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Microsoft 'Shared Source' Attempts to Hijack FOSS 381

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-what-we-keep-saying dept.
aacc1313 writes "An article that details how Open Source is being hijacked by Microsoft and the sort via 'Shared Source' licenses and how Open Source licenses have become so much more confusing. From the article, "The confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft's 'shared source' program includes three proprietary licenses as well, whose names are similar in some ways to the open-source licenses. Thus, while the Microsoft Reciprocal License has been approved by OSI, the Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL) is not, because it allows users to modify and redistribute the software only on the Windows platform" and "The 'shared source' program was and is Microsoft's way of fighting the open source world, allowing customers to inspect Microsoft source code without giving those customers the right to modify or redistribute the code. In other words, "shared source" is not open source, and shouldn't be confused with it.""
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Microsoft 'Shared Source' Attempts to Hijack FOSS

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:39AM (#23377982)
    The best news source I've found to keep up on Microsoft's latest bullshit is Boycott Novell:

    http://www.boycottnovell.com/ [boycottnovell.com]

    It may say Novell in the title, but it's so much more. With all of the interesting news links Roy has been putting up in the last few weeks, it's beginning to look more important and better updated than most Linux news sites, and it doesn't look as horrible like a lot of the Linux news sites appear. I read Groklaw every day, and BoycottNovell comes in an easy second for the amount of information it packs.
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:00AM (#23378284) Homepage Journal
    The OSI did not invent the term "Open Source". The phrase means only that you can get and use the source code, NOT that you can redistribute works based on it. We have a name for code with licenses like that already, it's called "Free Software". For more ranting on this subject, see this journal entry I wrote on the subject [slashdot.org]. Short form: The OSI should not be allowed to define what "Open Source" means any more than McDonalds should be allowed to define what "Hamburger" means.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:06AM (#23378346) Homepage Journal

    No, the problem is that people started using the term Open Source because Free Software was 'confusing.' Open Source is supposed to mean the same thing as Free Software, but it doesn't sound like it does.

    Uh, no, you're wrong [slashdot.org]. You're not really at fault for not knowing this though; Bruce Perens' and the OSI's revisionistic attempts to rewrite computing history to make themselves more important than they really are are the source of the bad information which you have swallowed.

    Open Source means that you see the code, that's all. It doesn't even mean that everyone can see the code; Unix vendors were using the term "Open" to mean documented and thus interoperable before the OSI or even the FSG were thought of. And as you can see from the above link, Caldera used the term "Open Source" prior to the foundation (or even the first beginnings of) the OSI.

  • Re:Auditable source (Score:5, Informative)

    by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t&gmail,com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:17AM (#23378522)
    "Shared source" IS open source. The source is open. You can open it in a text editor and read it.

    But it is NOT free software.

    I'm with FSF about this one. The "open source" term made it all less clear what this whole movement is all about.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:19AM (#23378542) Homepage Journal

    Yes, you're missing something quite fundamental. The term "Open Source" is a trademark.
    NO IT IS NOT. The term "Open Source" is most certainly not a trademark. The OSI is attempting to build a case for their formerly-denied trademark application for the term "Open Source". The Open Source Marks themselves are trademarked. This is, of course, deceptive business practice - they have YOU fooled, don't they?

    This fact is more obvious when you look at the largest logos, e.g. opensource-550x475.gif [opensource.org]. In this logo you can clearly see that the TM applies to the logo, not to the words "Open Source". The smaller logos deceptively make it look like the TM applies to the whole thing (and it SORT OF does - but to the graphic representation of the phrase "Open Source", and not the phrase itself.)

    I did the research into this issue when the OSI announced its intention to "crack down" on vendors who "misuse" the term Open Source [slashdot.org]. That issue, and the comments in the slashdot story made me somewhat nauseous (and still do.) I subsequently wrote a journal entry detailing the situation [slashdot.org]. I've since exchanged comments with Bruce Perens, who defends his stance on redefining the term from what it used to be. Rather than taking responsibility for selection of an already-overloaded piece of terminology, Mr. Perens insists that he is correct and that the OSI (and by extension and some truly addled logic, the entire computing community) is the injured party here.

    In reality there is no injured party, just some geeks with an overdeveloped sense of their own importance. Arguably, that includes myself; but then, I'm trying to preserve history, not rewrite it.

  • by FreeUser (11483) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:20AM (#23378560)
    Rising to the bait, GPL's restrictions act to restrict the current user in order to the benefit the community.

    Ahem. Just a little nit to pick: the GPL does not restrict users in any way. It "restricts" (if that's the term) distributors and developers, in that it requires them to make the source code available to anyone they distribute to, upon request. Like a constitution, it enshrines the rights of users, coders, and everyone else by defining their rights and prohibiting actions taken to infringe on those rights.

    Microsoft's restrictions benefit, well, Microsoft. That is, the original developer. Not the community, not the current user. Nobody else.

    This seems like a pretty important distinction.


    You're right, it's an extremely important distinction, not unlike the distinction between your run-of-the-mill business contract and the US Constitution or the British Magna Carta.
  • by scrib (1277042) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:27AM (#23378662)
    I don't think Microsoft is providing access to source code as a way to combat FOSS, but as a way to attempt to comply with an EU antitrust ruling [bloomberg.com].

    Truly "Open Source" licenses may be part of the plan, but the real reason they are exposing source is so that developers of products that compete with MS products like Word or Excel aren't at a competitive disadvantage that could result in expensive lawsuits.

    I don't think MS is trying to be confusing (this time). I think the confusion is a side effect of a large, complex corporate entity based on closed source proprietary software trying to expose the minimum required to pass legal muster. It's not FOSS and it's not pretending to be. Do you expect something simple and concise when they mix EU law with a giant US corporation?
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yenya (12004) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:37AM (#23378822) Homepage Journal

    Short form: The OSI should not be allowed to define what "Open Source" means any more than McDonalds should be allowed to define what "Hamburger" means.
    Remind me again since when McDonald's had a trademark on the word "Hamburger". OSI has a trademark on the term "Open Source", so naturally they are allowed to define what "Open Source" means.
  • Back in the 1980s, when Richard Stallman was the only one talking about the need for "free software," no one quite knew what he was talking about.

    Back in the 1970s lots of people were talking about he need for free software, under all kinds of names. More than that, we were doing it. The movement that RMS is given credit for starting was already well under way, all across the spectrum. You had compilers (and not just on big computers, in the 8-bit worls Small-C, Tiny-Pascal and -Basic, and Forth were published in Dr Dobbs Journal), editors, shells, UNIX emulation (the Software Tools VOS on minis and mainframes, and more modest tools on micros), the free/open/whatever-you-call-it community was already huge when he published the Gnu Manifesto in 1984.

    Before the late '70s commercial closed-source software was really the exception. It wasn't even clear how much of a future there was for proprietary code, because a software package that didn't include source meant you were locked in to the operating system you got it for. A friend of mine came up with he name "Tangible Software" to describe software that wasn't proprietary and locked down to a single OS by being distributed only in compiled format, and we even used that name for our company (don't bother googling for it, it lasted less than a year and never shipped any product... we were both undergrads at Berkeley and had no time for classes AND starting up a business). Of course what happened was that this turned into a benefit for the vendors of proprietary software... they could sell you the white album over and over again.

    The point is that what actually happened is that RMS provided a focus for what a lot of people were already doing, and tried to redirect the energy of the community his way. He succeeded, in both, to a point... but the people who didn't want to be redirected found they needed a better name. "Free Software" already meant too many things to too many people, from freeware (mostly binary (not "tangible") and some of which was crippled, and soon became 'shareware') to things like BSD- and MIT- licensed code to purely public domain stuff, even before Stallman, but he sure didn't help things.

    Now we have RMS arguing that "open source" should refer to the development model (the bazaar) rather than the license, though the OSI's definition of open source is all about the license... and Microsoft trying to hijack the mindspace with "look but don't touch" licenses (also nothing new... you used to be able to get VMS source code... on microfiche). The term's under attack from both sides, and the history of the past 30 years is being rewritten (with the best of intentions, no doubt) by all sides.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:00PM (#23380052)

    I've always heard the FOSS debate having something to do with the technical merits of being able to modify and view your source code for security or customization purposes. Even if it's platform-locked, this still applies to that general principle.

    OSS is a series of development methodologies and business strategies. They result in both real technical benefits and financial and flexibility benefits. Removing the ability of the developer to lock you into a format or platform or product is one of the main benefits. A license that removes that ability has removed one of the main benefits.

    But there are shades of madness in the open source community- once Microsoft fulfills the realistic argument for why you need the source code, suddenly it's not about actually having the source code.

    People with a very superficial understanding of the benefits of OSS would think MS's shared source license provide those same benefits. This is not a coincidence. That is what MS's licenses were designed to do, provide not the most important benefits of OSS, but the benefits most understood by purchasers. It is basically marketing.

    No- it's about porting it to linux and refusing to maintain it for windows, nay- FREEDOM. It's about some sort of weird ideal defined by Stallman, whose primary argument seems to remain that he doesn't like that things cost money or that there's a software industry hustling and bustling out there that he's not qualified to participate in. Suddenly it's no longer "you need the source code to make use of the product" but it's evolved into "I deleted the wifi firmware on my laptop because it wasn't free. Now I use a wire."

    Strawman. Quote people who have actually made those arguments here and been modded up if you want this to be taken seriously.

    Since the slashdot zealot crowd has so many shades of open source mania, it doesn't matter what microsoft will do.

    In terms of licensing, MS can adopt GPLv3 for a significant amount of the code they release and then abide by the terms of that license long enough to develop a history of good behavior. That would satisfy most Slashdotters in terms of licensing and if their shared source licenses really bring the same benefits to users, why wouldn't they do this? [Note: the last comment was rhetorical.]

    At this point in your rant, you seem to go into a lot of hypothetical and inflammatory ranting. I'll address a few points deserving of it, but I'm not going to try to address your random speculation about what you assume people here on Slashdot would say in some hypothetical situation.

    My personal thought about this is that the Shared Source license is a way for Microsoft to make use of open source in some applicable categories without having their code licensed under something that is controlled by an organization of wingnuts, like the FSF.

    The Free software foundation doesn't somehow magically have any more rights to or control of GPL'd code than anyone else. The point of the GPL is to release some of the rights to users and other developers in order to provide them with benefit. MS's shared source licenses do that, just in a very, very, very limited way designed to capitalize on misunderstandings of those users. It's like motorcycle manufacturer realizing that most people think CC of displacement necessarily indicates the power of a bike and so creating a bike engine that displaces a lot of area to capitalize on that misunderstanding without bringing many of the real benefits users want.

    Thus, they could release their code under the GPL, but then Stallman will just draft a GPLv4 that says whoever uses the license needs to release the source code to Windows if they are called "Microsoft", which is basically like what the GPLv3 did to Novell.

    That is complete bullshit. First, just because Stallman writes a GPL4, doesn't mean MS would have to switch to it. Second

  • by SEMW (967629) on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:25PM (#23380454)

    To most of who know something about criminal scammers like Microsoft, one of the oldest tactics in the book is look-alike or sound-alike products. Microsoft is intentionally trying to muddy the waters this way
    Absolutely. It's so bad, they even managed to trick the Free Software Foundation's own lawyers into certifying the MS-PL (for example) as Free and compatible with the GLPv3. No doubt with your vastly better knowledge of the law you can work out just how Microsoft have so slyly accomplished this; so you'd better ring Richard Stallmann quick and tell him he's been hoodwinked!
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:5, Informative)

    by Allador (537449) on Monday May 12, 2008 @03:36PM (#23382648)

    OSI has a trademark on the term "Open Source", so naturally they are allowed to define what "Open Source" means.
    The ignorance on /. is appalling.

    From the OSI website:

    http://www.opensource.org/docs/certification_mark.html [opensource.org]

    Unfortunately, the term "open source" itself is subject to misuse, and because it's considered descriptive, it can't currently be legally protected as a trademark (which would have been our first choice).
    From that same page, they DO have a trademark, but its not on 'open source':

    Since the community needs a reliable way of knowing whether a piece of software really is open source, OSI is registering a trademark, Open Source Initiative Approved, for this purpose. If you see this mark on a piece of software, either the software really is being distributed under a license that conforms to the Open Source Definition, or the distributor is misusing the mark and thereby breaking the law.
    Please make some sort of attempt to be at least remotely factually accurate in your postings.
  • by SEMW (967629) on Monday May 12, 2008 @04:20PM (#23383224)

    Really? Can you cite this?
    A minute's thought should convince you that the only reliable source for such a claim would be the FSF's own list of licenses [fsf.org]. And sure enough, a quarter of the way down the page:

    Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL)

    This is a free software license, compatible with version 3 of the GNU GPL.
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:3, Informative)

    by Allador (537449) on Monday May 12, 2008 @04:31PM (#23383440)
    What you've linked to is NOT _the_ definition of 'open source'.

    It is how OSI defines the term 'open source' within the context of a development methodology.

    From that link:

    Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.
    OSI is a US California non-profit organization. They are not the owners of the phrase or concept of 'open source'.

    Further, by most people's common understanding of the word 'open', shared source is indeed 'open'. It may not carry an OSI approved license, and may not carry the 'Open Source Initiative Approved' trademark of theirs, but that doesnt make it any less 'open' in the common sense of the word.

    Keep in mind, the term 'open source' hugely predates the FSF and GPL, and was generally understood to mean 'source available' or 'source viewable'. It didnt go beyond that.

    Stallman and FSF came along and in large part (though of course they had conceptual precursors) invented/defined-clearly the concept of FOSS or 'libre' or free-as-in-speech kind of 'open source'.

    Mind you, MS even largely sticks with the OSI approved terminology, though it is in no way required to. They rigorously didnt use the term 'open source' until they had OSI approved licenses.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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