Open Source Hackles Raised over Microsoft's OSI Submission

Lora Bentley

Nearly a month ago, Microsoft set the tech media abuzz with word that it was submitting its shared source license to the Open Source Initiative for approval as an open source license. The Microsoft Permissive License is currently under consideration by the OSI, and opinions are certainly mixed. Members of the OSI license discussion mailing list had much to say over the weekend.


According to, Microsoft's source programs director compared the MS-PL to the new BSD License and Apache 2.0. Writer Tina Gasperson explains:

Code licensed under the MS-PL cannot be redistributed under the terms of any other license, but it can be combined with works released under the terms of other licenses, as long as those other licenses permit it.

Community member Chuck Swiger agreed that Microsoft's license was close to BSD, and others posed questions about how MS-PL code could be combined with code licensed under other terms. Google's Chris DiBona, however, took issue with OSI entertaining a license proposed by its largest and most vocal competitor. quotes him as follows:

Does this submission to the OSI mean that Microsoft will:


a) Stop using the market confusing term Shared Source b) Not place these licenses and the other, clearly non-free , non-osd licenses in the same place thus muddying the market further. c) Continue its path of spreading misinformation about the nature of open source software, especially that licensed under the GPL? d) Stop threatening with patents and oem pricing manipulation schemes to deter the use of open source software?


If not, why should the OSI approve of your efforts? That of a company who has called those who use the licenses that OSI purports to defend a communist or a cancer? Why should we see this seeking of approval as anything but yet another attack in the guise of friendliness?

To which, Gasperson notes, Microsoft's Bill Hilf promptly responded that he would be glad to discuss the issues DiBona raised in person or on the phone, but the mailing list was reserved for discussion of the license proposal itself.


Some in the blogosphere see such disdain for Microsoft's offerings simply because it's Microsoft as discrimination by the OSI -- discrimination that violates the very definition of open source. blogger Matt Asay says:

I'm still not sure, however, that it's appropriate to treat an incoming license from Microsoft any differently than one that comes from Linus Torvalds....


In short, I believe that good laws (or, in this case, good licensing terms and policies) don't look into motives. They look to actions. U.S. criminal law judges people for what they do, not what they thought of doing or even of what they wanted to do. Without an act, there is no crime.


I personally believe that it is better to engage Microsoft than to shun it.

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Aug 21, 2007 6:45 AM Open Source Guy Open Source Guy  says:
Microsoft vs. Google Ashlee Vance over at The Register wrote an article “Microsoft vs. Google the open source shame” with a detailed description of the forum wars between Chris DiBona, Google's Open Source manager, and Bill Hilf, Microsoft's Ope... Reply

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