Microsoft capitulates to the OSI, gets horse-whipped for its troubles

The community wants to tar and feather Microsoft, showing the ugliest side of the community.

I really, really don't understand this. I understand that Microsoft has a history of aggression against open source, as Chris DiBona wrote recently on the Open Source Initiative's (OSI) license-discuss e-mail list. I compete with Microsoft and have for many years. I get that Microsoft has been bad.

But discrimination is explicitly against the OSI's Open Source Definition , as Bill Hilf noted in responding to criticism from Google's Chris DiBona on the e-mail thread:

You're questioning things such as Microsoft's marketing terms, press quotes, where we put licenses on our Web site, and how we work with OEMs--none of which I could find at http://opensource.org/docs/osd. If you'd like to discuss this, I'd be happy to--and I have a number of questions for you about Google's use of and intentions with open-source software as well. But this is unrelated to the OSD compliance of a license, so I will do this off-list and preferably face-to-face or over the phone.

I understand that Microsoft may be using the OSI's license approval process to its own ends, and potentially ends that may be anti-open source. I'm still not sure, however, that it's appropriate to treat an incoming license from Microsoft any differently than one that comes from Linus Torvalds.

For similar reasons to why I don't agree with preemptive bombing of Iraq without a clear provocation, I also don't believe it's right to preempt Microsoft's engaging in the OSI license-approval process. And yes, the analogy really is apt, except that people died in the first situation and no one will die from Microsoft having a few OSI-approved licenses.

In short, I believe that good laws (or, in this case, good licensing terms and policies) don't look into motives. They look to actions. U.S. criminal law judges people for what they do, not what they thought of doing or even of what they wanted to do. Without an act, there is no crime.

I personally believe that it is better to engage Microsoft than to shun it . More importantly, I don't believe in discrimination of any kind...even of "bad people."

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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