Microsoft clarifies open-source certification plans

Just two to go before the Open Source Initiative

Microsoft clarified its plans to seek open-source certification for its shared-source licenses on Wednesday, saying it will submit for approval only the two licenses that allow source code to be used on any platform.

Microsoft announced last week that it would offer its shared-source licenses, which it uses to release source code for free use, to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) for potential ratification as a legitimate method for open-source developers to share their work.

However, OSI President Michael Tiemann said in an interview published Monday that not all of Microsoft's five licenses appeared to pass the OSI's muster.

In particular, several "limited" versions of the licenses required that code or applications run only on Windows PCs. That, Tiemann said, contravened one of the OSI's fundamental tenets: that the licenses not restrict users' ability to run the code in any way.

Through a spokeswoman, Microsoft said that it only plans to submit the Microsoft Permissive License and the Microsoft Community License -- not the limited versions of those licenses nor the Microsoft Reference License, which also restricts usage to Windows PCs.

She also confirmed that Microsoft will not make any changes to the licenses before submitting them to the OSI. The organization has approved 50 open-source licenses since it was founded nine years ago, including the General Public License used by the Linux operating system, the Mozilla Public License used by the Firefox Web browser, as well as many others from non-open-source vendors, such as CA, RealNetworks and Apple.

Faced with pressure from the open-source community over a glut of licenses, the OSI has drastically cut down on new license approvals in the past several years.

But Tiemann promised a fair hearing for Microsoft and said that the application will be accepted or rejected based on the merits of the shared-source licenses themselves.

The process is expected to take three to four months. Readers who wish to read and submit comments can apply to join the OSI's License-Discuss listserv at license-discuss-subscribe@opensource.org.

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