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November 14th, 2014

Microsoft: GPL or GTFO

One of the issues this week that has had the FOSS press all atwitter — literally and figuratively — and has had a lot of smart FOSS people uncharacteristically swooning is the fact that Microsoft is “open sourcing” .NET and other software (For example, .NET is released under the MIT license, whatever that may be).

One subtext here, of course, regarding the misplaced euphoria by some begs the question, “Is Microsoft trustworthy?” The answer is clearly, “No. Absolutely not.” Despite the fact that Redmond has been playing nice with FOSS lately, we should not trust Microsoft any farther than former CEO and Stasi agent look-alike Steve Ballmer can throw a chair.

a microsoft person perhaps

When I hear smart FOSS people fawning over Microsoft for opening .NET, this is what I see. And we all know how that turned out.

Despite saying such nice things, I’m certainly counting on cooler heads not swallowing the entire hook, line, and sinker. Let’s remember that Microsoft is a company that arguably still has a stranglehold on the wider tech industry, though not as strong as it once was — and if it was, they certainly wouldn’t be taking this position. To FOSS’s credit, the open-source paradigm has fought its way to a position where this monopolistic behemoth is weakened enough to “reach out” as a survival ploy to work within the technical ecosystem that those in the Free/Open Source Software realm have built.

Let’s not forget — let’s never forget — Microsoft has reveled in their role as digital brownshirts since one of their many ill-conceived, all-conquering goals was to strangle FOSS and Linux in its proverbial cradle. It continues to this day, and for the foreseeable future, in patent shakedowns and insistence on locked-in interfaces no one else can use, among other digital inconsistencies aimed at providing only one option: theirs.

So we’re just supposed to forget the fact that we were once considered a “cancer” by this company — letting bygones be bygones — solely because they say they “love Linux” and because they open-sourced some of their software under some obscure license?

Seriously?

To think, even remotely, that Microsoft has somehow “seen the light” and has come around to embrace FOSS and Linux is pants-wetting laughable. But for the sake of argument, let’s give them a minuscule portion of the benefit of the doubt and present this question.

So, you might ask — and even if you don’t — what can Microsoft do to earn the trust of FOSS/Linux advocates?

Three simple words: GPL or GTFO.

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

22 comments to Microsoft: GPL or GTFO

  • Great title, Larry! Sums it up very nicely.

  • Gee, what’s that line from an old story passed down from teacher to student? Oh yeah…

    “You knew I was a snake when to took me in”.

  • Gianf

    Great article and awesome title! 🙂
    Have a nice day!
    Ciao!
    Gianf:)

  • Ricardo

    Larry, I have nothing but respect for you, but really MIT is an “obscure license”? Since when (or why)?

    Opensourcing .NET *is* a good thing.

    Trusting Microsoft is not, and probably never will be.

    Cheers.

  • […] More details … Follow this link. […]

  • The MIT License is a very well known license and it’s GPL compatible, according to the FSF. They recommend Apache 2.0 or better because of “patent treachery,” however.

    Some of the code Microsoft has open sourced (but not .NET) is under the Apache 2.0 license.

    Now I’m not a Microsoft fan in any sense of the phrase, but let’s give credit where it’s due.

    But still – don’t trust them not to sue you (or worse).

  • Andrew

    > Three simple words: GPL or GTFO.

    Uhh, demanding GPL or GTFO would be as bad as it remaining proprietary. It’s not our right to make demands of others like this. Releasing it under an MIT license, which is incredibly similar to the BSD license means it really is free software.

    I’m cautiously optimistic.

    Microsoft calling Linux a “cancer” is wrong, but it’s really no different than any of the mud we’ve slung at them. It’s long past time to get over it.

  • Fred

    Stopped reading as soon as the author said “(For example, .NET is released under the MIT license, whatever that may be).”

    I can only imagine the rubbish the rest of the article contains. :/

  • junk science

    If not for the kernel, the GPL would be a footnote. Who is adopting GPLv3 beyond the core FSF projects? No one. The GPLv2 is the kernel license and not much else…the entirety of the world of open source is steadily moving off of FSF licenses. Microsoft is just reading the tealeaves

  • Eddie G.

    Bottom line? If you go to bed with dogs you will wake up with fleas. While we can applaud MS for making a move in the right direction, lets not forget it IS a move. And EVERY well played chess game?…starts with a good move! If the penultimate goal of a chess game is to “beat” the other player?…then everyone in FOSS-land who’s all starry eyed about this needs to wake up…..ASAP!!!

  • Albin

    Not sure what “distrusting” MS means, apart from striking a certain attitude with clenched fists and curled lips. Anybody who develops software under a license has to read the license and decide if compliance with its terms is acceptable or not. Google has not gone around suing or harassing developers of Android just for fun, and no special reason MS will either. If MS wanted to retain its proprietary control of .NET development it wouldn’t have done this.

  • Mike

    @junk science

    > “If not for the kernel, the GPL would be a footnote. Who is adopting GPLv3 beyond the core FSF projects? No one. The GPLv2 is the kernel license and not much else…the entirety of the world of open source is steadily moving off of FSF licenses. Microsoft is just reading the tealeaves”

    That’s a load of BS. There are tons of projects using GPL licenses (2 and 3). There are indeed powerful interests (like Microsoft) who’d rather see the GPL go away, but it isn’t going to. Every GPL’d piece of software builds upon the repository of free software that can’t be perverted by big businesses by taking it closed source, and that is a very good thing. The same cannot be said of the BSD, Apache, or MIT licenses. They simply don’t guarantee the level of FREEDOM that a GPL license does.

    I can’t believe how naive people STILL are regarding Microsoft. The real trap Microsoft is setting isn’t in the license, but rather that much of .Net is covered by Microsoft patents. That is the angle they will exploit if they are given the chance. Beware.

  • Microsoft is about making a ‘profit’ period Everything else is secondary to that and therefore is only a ‘tactic’. Eat that folks!

  • Brent R Brian

    Open Sourcing .NET … big deal … they already told their developers that HTML5 and JAVASCRIPT are the future on their OS.

  • jelabarre

    As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust but Verify”. It would be smart for Microsoft to start opening up to the opensource community, just for their *own* survival, but there are still enough control-freaks in the company bent on world domination, so they will still have to be regarded warily for some time to come.

  • Nobody of Import

    Heh… Look at the license. MIT/X11 is quite a bit lesser known. It’s an “okay” license for .NET if it weren’t for the proclivity of the licensor to sue people over “patent infringements”, especially on tenuous crap as we’re beginning to see with the dustup with Samsung over the so-called “Android Royalty Payments” scheme Microsoft’s been running a protection racket with.

    To quote Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars: “It’s a TRAP!”

    If they licensed it under the GPL, they’d have had to license the patents. Since they didn’t…you should be cautious with applauding them- unless they licensed the Patents they’re claiming on this space and I missed it. (If not, you lot saying that it’s a “good” thing need to wise up. QUICKLY.)

  • Sum Yung Gai

    @Andrew:

    “Uhh, demanding GPL or GTFO would be as bad as it remaining proprietary. It’s not our right to make demands of others like this.”

    Actually, yes, it is, if they actually want our trust. They are under no obligation to license anything under the GPL. And likewise, we’re under no obligation to give them our trust. But if they *do* want our trust, that’s what they need to do first, given their history.

    “Releasing it under an MIT license, which is incredibly similar to the BSD license means it really is free software.”

    Unfortunately, that’s not so. As others have pointed out, they can still sue people for patent infringement for using that very same BSD-licensed software. The GPLv2 had provisions to put a stop to that, and the GPLv3 strengthens those provisions. That’s why the Microsoft bosses hate the GPL so much and why they attack us.

    This is simply a veneer that the Microsoft bosses are trying to get us to accept. Those who don’t know what I’m talking about should read that classic children’s poem, “The Spider and the Fly”. That sums up Microsoft bosses very well.

    I should know. I was a Microsoftie.

    –SYG

  • @SYG…

    I was actually going to confer with you tomorrow on this very same quote. Thanks for picking it up. Great minds think alike.

    Been too long man…stuff has changed a bunch. Come on down when you have the time.