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Software licenses, the letter and the spirit

Posted by kirillcool on June 6, 2007 at 6:00 PM PDT

Some of you most probably have heard about the latest round of "Microsoft against open source". It all started here when a developer of a plugin for various versions of VS.NET has decided to vent his feelings over a two-year long dispute with Microsoft over the license terms of free version of the Microsoft IDE and whether his plugin is in violation of its EULA. There's a lengthy e-mail exchange (hopefully complete and unabridged), and it's quite an interesting read. I highly recommend reading it before jumping to any conclusions.

The lead product manager of Microsoft has promptly responded here and here, and the comments are interesting as well (coming from both sides of the "fence"). And now it gets interesting.

The story was picked up by The Register, providing a highly biased and opinionated view on the subject. The plugin developer is portrayed as the ultimate victim, and Microsoft is portrayed as the ultimate villain. From here, the story was picked by the usual suspects, including SlashDot and others, making its way to JavaLobby as well.

I usually don't do this, but i have decided to copy-paste the comment i left on that Javalobby thread to my own blog. So here it is:

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Everybody applauds FSF for making a special clause in GPLv3 that was added because Microsoft has found a legal loophole allowing the deal with Novell. Microsoft didn't break the terms of GPLv2, but they're the bad guys for breaking the spirit of GPL.

This guy (allegedly technically) didn't break EULA (although he's the one that provided the correspondence, i guess Microsoft would be very quick to point the legal violation on its blog), but most certainly broke the spirit of EULA. Somehow, Microsoft is the bad guy here once again.

The end result - bad publicity for Microsoft, a lot of people suddenly aware of this guy's product (which is sold for some versions), most probably Microsoft won't go to the court (especially since the guy resides in UK), and most definitely the next EULA will have much more verbose clause regarding the limitation, alienating people along the way (anyone complaining that it takes weeks to read GPLv3? all i hear are complaints about Windows licenses and how they go on and on).

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So, what are your thoughts on this?

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