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Early comment on new Microsoft Shared Source Licenses

By the Free Software Foundation Europe's own admission, it doesn't get the chance to congratulate Microsoft very often. Of the five 'shared source' licences recently published by the company, a preliminary inspection by the FSFE indicates that both the 'Microsoft Permissive Licence' and the 'Microsoft Community Licence' may well be free software licences.

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"Since we so rarely have opportunity to say something positive about Microsoft,
let me begin by congratulating them", says Georg Greve, president of Free
Software Foundation Europe. "Microsoft finally seems to have made a step forward
on their long march towards giving their users freedom: of the five licenses
published, our cursory first analysis suggests that two of them indeed fulfill
the Free Software Definition."

According to FSFEs first glance, the "Microsoft Permissive License" (Ms-PL) and
"Microsoft Community License" (Ms-CL) both appear to satisfy the four freedoms
that define Free Software. In particular: The Ms-CL also appears to implement a
variation of the Copyleft idea, which was first implemented by the GNU General
Public License (GPL).

Given previous Microsoft statements about the Copyleft approach and in
particular the GNU GPL as 'viral', 'cancerous' and 'communist', seeing Microsoft
now publish licenses applying the very same principles seems quite an evolution.

Naturally, it is not the publication of licenses, but the publication of
software under a Free Software license, that gives people freedom:

It is indeed not very useful if every company, administration or author
publishes their own license; so it would have been preferrable if Microsoft had
made the decision to use the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Lesser General
Public License (LGPL) for its Shared Source program.

Far more than 50% of Free Software worldwide is published under these licenses,
they are very well-known and people trust them for good reason.

"Microsoft has walked a mile and is now standing mere inches from the GNU
(L)GPL: We fully understand that Microsoft is first trying to get the nail of
its little toe wet in the Free Software community, and we welcome that,"
continues Greve. "But in the course of time we would prefer to see Microsoft
join the large global community of commercial GNU (L)GPL vendors."

"For now it will be good if Microsoft starts relicensing its portfolio under the
Ms-PL or Ms-CL; but we still have to warn people to be careful about the 'Shared
Source' label and look at the specific licenses: The other three licenses of the
Shared Source program are clearly proprietary and obviously do not qualify as
Free Software." Greve finishes.

The Free Software Foundations will need more time to study all these licenses
and their interactions with other licenses in depth, so this is not a final
evaluation -- and the final evaluation may as well reveal problems that were not
visible at first sight.

Microsoft still has a long way to go, but for now it seems they made a step in
the right direction, and the Free Software Foundation Europe hopes they will
keep it up.

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), founded 2001, is a charitable
non-governmental organisation dedicated to all aspects of Free Software in
Europe. Access to software determines who may participate in a digital society.
The the Freedoms to use, copy, modify and redistribute software - as described
in the Free Software definition - allow equal participation in the information
age. Creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software politically and
legally, and giving people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software
are central issues of the FSFE.

Further information about FSFE's work can be found at
http://fsfeurope.org, get active yourself at
http://fsfeurope.org/contribute/.

For more information contact Georg Greve of The Free Software Foundation Europe



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