OSI Certifies Microsoft Open Source Licenses


By: Ross Mayfield | 2007-10-17

OSI made an expected move Monday, approving the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL).

Taking the Web into our own hands, one computer at a time

Michael Tiemann noted that Microsoft followed the process, the discussion on the whole was constructive and the licenses satisfied the 10 criteria of the Open Source Definition.

Microsoft should be commended for participation and engagement with the community. Matt Asay notes this is within a finite scope:

I never doubted that these would be approved, but am glad to see the studied manner in which the process was (mostly) carried out. To me, this shows Microsoft the correct way to engage in open source: through the front door, rather than through back-door patent FUD...

In short, Microsoft played by open source's rules on this one and so was treated as a full open-source participant. In other contexts, with different behavior, Microsoft will be treated much differently.
The 451 Group highlights that the licenses passes the current test, but OSI is a position to evolve as conditions change:

"If, as some fear, the approval of these licenses ends up damaging open source, perhaps we will learn of some 11th condition or some change to the 10 that must be made to better preserve the integrity of what we call open source," he [Tiemann] writes.

"Neither the First Amendment alone, nor the original 10 Amendments known as the Bill Of Rights were sufficient to establish a government truly of the people, by the people, for the people (and some would say we still have a ways to go), so why should we expect that after less than 10 years, the OSD will contain everything there is to know about promoting and protecting open source?"

For now though it's all eyes on Microsoft to see what the company will do next, and in many ways this will be more interesting than whether or not the OSI approved the licenses. For reasons that were never fully explained, Microsoft wanted open source licenses.

Now that it's got them, will it use them to release significant code to the community?

Good question. Now that they are, in part, playing by the rules, lets give them a chance to play the game.

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About the Author: Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield's Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.