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Microsoft 'Shared Source' Attempts to Hijack FOSS 381

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 Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:32AM (#23377910) Journal
    In both of the examples I mentioned here, there was no attempt to shade or hide the truth. And in both cases, we were truly dealing with open source software.

    So, two companies, neither of which is Microsoft, released supposedly "open source" software that is, in fact, completely open source? I'm missing where the "hijack" and "confusion" come in.

  • How is this any different than what GPL did to BSD? Show up, act like you invented the term "free software", impose a bunch of draconian restrictions that didn't used to exist and loudly tell everyone that your choice of strictures does good for the community?

    Preparing for inappropriate troll and flamebait mods. It's still a legitimate question.
  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:44AM (#23378040)

    Microsoft and Open Source are antithetical. Nobody with an ounce of common sense can have anything to do with them and not understand that there are going to be strings attached.

    Tune out what they say. Focus on what they are and what they do. Structure your involvement with them accordingly. End of story.

  • by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:49AM (#23378114) Homepage Journal
    And on another tack - I wonder if MS would incorporate any positive changes you would make to their source code.

    And if they incorporate it, would they automatically own it, hence not needing to pay you for it?

    Not only are we M$'s beta testers, we are now their bug fixers.

    Sounds fishy - but that is just me playing the paranoia card...
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:57AM (#23378226) Journal

    Rising to the bait, GPL's restrictions act to restrict the current user in order to the benefit the community.
    So, can you explain to me how the community has benefited from the FSF having to rewrite a PDF framework from scratch because the existing ones (Poppler and friends) are all based on xpdf, which is GPLv2-only, which is incompatible with GPLv3 and, more importantly, LGPLv3, preventing any project from using Poppler and any LGPL'd libraries that upgraded to the latest version?
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:59AM (#23378268) Homepage Journal
    Yes. The GPL adds restrictions that protect software freedom and innovation. They benefit the author and all licensees, not just the author. Shared Source only benefits the author -- i.e., it exists to keep people locked in to the Windows OS and the Office office suite. The GPL benefits everyone by keeping the source code open and preventing third parties from keeping their innovations secret from everyone else.

    OTOH, BSD people typically argue that their license is more "open" because it adds no restricttions and allows licensees to produce closed source products from the open source tool. This is true to a point; however the BSD license also allows third parties to grab the source, add some stuff to create vendor lock-in, and then release the result as closed software. Some of us see this as preventing innovation from flowing back to the community by allowing people to take but not give back.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:12AM (#23378434)
    Without arguing about your point, how many people that are willing to take and close BSD are going to end up willing to use and contribute back to GPL?

    There is probably some intersection, but the existence of BSD options is going to keep that intersection pretty small. So in the end, the GPL probably does more to limit lock-in use of the code (which is fine, I think an author has every right to do such a thing) than in does to encourage flow-back of innovation from selfish borrowers.
  • by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:24AM (#23378612)
    It is not about belief, it is about Anti-competitive behavior.

    M$ has bought off Novell, and plans much worse than what we
    are seeing here.

    This is just the tip of the Iceberg. []

    An old Adage, Evil is as Evil does.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:24AM (#23378618) Homepage Journal

    how many people that are willing to take and close BSD are going to end up willing to use and contribute back to GPL?
    That's the whole point. We don't want those people. If you're not willing to share and share alike, you just need to go away and bother somebody else because we don't want to even deal with you.

    That being said, when I use the term 'we', understand that I'm a realist and I realize that some kinds of software are best released under either an LGPL or BSD-like lioense. Mostly this is when you want to reach the widest audience possible; this is usually the same motivation that BSD authors have.

  • Re:Auditable source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yetihehe ( 971185 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:40AM (#23378854)
    Most of this confusion is about difference in free=free as in beer || free as in speech. In polish we have separate words like "wolne" for free as in speech and "darmowe" for free as in beer. But we have other problem, because "wolne" also means "slow" so "wolne oprogramowanie" means "free programs" and "slow programs". This is not helping very much. I see only one solution: invent new word for free as in speech (both in english and polish).
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:44AM (#23378928) Homepage Journal
    But it's not closed. I propose a scale:
    1. Public domain (or legal equivalent)
    2. Open source
    3. Free source
    4. Visible source
    5. Closed source
    Optionally bundle Free/Open together.
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KutuluWare ( 791333 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:18PM (#23379464) Homepage
    I think we are running into the same problem with "closed" that we have run into with "free" for years now. The word is typically used because it is the opposite of open, but both words have a number of subtly different meanings, and every definition of "open" is not the exact opposite of every definition of "closed".

    Closed can mean "not allowing access", which covered most proprietary software where the source code is completely hidden from everyone except the copyright holders.

    Closed can also mean "not open to the general public", which covers the type of traditional source-code licenses being referenced in the GPP. In this case, there are some people who have access to the code, it's just not publically visible.

    There's a third definition of closed, that of "requirement memebership", usually in the sense of a closed union shop or a closed industry trade group. This is very roughly the sense of closed that applies to the some of the shared source licenses, in that the code is open to the public only in the sense that anyone willing to follow all of the "membership requirements" is allowed to use it.

    Of course, arguably any license fits into that third category, so the difference between open and closed then falls onto how open or closed those individual requirements are. For example, the limiting of access of derived software to only running on Windows is more closed than allowing derived software to run on any platform.

    The FSF has taken to using the term "libre" instead of "free" because it has the explicit connotation of freedom by lack of restructions. There must be terms that are less ambiguous than "closed" that are also appropriate. A poster lower down suggested Visible, which is better but still doesn't distinguish the various degrees to which a company can make its source visible. Unfortunately I like the word "shared" in certain senses but not in others. It has the implications of being available for others to look at, but still being completely owned and controlled by the copyright holder.


    * Public Domain - Or legal equivalent
    * Open Source - Open with minimal restrictions (BSD)
    * Free Source - Open but with restrictions (GPL)
    * Shared Source? Illustrative Source? Read-Only Source? This is where I get stuck. Code that anyone can see but cannot use.
    * Restricted Source - Available under severe restrictions (confidentiality etc.)
    * Closed Source - Fully hidden from all but copyright owner
  • Irrelevant (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:23PM (#23379510)
    Who cares what the proprietrary Microsoft/Apple beasts do? - as long as it doesn't impact real open source software.
    Personally, I wouldn't look at a single line of Microsoft written code, so as not to 'taint' any open source project I work on with anything that could be claimed to be microsoft 'Imaginary Property'
    Microsoft have missed the point here anyway.
    The whole strength of Open Source, is the right/responsibilty to redistribute enhancements. I can't see 'shared source' type licenses benefiting anyone - at all.
    At the end of the day, we already have most of the open source applications / operating systems that most users need. As long as we make things easy enough to use for ordinary users, and maintain current development momentum, the Microsoft/Apple beast will eventually fade to irrelevance.
  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:30PM (#23379564) Homepage
    use of "open source" needs to be stopped - period - for two reasons:

    1) this example license falls into the category of "open source":

        "here's some source code. you can look at it. therefore it's 'open'. isn't it pretty. if you use it or anything you learn from it, we'll sue you for everything you've got. please indicate your acceptance."

    "open source" licenses do not convey the right to make any use of the code. encouraging companies to get away with this by "opening" the source code is clearly not ok, and i would advocate that anyone faced with such a license simply not do business with such a company: the code should be "free software" or you walk away. this sends a clear message.

    2) "open source" in military intelligence communities has a very very specific meaning: it means "a source that is open". i.e. "a source - of information - that is uncontrolled". i.e. a source - e.g. a leak - which is beyond the control of an intelligence agency to stop further information from leaking out of it.

    so an "open source" is a nightmare for intelligence communities that has to be shut down at all costs.

    therefore, to use the phrase "open source" in a military environment when referring to "source code of computer programs" has nasty connotations associated with it that rings massive alarm bells.

    in all, the sooner that people stop using the phrase "open source" and correct people - repeatedly - to use the phrase "free software" the better.
  • by Trerro ( 711448 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:31PM (#23379584)
    There's no question that MS is doing this specifically to confuse - especially with their "lesser" license which does precisely the opposite of what the LGPL does relative to the GPL - it locks you down more instead of less. They absolutely should be called out on that, and it's not unreasonable to demand that they make it clear exactly what they're doing.

    That being said, I really don't see the problem with that proposed scale. Public domain DOES in fact give you more freedom than open source (whether that's a good thing, and if so, when, is of course the source of a many a debate), and there are indeed levels between open and closed. Allowing your code to be viewed and audited is clearly better than purely closed source, and it means that if you claim your code is solid, you better be prepared to answer to the many coders who will confirm that.

    I'm not claiming auditable (but not modifiable) code is a substitute for open source - it most definitely is not, but it does have its place, and it's clearly an improvement from running a binary with no idea of how the codebase was done.
  • Re:Auditable source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:50PM (#23379880) Homepage Journal

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

    No, they do not.

    Your confusion perhaps stems from the fact that their small logos make it look like they have a trademark on the term Open Source. Whether this is deliberate or not, it's hard to say; if assembled by a competent designer, then if it is not meant to indicate such, it is an error; otherwise, it is a sign of incompetence in design (which is OKAY - I mean, there's a reason why people with money spend lots of it on a logo.)

    The OSI originally submitted or intended to submit (I have not researched the details at this time, but if you look around in the comments to this story you can find discussion of it) a trademark application on the term "Open Source" but withdrew it on the advice of legal counsel or something. They now feel (as far as I can tell from public comments - I am not qualified nor am I authorized to speak for the individuals in question) that it was a mistake not to go through with the application.

    Of course, it's easy to say that today, when they are catching so much fire for not having that trademark - but that is in turn a direct result of their stated intent to "crack down []" on "misuse" of the term "Open Source", and the continued fallout from that and other such non-events, like the story which we are currently discussing (or whose discussion, at least, we are contributing to in a peripheral sort of way. We're not so much discussing the article as discussing its irrelevance, but whatever.)

    The simple truth is that the OSI has no inherent right to enforce any particular meaning of the phrase "Open Source". If they should file for and be awarded a trademark on the term, then they will have a legal right to redefine the term, which unless challenged will effectively settle the issue - at least in the country or countries where the trademark is awarded and/or recognized. Even if that happens, however, it will still not change the fact that the OSI would be redefining the term Open Source! There is simply no way around that! The word Open had a clear meaning within the computing community before the phrase "Open Source" did, and that meaning was interoperable (and to some extent, transparent - meaning at least that they conformed to some kind of published standard, even if it was one the authors/distributors published themselves and which no one else was interested in.)

    It follows that the original meaning of the phrase "Open Source" was based on this understanding of the word "Open" which was well-established by the time anyone ever uttered the words together. See this journal entry [] for my so-far earliest citation; I occasionally seek others, but so far this one has been sufficiently uncontested to continue to be useful. :)

    OSI's claim that the meaning of "Open Source" is "compliant with OSI standards" is pure rubbish. The use of the term predates Perens' creation (in 1997) of the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG), a work whose impact should not be underestimated or dismissed but which nonetheless has no bearing on the already-established meaning of the term "Open Source" (as evinced by Caldera's use of the term in its correct modern connotation in 1996.)

    Fortunately, not every member of the computing community is as confused on this subject. Of course, the meaning of the term "Free Software" would seem to be a similar situation, but in actuality the situation is different if only because of the convention that where there is the potential for confusion, a distinction will be drawn between types of freedom - notably, Free as in beer or Free as in speech.

    Anyway, w

  • Re:License confusion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by onefriedrice ( 1171917 ) on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:02PM (#23380104)
    Yeah, that's why I stick with BSD/MIT. I understand and respect what the GPL tries to accomplish, but if you can't even mix and match GPL licenses with themselves, how is trying to incorporate GPL code in a mixed-license environment not going to cause massive headaches. The truth is, it does. Furthermore, I like how the BSD/MIT license is understandable by mere mortals and is short enough to include completely within source code headers.

    But the most important reason to prefer BSD/MIT over the GPL is freedom from restrictions. The GPL attempts to preserve freedom by incorporating restrictions, which is fine in theory, but it includes real limitations of usage in common practice, such as the incompatibility problem we're discussing. In theory, I should be able to do whatever I want with GPL code as long as it remains free; In practice, I can't, and that's the problem. Fortunately, BSD/MIT carries not such limitations.

    Oops, my post doesn't seem to enshrine the GPL as a license embodying perfection. Bye bye karma.
  • Proper Nouns are not pronouns
    Open is not open.
    Bath is not bath.
    China is not china.
    Apple is not apple.
    Mobile is not mobile.
    Windows is not windows.
    US ain't us, but is should be US not U$/M$/eU....

    "Open" should be an internationally protected market/economic trademark like Champaign, Cognac ....

    "Open" provides significant international market/product value that is being fraudulently used by companies (like microsoft) to damage the market value of "Open". L/FOSS companies need "Open" to be competitive and differentiate L/FOSS services, methods, standards, products ... from the corporatism profiteers' drive-by sales of SOSS (Same Old Shit Software) in the USA and EU pseudo-capitalism economy.

    "Open" needs to be legally protected in the global market just like Sun_sun_SUN, Java_java_Java, Windows_windows....

    IOW: To use the market trademark "Open" specific standards must be meet ... like ... source is freely editable, shareable, and available ..., just read about GPL and BSD licenses, then by consensus define how/when/... the trademark "Open" can be used. "Open" defines many varied source purposes, concepts, applying to software code, personal creative content, standards, patents, community structures, collaborations .... If this is not done, I am sure that the corporatist/plutocrats of pseudo-capitalism will bury the L/FOSS community and any other "Open" markets/sectors (Standards, Content, Music ...) in this anti-competitive corporate-welfare economy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @02:22PM (#23381410)
    Trademarking the word "Open"? Even in the context of software only... Good luck with that.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @04:47PM (#23383656) Homepage
    Traditionally, since only lawyers are allowed to practice law and give legal advice, Internet Lawyers say "IANAL". In your case, however, I would add "AIAC" (And I Am Clueless), cuz, well, cuz you are. Trademarks are established (in the US) by use, not by registration. I can sue you for trademark infringement if you start selling software under the name Crynwr even though I've never registered the name.

    Any doubt as to whether the OSI owns Open Source? I thought not.

  • Before you accuse other folks on Slashdot of being ignorant, it is a trademark. It is not a registered trademark. This is (IMO) due to a lawyer suggesting that they abandon the mark when they could have gone through with the registration. The lawyer blames me for the way I filed the initial registration, but OSI had no lawyers when it started, and no money, and the other two registrations I filed at that time went through ("Debian", and "Technocrat"). OSI also abandoned the application for "OSI Certified Open Source" too (check so they don't seem to have any valid trademarks.

    I got a trademark on "Technocrat", which is descriptive.

    Now, defending some of these marks might have taken more money than they had back then. Had they gone through with the registration, they might well have been able to defend the marks now.


  • Re:Auditable source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:04PM (#23385918) Homepage Journal
    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.

    Dispite repeated attempts to rewrite history, there was no common use of "Open Source" to refer to software before the Open Source Definition. There are a few references on the net, but they do not equal common usage. There was a term "Open Source" that referred to military intelligence information, which is still current.


It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek