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Microsoft’s Server Network Protocol Documentation Available to Open-Source Developers

So… I’m reading an article last night that one of my co-workers linked me to that tells me how Samba gained legal access to Microsoft network file protocols. As I’m reading through the article my first thought is, “Interesting, I wonder how Microsoft is going to spin this one off.” And then I see:

In the deal, the PFIF gets the actual documentation. Samba or other developers can then access the documentation if they agree to the NDA and pay 10,000 euros.

Definitely far from free and open. I showed this article to another co-worker this morning and I believe he hit the nail on the head when he responded with, “Sugar coated bull if you ask me.”

3 Responses

  1. Heh yeah, sugar coated bull indeed.

    It’s one thing to provide documentation for the sake of cross platform interoperability, but it’s another to charge people a hefty fee and sign an NDA. I’m all for the exhange of information and FOSS, but the NDA nukes the free (speech) and open part of it, and paying to access the documentation nukes the other free (beer) aspect. I’m not really sure what they’ve got to hide?

    That said though, the turn around time for Samba updates in the event of a complete protocol change should be nice due to the enforced 15-day limit. I just hope it helps instead of being a ‘tarp’, but I think Samba has been doing just fine up until now without their help and NDAs. 😉 We’ll see.

  2. Remember folks, the license fee is only paid once and by PFIF. The interesting part about this license is that it can be sub-licensed to anyone (that being a free software project) for free.

    There’s even a escalation process to ensure Microsoft keeps the documentation up to date. Although, how long this process can take or how effective it remains to be seen.

    The only drawback is the lack of patent protection. Sure, go ahead implement our protocols. Oh by the way, you’re infringing on our patents. So either pay up, or shutdown or we will pummel you and your organization into complete ruins. That is of course you completely ignore that Microsoft has to reveal which patents are actually being infringed as part of the agreement.

    since this in the EU, how does using software impacted by this agreement in other countries?

    Looks like a trap, smells like a trap…wait…what am i talking about, this is Microsoft for crying out loud, it’s ALWAYS a trap.

  3. Overall this looks like a good thing. Getting *anything* out of Microsoft is worse than pulling teeth from an angry lion. Paying 10,000EU for access to the documentation is far better than having no documentation at all and having to reverse engineer how the protocols work. That’s really not a lot of money for a large organization, and if Samba pays the fee then anyone who does work for them can read the documentation. The NDA just mean you can’t reproduce or discuss the documentation .. anything you develop after reading the documentation can be GPL’ed to your hearts content.

    Also, requiring Microsoft to update the documentation within 15 days of any changes is a major win. The guys at Samba will have to test this and make sure the documentation is actually correct in the first place. Time will tell if Microsoft will stick to the agreement, but at least there is some baseline to test against now.

    As for patents, if you read further, the deal requires that Microsoft spell out and keep up-to-date the list of any patents that they believe are covered by the MLIP. So you may not be protected against patent infringement lawsuits, but you now have a list of patents you can reference to help keep yourself out of legal trouble. There won’t be any more “Linux is infringing but we can’t tell you where” lawsuits bouncing around in the EU because of this.

    So the big question is: when will this happen in the United States? 🙂

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