OSI email group gets catty over Microsoft's Permissive License request

In what should come as no surprise, it looks like the discussion surrounding the Microsoft OSI submissions are getting a little cantankerous. From the article:

Another community member, Donovan Hawkins, doesn’t like the MS-PL’s requirement to keep its code separate from any other code licensed differently. “I can think of cases where I made MAJOR changes to some open-source function to use in a project,” he writes. “What sort of Frankenlicense would apply to that function if I wished to release my changes under GPL but the original was MPL or MSPL? Every other line of code under a different license?”

Things got really interesting when Chris DiBona, longtime OSI member, open source advocate, and open source programs manager for Google, Inc. chimed in:

I would like to ask what might be perceived as a diversion and maybe even a mean spirited one. 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?

That query got the attention of heretofore silent Bill Hilf, Microsoft’s general manager of platform strategy. “I’m unclear how some of your questions are related to our license submissions, which is what I believe this list and the submission process are designed to facilitate,” Hilf wrote. “You’re questioning things such as Microsoft’s marketing terms, press quotes, where we put licenses on our web site, and how we work with OEMs – none of which I could find at http://opensource.org/docs/osd. If you’d like to discuss this, I’d be happy to – and I have a number of questions for you about Google’s use of and intentions with open source software as well. But this is unrelated to the OSD compliance of a license, so I will do this off-list and preferably face to face or over the phone.”


Hilf went on to say that one of the reasons Microsoft coined the term “Shared Source” was “to acknowledge that these licenses had not been approved by the OSI, and some of our Shared Source licenses will not be submitted to the OSI.” But, Hilf wrote, “I’m open to make this more distinguishable on where/how we post the [licenses] on the Web site, if it’s important to the community.”

I’d guess this is going to get even more heated from here. The OSI may end up stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. On the one side, it’s easy to argue that the entity submitting an entry should not even come into play and that a license should be approved or disapproved solely on its merit. On the other hand, some people reason that approving a license from an entity whom it’s perceived is out to harm Open Source is enabling them to do so, and therefor should not be done. That may be a slippery slope to walk on though. We certainly don’t want Open Source to become “whatever the OSI wants”, but at the same time we do need to trust the OSI to steward the Open Source label in the way they see fit. That is going to get interesting…

You can view the entire discussion here.


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