Microsoft’s new weapon against open source: stupidity

An Information Week article published last week appears to position Microsoft as trying to do something right when it comes to open source. And it positions the open source community as being not quite ready to make nice after past insults, threats, and abuse.

Speaking for myself, I am always ready to see what somebody has to say when they say they want to work with the open source community. Unfortunately, Microsoft seems to be continuing its campaign of defining open source on its own terms, terms that violate the basic principles of our community. According to the article:

For patented protocols, Microsoft said it would offer licenses on “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.” Open source developers can access the protocols for free for noncommercial use without fear of lawsuits, Microsoft said.

The Open Source Definition makes it quite clear in #6 that restrictions against commercial use violate the OSD. Thus, a free-of-cost license that prohibits commercial use is useless to open source developers. And therefore I cannot understand why anybody would think that Microsoft is doing the open source community any favors.

And yet to the uncritical eye of the media, Microsoft is comes across looking humble and generous while we look petulant and ungrateful. It is the OSI’s mission (and written into our bylaws that we are an education and advocacy organization. So let me try to do a little education and advocacy: the open source community cares about open source software, and cares especially to not pollute its good work with compromised software that violates basic open source principles. As long as Microsoft goes around making one-side claims about “working with the open source community” when such works actively disrupt our work at the core, you can expect we’re going to call them on that.