Microsoft licensing denounced by open-source proponents

Legal tussle on tap as court reviews the success of MCPP

Five years after being pegged a monopolist, Microsoft is coming under scrutiny for efforts to license its proprietary technology in accordance with antitrust legal demands from U.S. and European regulators.

The Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP) was envisioned as a way to encourage competition and promote interoperability between Microsoft's products and Unix, Linux and open source applications. Whether the licensing program has worked as planned is a topic of hot debate, and the U.S. District Court in Washington plans to take up the subject for review on Sept 11.

Microsoft is calling the licensing program a success, with more than 40 companies, most undisclosed, licensing more than 200 Microsoft protocols for server, storage and security services. But six states and many open source advocates are deeming the MCPP licensing effort a failure in terms of promoting competition and interoperability.

"MCPP licenses are simply not a viable option for suppliers of open source products -- the principal alternative to Microsoft in the server market," states California's assistant attorney general Kathleen Foote in an Aug. 30 legal filing the state made on behalf of California and five other states calling themselves the California Group. "These companies cannot utilize MCPP licenses because of their royalty provisions and other restrictions on the use of intellectual property."

That view is echoed by open source advocate Jeremy Allison, lead software developer at SAMBA, the open source project that provides freely available code used for interoperability between Linux/Unix servers and Windows-based clients.

"We read the license," says Allison about MCPP. "It's impossible to release open source implementations of the product. You have to keep it secret. This defeats the whole idea of open source."

Allison says MCCP simply "gives Microsoft a good control point" and "the licensing is a failure in terms of what regulators want it to do."

For its part, Microsoft says SAMBA and others have reverse-engineered some Microsoft code rather than join the program(Allison calls it network analysis, not reverse engineering).

"They have chosen not to participate," says Craig Shanks, general manager of Microsoft's protocol program, about SAMBA. "The reverse engineering route is up to them. That's a decision vendors might make."

Still, Microsoft hopes SAMBA and other open source advocates will join MCPP. One goal of the program, in which licensed developers gain access to Microsoft source code, is to slow down the reverse-engineering trend.

Meanwhile, Microsoft last December started augmenting MCPP, which began in 2003, with so-called "plugfests" that invite licensees to its Redmond campus and give them the opportunity to work one-on-one in the Microsoft Interoperability Lab to test Microsoft protocols.

However, only 10 companies have shown up, according to Darryl Welch, Microsoft program manger. The next plugfest coming up in mid-September will focus on the security topics of authentication and certification services. Microsoft's MCPP sometimes offers access to upcoming as well as established technologies, Welch points out, and is a way to properly implement Microsoft protocols related to security and network-attached storage.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?