January 28, 2005 12:10 PM PST

Critics: Microsoft server license snubs open source

The Free Software Foundation is lobbying the European government to reject the server license that Microsoft has proposed following the European Commission's antitrust ruling.

Microsoft's terms, says the FSF, will mean that open-source software such as the widely used Samba file and print server software, will not be included in the interoperability measures intended by the EU.

Earlier this week Microsoft said it would not appeal an EC court order to immediately implement antitrust sanctions, although it still hopes to overturn last year's antitrust ruling. To comply with the ruling, Microsoft has agreed to grant licenses to rival makers of server software to allow them to write applications that can "achieve full interoperability" with Windows client and server operating systems. This license must be granted on "reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms," according to an EU statement.

The proposed license, called the WSPP Development Agreement, requires the payment of royalties to Microsoft to grant licensees the right to use Microsoft technical documentation to implement Microsoft server protocols, according to license information on the Microsoft Web site.

But, Carlo Piana, a partner at Milan law firm Tamos Piana & Partners, which represents FSF Europe, said the agreement is not compatible with free software and that FSF is hoping the EC will ask Microsoft to revise it.

"The conditions are unreasonable and discriminate against free software--it is impossible for a product under (the General Public License) to agree to this license," said Piano. "We are trying to lobby the commission to change this."

Free software organizations cannot sign the Microsoft license, as it requires royalty payments for every copy sold and stipulates that programs which are built using the licensed information are closed source, according to Piano.

He said this will particularly affect Samba, an open-source software package that allows Windows files and printers to be shared by Unix and Linux systems.

"The agreement requires a per-copy license--any time you sell a product you must pay a royalty," said Piano. "This prevents Samba from accessing the scheme, as they have no way to control the number of copies distributed and don't know how many copies have been distributed."

If Samba is not able to license the agreement, it will be difficult for it to continue to remain interoperable with Microsoft, according to Piano. "Samba is the only alternative now for having different operating systems access Microsoft NT or 2000 servers," said Piano. "This (license) forecloses the only alternative."

Microsoft has been unable to provide a copy of the full license agreement to Builder UK, but did say that the license can be used by anyone. "The license offers the same terms to all--anybody who wants to take the license is free to do so," said a Microsoft representative.

Ingrid Marson of UK.Builder.com reported from London.

24 comments

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historical evidence
If Samba works now, and does not rely on any licensed technology from Microsoft, why can they not continue to release products in the same manner they have in the past? The group working on Samba has NEVER licensed MS technology as far as I can tell. Now that Microsoft is going to license technology Samba claims that they are being treated unfairly? I just don't get this.... If they really think they need a license, why can't they pay for it, and offer their software as a commercial upgrde for Linux? They might actually *gasp* make some money!
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
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Samba Can't License it
True, Samba has never licensed technology from MS and right now, they do not have to. But what happens when Microsoft removes SMB from Windows servers? Samba has to re-crack the protocol under the threat of lawsuit, or license the technology.

Since they give Samba away, they can't pay a royalty. And Linux can't agree to the terms because Microsoft wants closed-source licensing and Linux is GPL, which is explicitly open source.

Microsoft will get their way and eventually be able to squelch interoperability between Linux and Windows. It drives them nuts that any computer not using their software is able to talk to Windows servers.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft is the new Russia...
...they only want a closed system for *their* people. MS should be made to open up and provide free access so that commerce and information can flow freely.

Large companies should be forcing MS to open up because it hinders their ability to interoperate and move data freely about.

Capitalism is about open and free markets, but MS is stifling digital capitalism.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Link Flag
It is my understanding that---
Based upon reading the relevant sections of the -License Agreement-...

Microsoft's -Protocol License- restrictions, against 'open-source' distribution, actually DOES NOT just refer to Microsoft's APIs, or to Microsoft's own Source-code, but would also actually cover ANY original 'program-code' which could simply 'make use' of Microsoft's licensed -proprietary-protocol standards-.

So, 'Open-source' product-creators would have two choices...

1. Use Microsoft's server-protocols (for interoperability) WITHOUT A LICENSE, ...and face
possible LEGAL-ACTION for misappropriating Microsoft's 'IP'.

Or,

2. 'License' the protocols (for interoperability) and face possible LEGAL-ACTION for violating the -License Agreement-.

In other words...

This -License Agreement- could effectively BAR the distribution of ALL 'Open-Source' programs which can actually access the protocol-standards created by Microsoft.

Please note, the ENTIRE reason for the EU demand for Microsoft to 'open' their protocols, in
the first place, ...was so that Microsoft could not continue to specifically create CLOSED
proprietary-protocols as a method of STIFLING COMPETITION.
Posted by Gayle-Edwards (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Equality
I find this funny. People are saying that because OSS is free and thus cannot pay royalties then Microsoft should give away their software rights with no charge. This is for the sake of competition. Isn't that what got Microsoft in trouble, giving away IE when Netscape was charging? It all makes my head hurt.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Merit
To answer Matthew and Andrew: a company must be successfull by merit not by monopolistic pratices. That's old capitalism spirit! A company that relies on locking their costumers with something-alike-proprietary should disappear as a punishment for not competing openly. Would Microsoft won the browser war if people had access to broadband lines like now?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Monopoly
I still dispute that Microsoft ever was a monopoly. Apple have always been there, and by US courts one other major player is enough. I personally am very against companies trying to win out by legal action rather than succeeding as a business.

I agree that Microsoft was not very nice giving away IE when Netscape was selling theirs. But ultimatly IE won becuase it was better, and most people disregard that. Besides, this happens in business all the time. Look at all of those cheap DVD players that are in the market these days. Most of the time stores sell those just to get you into the store. Even supermarkets sell them now. So how is Sony, JVC, Pioneer and the others surviving? By being diverse. Netscape made that mistake and that is why they died.

Standards are a good thing. How annoying would it of been if both VHS and Beta succeeded in the consumer maket? How about if a standard was not made for CDs and DVDs? How annoyung will it be if BluRay and HDDVD both enter market with movies? Whether you like Windows or not, it isn't hard to understand that one of the OSes would of become dominant, and it just happens that Windows was the one.

I hear the much used pre-installed Windows argument all the time, but I don't think it is relevent. Even when 386s were around (and when OS2 and DrDOS were a product) it was possible to buy computers from parts or from smaller dealers who did not pre-install. And that is from Tasmania, so I am sure that Hi-Tech USA would have been the same. But people chose Microsoft to become dominant so the did.

The much used car parts anology is silly. Most car parts you can look at and understand how they work. For eample, no one puts much research into a one inch bolt. Thus patents are not relevent. However network protocols are a differnt matter.

But I might as well stop here because I have rarely seen someone change their mind over a post (I did recently with a EA story) so I probably should find other ways to waste my time.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Open Source Locked out
Cool
Posted by bigjim01 (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just a thought
You know if we all ran nothing but Microsoft products then we might as well just for go security.

I don't mean that as a put down to Microsoft, but any security adviser will tell you a Multi-platform enviroment can help protect your networks. I can imagine that people are sick of hearing about how bad Microsoft is and how great Apple and Open Source is, but all that aside do you really want to throw all your chips into one basket?

From all that I've seen and read I won't tell you that Apple or Linux/Unix is more bug free or able to defend against attack any better that Microsofts offerings. Here is what really bothers me so many people are just willing to stick with one camp or the other. I don't care whether you are a Linux, Apple, or Windows fanboy. If all your systems run one kind of software you are just opening up yourself to attack on a grand scale.

In my own opinion I believe Linux and Apple use a better security protocol than Windows, but that doesn't make them infallable. Until beter ways of programming and checking for bugs comes along all software is going to have security breaches.

There is so much out there that makes up the big picture that I believe none of us will every really see it completly. Kind of like if Microsoft went under and Apple dominated would you have the same thing all over again. How about if Linux became dominate, would some vender find away to create an open source monopoly? Would security really be any better? I know a lot of people probably are going to say yes to the security question, but know one really know and know one will unless it happens.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
These FSF guys are wrong
This is what the FSF lawyer guy said:
> "Samba is the only alternative now for having different operating systems access Microsoft NT or 2000 servers,"

First, this guy has no clue what he's talking about - probably he's misunderstood what FSF USA told him.
Non-Windows OS can access other OS in a number of ways - for example they can use WebDAV or FTP to upload and download data from Windows OS.
"Microsoft NT" - riiiight!

Secondly, this is a lie as Microsoft Services for UNIX, a free Windows Server add on, allow NFS clients such as Linux or UNIX systems, connect to a Windows-based file server.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's not confuse open standards with open source
It's open standards/protocols what the industry needs. Proprietary protocols can coexist with open protocols on the same host. There should be no downside to open source implementations of standards. The more standard protocols dominate the better it is for all.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree.
I agree with you. I won't pretend to understand the inner working of an OS, but standards usually prove to be the best way to go. Mind you not always the fastest.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
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