Microsoft, Open Source and the software ecosystem: of predators and prey—the leopard can change its spots

Kuehnel Fitchen, Kathrin (2008) Microsoft, Open Source and the software ecosystem: of predators and prey—the leopard can change its spots. Information & Communications Technology Law, 17 (2). pp. 107-124. ISSN 1360-0834

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Over the past few years, Microsoft has promoted a project called ‘Shared Source Initiative’, which allows certain customers (e.g., research institutions and independent software vendors) access to its source code on a restricted basis. As part of this initiative, Microsoft introduced some licences that appear to give unrestricted access to source code and closely resemble ‘traditional’ Open Source licences. In July 2007, two of these ‘shared source’ licenses (the Microsoft Community Licence and the Microsoft Permissive Licence) were submitted to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and subsequently approved by the OSI as certified Open Source licences. Thus Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative and its partial embrace of Open Source appear to be a significant step towards closing the ideological rift between developers of proprietary software and the Free/Open Source software movement, and more than just another attempt to appease consumers and/or critics in terms of software transparency. By analysing the ‘evolution’ of Microsoft's Shared Source licences, this article aims to shed some light on the question what is needed for a ‘predator’ (i.e., proprietary, software developer) such as Microsoft to become ‘prey’ (i.e., be part of the Open Source community). This article concludes that, although Microsoft's efforts are to be lauded, it is highly unlikely that the company will embrace fully the Open Source philosophy in the near future.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M200 Law by Topic
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2013 13:55
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2019 00:33

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