Subject: Re: [FYI] Microsoft license spurns open source
From: Seth David Schoen <>
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 14:50:07 -0700

Eric S. Raymond writes:

> Keith Bostic <>:
> >
> > 
> > Bill Gates says:
> > 
> > 	I don't know that anyone has ever asked for the source code for
> > 	Word. If they did, we would give it to them. But it's not a
> > 	typical request.
> > 
> > Who do we know that has sufficient industry status to officially
> > ask Microsoft for the source code to Word?
> > 
> > --keith
> One of the IBM higher-ups maybe.  Irving Wladewsky-Berger or Dan Frye.

Surely it's not good, in today's climate, for people to see the Word
source code:

That was a case where source code really was misappropriated, and here
the suggestion is, instead, that some company could get it from
Microsoft under an NDA.  However, many of the points Don Marti and
Eben Moglen make still seem applicable to this situation.  Don says

	the FSF will go beyond its normal legal paperwork to make sure
	that the contributor [who implements Microsoft-originated
	technologies or features] has not had contact with Microsoft's
	proprietary information.

So this is what FSF does when they suspect a developer might have, at
some point, had contact with this information illegally; how much more,
then, should they be concerned when a developer is actually bound by a
signed Microsoft NDA!

In that interview, Bill Gates says

	We do that ourselves under certain terms. Some of our source
	codes are out there and very available, like Windows CE. Some
	generally require a license, like Windows itself.

Watch out for those "certain terms".  Every programmer who views
Microsoft code under those terms is a programmer who will be at risk
in writing a free program to compete with that Microsoft program.
I'd be glad to be proven wrong by seeing what Microsoft source code
NDAs actually provide...

I don't see any reason to believe that Microsoft is dishonest about
its "shared source" program.  If a customer who can meet Microsoft's
requirements wanted to see Microsoft source code, the customer would
see it; this has been the case for years already.  The point is not
that Microsoft isn't serious about "shared source", that they would
never ever license their "crown jewels" to a business partner.  The
point is that "shared source" is not even remotely comparable to open
source and provides virtually none of the latter's benefits.

Seth David Schoen <>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5