Breakthrough! The issue of Open Source being able to interoperate with Microsoft has arrived in the EU conciousness. The BBC is reporting that the EU Commission has sent Microsoft a warning that they aren't doing enough to comply with the sanctions imposed on them for breaking EU anti-trust laws. They paid the fine promptly, but they were also supposed to make the sofware interoperate with competitors. The followup warning alone is refreshing, after the US experience, but look at the issues highlighted:
"The European Commission said the group had failed on four counts. It was difficult for companies that wanted to licence Microsoft data protocols to get access to its documentation.
"Furthermore, companies which wanted to take out a licence would have to pay for an extensive one that also covered items they did not want.
"Another limitation was that developers of open source software, which compete with Microsoft in providing software for server computers, could not gain access to the protocols.
"But the biggest problem, said Mr Todd, was that: 'It would appear that the level of royalties applied would be unjustified.'"
So, at last, the issue is squarely on the table. Open Source software is a competitor of Microsoft, and they must take steps to assure that FOSS can interoperate with Microsoft products. There goes any strategy of isolating FOSS from the mainstream, if the EU Commission follows through.
Microsoft may face daily fines, according to Business Week's coverage:
"Based on the market tests, it doesn't seem to be working at all," said Jonathan Todd, the spokesman for the EU's antitrust office. . . .
"Todd said the EU could impose prohibitive fines of up to 5 percent of the company's annual global sales if it refused to cooperate better.
"'The commission remains patient but there are limits to the patience we are prepared to show,' Todd said. 'The ball is now in Microsoft's court and I am sure they will come back to us shortly on these issues.'"
Microsoft's statement was the usual phony-speak:
"Spokesman Jim Desler confirmed that the company had received feedback from the European Commission about its plans for licensing certain software blueprints. But he would not say what specific changes regulators had asked for.
"Desler said Microsoft was 'grateful to receive the feedback because it allows us to respond promptly and in an appropriate way.'"
Grateful? I'm sure. Actually, *I'm* grateful, but that's probably not what they meant.
I thought you might like to see the January 25, 2005 draft Microsoft Work Group Server Protocol Program License Agreement [PDF] at issue. Here's one point of view on some of the language in the license. Also, on the stiff royalties, here's an article from February in which Samba's Jeremy Allison highlights the issue, and the article says both he and FSF contacted the EU Commission about the matter:
"The co-founder of Samba, the open source file and print server software, is due to contact the European Commission (EC) in the next couple of weeks to lobby for changes to Microsoft's proposed server interoperability licence. Speaking to ZDNet UK this week, Samba co-creator Jeremy Allison launched a damning attack on the proposed licence, calling the fees that would be demanded under it 'monstrous'.
"Last week, a lawyer representing the Free Software Foundation said the licence that Microsoft proposed following last year's EU antitrust ruling is not compatible with open source software, as it requires royalty payments for every copy sold and stipulates that programs which are built using the licensed information are closed source."
So, this didn't just happen to happen, and now we know, if we feel grateful, who to thank.