March 16, 2008
Re: Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise

Ben Laurie wrote:

The Software Freedom Law Centre has published an analysis of the OSP. I don’t really care whether the OSP is compatible with the GPL, but their other points are a concern for everyone relying on the OSP, whether they write free software or not.

The “analysis” tries to insinuate that since Microsoft doesn’t promise that future revisions of specifications covered by the Open Specification Promise will be automatically covered unless Microsoft is involved in developing them, that it’s not safe to rely on the OSP for current versions either. This is of course false, as the OSP is an irrevocable promise that Microsoft will never sue anyone for using any of the covered specifications (unless they sue Microsoft for using the same specification, which is a normal exception in all such non-assertion covenants).

On this point, Gray Knowlton wrote:

It is unusual for promises like the OSP to automatically include every spec or all future versions (IBM’s pledge is exactly like ours). The norm is for new versions to be added to them to be covered. In the case of Sun’s statement new versions are automatically added only when they participate in the development of the new version to the extent that the OASIS IPR rules would then obligate them to provide patent rights under the OASIS IPR Policy. None of these promises include future versions of the specifications without any qualification.

While I normally wouldn’t wade into legal debates, I writing because I’m proud of what Microsoft has enabled for the industry through the OSP, and the “analysis” leaves some very false impressions. Gray does a great job of responding in detail so I won’t do so here. Please read his response before drawing any conclusions. In particular, I believe the OSP and similar promises from other industry leaders have laid a stable foundation for the broad acceptance and adoption of the protocols underlying Information Cards, Web Services, and other important interoperable industry-wide protocols.

I see no cause for concern.

3 Responses to “Re: Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise”

  1. interoperate on 16 Mar 2008 at 7:50 pm #

    You say “I don’t really care whether the OSP is compatible with the GPL” that highlights one of the fundamental problems with your attitude.

    The GPL is the license under which a large and influential number of FOSS projects operate, including both Linux and OpenSolaris.

    Your comment therefore reflects the true sentiment of your attitude towards “important interoperable industry-wide protocols” – you don’t really care to interoperate with any other major operating system outside Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS.

  2. Mike Jones on 18 Mar 2008 at 1:55 am #

    Dear Frank,

    If you re-read my post, you’ll find that it was Ben Laurie (from Apache and Google) who said that he doesn’t care if the OSP is compatible with the GPL — not me. For the record, I care that the OSP is compatible with the GPL and I’m glad that it is.

    While you write that I don’t really care to interoperate with any major operating systems outside Windows and MacOS, the evidence on this blog is decidedly to the contrary. For instance, the first substantive post to this blog was about interoperability with Linux! See the Interoperability category for more examples of cross-platform interop and why it’s important to Microsoft and me.

    — Mike

  3. Cardspace Community Bloggers on 20 Mar 2008 at 4:46 pm #

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