News

Microsoft's Open Spec Is Bad for GPL, Law Group Says

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), which provides legal representation "to protect and advance free and open source software," has issued an analysis of Microsoft's "Open Specification Promise" (OSP) and its compatibility with the GNU General Public License (GPL).

The SFLC's verdict is a resounding thumbs down on the prospect of Microsoft's OSP supporting the GPL. What's more, the SFLC's analysis also rejects making Microsoft's Office Open XML document format into an international standard.

The SFLC's analysis is provided in a document issued on March 12 called "Microsoft's Open Specification Promise: No Assurance for GPL."

Essentially, the SFLC argues that Microsoft's OSP statement is inconsistent with the GNU GPL. The point appears to center on a basic GPL principle that "using the GNU GPL will require that all the released improved versions be free software," according to a GNU FAQ describing the license.

The SFLC finds fault with the following statement in Microsoft's OSP: "New versions of previously covered specifications will be separately considered for addition to the list."
In the SFLC's view, that means that "every time a specification changes, Microsoft can effectively revoke the OSP as it had applied to previous versions of that same specification."

The conclusion of the SFLC is that "the OSP provides no assurance to GPL developers." They also add that "it is unsafe to rely upon the OSP for any free software implementation."

One response to the SFLC's views came from Gray Knowlton, group product manager for the Microsoft Office system. In his Gray Matter blog, he pointed to Microsoft's OSP FAQ, which states that the OSP is intended to apply to open source developers.

The OSP FAQ also provides Microsoft's response to the question about how the OSP applies to the GPL. However, that FAQ simply advises people to get a legal interpretation of the GPL. Gray echoes the FAQ's response, stating that "The FAQ cited just states what everyone knows and acknowledges, the GPL is a copyright license that is drafted in a way that leaves many issues (not just those related to patent rights) open to many interpretations."

Gray makes a point that IBM and Sun Microsystems have similar legal policies for open source solutions, using language similar to Microsoft's OSP. However, open source author Bruce Perens responds to Gray's point in the blog, saying, "The reason that GPL developers find it legally possible to work with Sun and IBM is that both companies have contributed directly to the development of GPL and LGPL code implementing the same standards that their covenants cover."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

Featured

  • Skype Room Systems Rebranded as 'Microsoft Teams Rooms'

    Microsoft on Wednesday announced the rebranding of its Skype Room Systems product line of partner-built videoconferencing and meeting room devices, which are now called "Microsoft Teams Rooms."

  • Intel's 'Cascade Lake' Datacenter Chips Tackle AI Inference

    Amid all the flash of this month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there was an unlikely datacenter announcement: Intel is now shipping its new Xeon Scalable CPU.

  • Azure DevOps Server 2019 Now at Release Candidate 2

    Microsoft released Azure DevOps Server 2019 Release Candidate 2 (RC2), according to a Tuesday announcement.

  • Cloud IT Infrastructure Spending Starting To Take the Lead

    IDC this month published findings on revenues from cloud IT infrastructure spending in the third quarter of 2018, based on server, storage and Ethernet switch sales.

comments powered by Disqus
Most   Popular

Office 365 Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.