet at 8:04 am (utc) on Oct. 23, 2007]


 10:48 am on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I expect individual developers would still have to pay the 10,000 and yes I assume at lest Novell will be paying for access.

The terms are supposed to be non-discriminating so in theory the information could be used in open source software (AFAIK that was one of the major problems with the original license). I do not think a big company could pay for access and then just give it to anyone for free, it would probably have to remain internal (distributing the docs would be a copyright violation).

That does not mean that developers employed by a company that pays for the information can contribute features to open source projects.

I wouldn't expect to see anything too soon though, Novell will probably buy the rights and then use it in a paid-for product (which gets open sourced after the 10,000 is reclaimed).

Patents are still a worry though for those of you in the USA.

Surely open-source developers are more interested in open protocols? Imagine the problems if there is an open source project and only 1 developer has access to the information from MS. Fixes would have to wait for him because nobody would know the correct action.

Knowing MS the protocol would be brain-dead rubbish designed to support every version of windows back to 3.11 with special hooks for each application they make (something like getEmailLikeExchange35() and WriteFileLikeInternetExplorer6())

EDIT : It looks like the page for all the information is here


I'd be interested in the web server protocol document. It would show some interesting things ;)

EDIT 2 : Looks like the answer to your question is a big fat no, there seem to be terms forbidding distributing source code. Its for closed-source only, which is strange because I thought it was supposed to allow open source implementations.


Q. Why can't I distribute my implementation in source code form? And why does Microsoft care about "other licenses"?
A. The specifications used to create your protocol implementations are confidential and, along with the source code of those implementations, include Microsoft trade secrets. However, because other MCPP licensees have agreed to MCPP license terms (including distribution and confidentiality provisions), you can distribute the source code of your implementation to them. The license agreement also permits you to allow others to view the source code of your implementations on-site at your place of business for evaluation purposes, under suitable nondisclosure agreements.

In addition to not disclosing your source code directly (other than as just described above), you also need to make sure not to subject your implementation to any other licenses that would require such source code disclosure. For example, under certain circumstances, other licenses may require your implementation to be disclosed in source code form when you distribute your implementation with other technology that is already subject to that other license. In short, you can't subject your authorized implementations to any license that requires you to do things that are contrary to the scope of your license and your obligations under the Development Agreement.


 1:22 pm on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Provided open source developers are sensible, there should be no problems, whatever MS say.

Essentially, developers merely have to make their code work with Windows, etc. Source code will be useful to understand why something doesn't work as expected and also, in some cases, to use as an initial template (rather than start with a blank sheet of paper) but once any new code is fully implemented, it should look so different to MS source code that the issue of non-disclosure simply will not apply.



 2:02 pm on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Let me highlight something for you

The specifications used to create your protocol implementations are confidential and, along with the source code of those implementations, include Microsoft trade secrets.

....blah blah blah....

In addition to not disclosing your source code directly (other than as just described above), you also need to make sure not to subject your implementation to any other licenses that would require such source code disclosure.

This says that you cannot reveal your source code and you cannot document your protocol implementation. Any developer who does this will be in breach of the license and will be in trouble. You cannot even accidentally link to a GPL library and say sorry, I had to release the source because we agreed to the GPL.

The best possible loophole would be for someone to make a closed source implementation but with better error messages (than MS's implementation), I am not a lawyer so I am not sure if even error messages would be considered as disclosing their precious trade secrets. If this were possible then it would be easier to reverse engineer that implementation than Microsoft's.

P.S. We are not talking about access to source code, we are talking about documenting protocols. Anyone who wants to see them has to agree to the WSPP agreement, otherwise you can still reverse engineer them. There are also royalty payments needed per unit so free software is out of the question.


 4:42 pm on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

The legal landscape has definitely changed in the past few months.

Novell was the first one to sign a deal with Microsoft. Then came XenSource, Xandros, Linspire, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Zend Technologies. Turbolinux is the latest one to sign a deal.


From the press release:

“Together, we can do much to reduce the cost and complexity of running mixed Windows and Linux IT environments, and we believe this agreement gives our company a significant edge in the marketplace,” said Yano Koichi, CEO of Turbolinux. “Delivering value requires a vision for how to design mixed-source solutions that tackle clear customer priorities and a framework for sharing intellectual property. When strong Microsoft customers are evaluating Linux, we want them to see Turbolinux as the distribution that works best with their existing Microsoft investments.”

The agreement focuses on four areas:

1. Interoperability

2. Business alignment

3. Intellectual property assurance

4. Desktop collaboration expansion


 11:50 pm on Oct 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Check this out on the Microsoft - Turbolinux desktop collaboration expansion part of the deal:

"... Turbolinux desktops will now feature Live Search."

It seems to be the perfect time for Microsoft to comply with the European Commission 2004 anti-monopoly ruling.

No wonder Ecclesiastes mentions "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose..."

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