In association with heise online

Samba pa ti

Microsoft's troubles in Europe began as early as 1993, when Novell complained that the "onerous licensing conditions" imposed on OEMs by Microsoft were pushing NetWare out of the workgroup market. Thus began a long history of litigation culminating in the 17 Sept, 2007 decision of the European Court.

The judgement came at the end of a 10 year case initiated by RealNetworks and supported by Sun Microsystems, Novell and others. Over the years each of these litigants withdrew from the case after doing deals with Microsoft worth billions of dollars, leaving the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), the Samba Team and their allies to fight the case to the finish. As Allison told Groklaw, "the copyright in Samba is spread across many, many individuals, all of whom contributed under the GNU GPL 'v2 or later', now 'v3 or later' licenses. You can't buy that. There's nothing to sell. There's no point of agreement for which to say 'Here are the rights to Samba. We'll go away'. We're in the, some would say unique, some would say unenviable position, of not being able to sell out. We can't be bought."

Much was made in the media of the Commission's insistence that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player bundled, and of the record fines imposed upon Microsoft. However the fines mean little to a company as rich as Microsoft. The most important part of the judgement was the Commission's insistence that Microsoft be forced to publish the protocols used by Windows clients and servers under "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" terms.

"Microsoft can destroy any single commercial company," Allison says. "As soon as you depend on a revenue stream Microsoft can choke it off. They can destroy you. The only reason they haven't been able to do anything to us is because we don't have a revenue stream. Linux doesn't have a revenue stream. Samba doesn't have a revenue stream. So the standard response, which is, 'Its a commercial competitor. Let's kill them off', just doesn't work. Allowing Microsoft to keep control of the protocol gives Microsoft control of the revenue stream..."

In response to the decision, the Samba team and the Software Freedom Law Center, under the auspices of Professor Eben Moglen, announced the creation of the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), a non-profit organization which has negotiated a one-off agreement with Microsoft "to receive the protocol documentation needed to fully interoperate with the Microsoft Windows workgroup server products and to make them available to Free Software projects such as Samba."

"The agreement allows the publication of the source code of the implementation of these protocols without any further restrictions. This is fully compatible with versions two and three of the GNU General Public License (GPL)." It was also announced that "no per-copy royalties are required from the PFIF, Samba developers, third party vendors or users and no acknowledgement of any patent infringement by Free Software implementations is expressed or implied in the agreement."

Next: The merging of the body parts

Print Version | Permalink:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • submit to slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • submit to reddit

  • July's Community Calendar

The H Open

The H Security

The H Developer

The H Internet Toolkit