Two Microsoft Licenses are Open Source

Oct 17, 2007

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has recognized two Microsoft licenses and granted them the status of Open Source licenses.

At the end of July, Microsoft submitted two of its Shared Source licenses for appraisal to the Open Source organization. On Monday evening OSI chair Michael Tiemann announced the decision: the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL) have OSI approval. The licenses allow a company to share proprietary source code. Two out of three licenses from the Shared Source Initiative now have the approval of the non-profit organization. The third and most restrictive license, the Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL), was not submitted for appraisal.

"These licenses are refreshingly short and clean, compared to, say, the GPLv3 and the Sun CDDL." Russ Nelson, a member of the OSI website committee. "they share a patent peace clause, a no-trademark-license clause, and they differ between each other only in the essential clause of reciprocation." The Ms-PL gives licensees the ability to use, modify and distribute the source code for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Ms-RL includes additional provisions to cover cases where licensees wish to combine their original Code with Ms-Richtlinie licensed code.

The NGO is aware that its decision is likely to trigger a mixed response. Commenting on the OSI decision, Nelson says: "[Microsoft's] motives have been called into question during the approval discussions. How can they be attacking Open Source projects on one hand, and seeking not only to use open source methods, but use of the OSI Approved Open Source trademark?" Linux developer and former Novell employee, Tom Hanrahan, convinced his new employer Microsoft of his good intentions with this step. He regards Microsoft's Applikation for OSI approval as evidence that Microsoft really does take Open Source seriously, as he stated in his personal blog. Russ Nelson takes a philosophical view of this contradictory behavior, saying that: "it [Open Source] is both their salvation and their enemy."

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