The Free Software Foundation Europe has warned open source software developers to be wary of Microsoft Corp’s plan to license its Windows source code, maintaining that it might make it more difficult to create interoperability with Windows.
Microsoft on Wednesday announced that it will license the source code to its Windows Server operating system to developers and competitors in an effort to move beyond European Commission complaints about its documentation of communication protocol specifications.
The European arm of the Boston, Massachusetts-based free software advocacy group, which is assisting the EC in Microsoft’s appeal against antitrust remedies, fears that free software developers could become the victim of copyright infringement claims if they see the code.
This ‘commitment’ is poisoned – they do it in a way that worsens the situation for free software: because that source code is under Microsoft copyright, developers who have seen the source code cannot re-implement it in Free Software for fear of copyright violation, explained Carlo Piana, FSFE’s lawyer in a statement.
Microsoft is opposed to sharing its communications protocol specifications with open source software vendors, despite the determination of EC competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, to enable open source software developers to take advantage of the remedy.
We have explained that we are comfortable with hybrid models but we are not comfortable with open source developers publishing to the world the specifications, said Microsoft general counsel, Brad Smith on Wednesday. That has not changed.
The issue will be decided by the Court of First Instance via a separate appeal, but even if open source developers do have access to the protocols, the FSFE has raised concerns about whether the quality of the documentation will force them to refer to the source code.
How exactly are developers supposed to write interoperable software without looking at the source code if the specifications are not available? asked Georg Greve, president of FSFE. If you eat from that apple, you find yourself poisoned by their copyright.
The EC has been unhappy about the technical documentation provided by Microsoft for the communications protocols it was obligated to license to third parties. In announcing the Windows source code licensing plan, Smith said the company was trying to move beyond what he called arcane arguments about documentation accuracy. I believe we’ve already provided the kind of information mandated by the European Commission. We’ve already done what we were obligated to do, he said.