Microsoft Reaffirms Open Specification Promise

Lora Bentley

The Software Freedom Law Center is not the first open source advocate to be skeptical of Microsoft's Open Specification Promise, but it may be one of the most prominent. Last week, SFLC published an analysis detailing why the OSP isn't as open as Microsoft says it is.


ZDNet Australia reports:

The SFLC concluded that the patent protections only apply to current versions of the specifications; future versions could not be covered...Also, software developers who write code based on a Microsoft-derived specification, such as Open XML, could be limited in how that code is used...Finally, the SFLC said that OSP-covered specifications are not compatible with the General Public License.

Microsoft, of course, doesn't agree.


Product manager Gray Knowlton responded to the SFLC's analysis one point at a time.


First, he noted that although the OSP currently applies only to listed specs, "we have already committed to extending it to ISO/IEC DIS 29500 when it is approved in our filing with ISO/IEC." Moreover, new specs can be added to the list as needed.


Second, the OSP does apply to code. As Knowlton put it:

The OSP is a promise to not assert patents that are necessarily infringed by implementations of covered specifications.

Finally, he says that the OSP is not incompatible with the GPL:

As far as we are concerned, we are happy to extend the OSP to implementers who distribute their code under any copyright license including the GPL.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 25, 2008 5:40 AM Terry Lechecul Terry Lechecul  says:
I asked our legal dept. what they thought about the dangers of the OSP to myself and other open source developers at our company. They told us before the SFLC answered that they wouldnt even recommend looking under the hood (even if that's the only thing we can do).Between our lawyers, the SFLC and Microsoft, who do you think we will believe?Its irritating that every so called olive branch by Microsoft is always tainted with their own little twist which is always just enough not to work with others. When youve been bitten a half dozen times by the wolf, you dont offer him you exposed underbelly when he says he wants to talk. Reply

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