Martin LaMonica at CNET:
On the company’s Shared Source Initiative Web site, Microsoft on Tuesday posted details of three new licenses. Each license is short and designed to be easy to understand and use, the software giant said.
Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative is a program to allow third parties, such as other software companies and large customers, to see portions of Microsoft source code. Viewing the code enables other companies to create closer integration with Microsoft products, such as Windows CE, or build new products based on that code.
Until now, Microsoft had more than 10 licenses, many of which are specific to products or to the type of audience, such as academics, systems integrators, software developers or government customers.
Although Microsoft does allow third-parties to view portions of its code, none of the company’s shared-source licenses is considered open-source by the Open Source Initiative. Microsoft does not intend to submit its new licenses to OSI for approval as open source, though two of them would meet OSI’s criteria, a Microsoft representative said.
In a nutshell, the three licenses are:
• Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) — The Ms-PL is the least restrictive of the Microsoft source code licenses. It allows you to view, modify, and redistribute the source code for either commercial or non-commercial purposes. Under the Ms-PL, you may change the source code and share it with others. You may also charge a licensing fee for your modified work if you wish. This license is most commonly used for developer tools, applications, and components.
• Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) — The Ms-CL is a license that is best used for collaborative development projects. This type of license is commonly referred to as a reciprocal source code license and carries specific requirements if you choose to combine Ms-CL code with your own code. The Ms-CL allows for both non-commercial and commercial modification and redistribution of licensed software and carries a per-file reciprocal term.
• Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL) — The Ms-RL is a reference-only license that allows licensees to view source code in order to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of a Microsoft technology. It does not allow for modification or redistribution. This license is used primarily for technologies such as development libraries.
More by following the link and Jason Matusow provides some background on the change as well. Also today, Microsoft made available under the Permissive License a variety of Visual Studio 2005 Starter Kits for both Web and standalone applications. Download them here.
Based on a quick read, the non-limited versions of these licenses look like they might well be able to meet with OSI approval as open source licenses. I’d urge Microsoft to go ahead and to go ahead and submit them to License-Discuss for OSI Approval, and become a full-fledged member of the open source community. They are clearly getting closer and closer to a tipping point. Let’s encourage them to go all the way! Be nice.