On source licensing and Microsoft- what matters most is the conversation is happening

Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of Shared Source, has done what I hoped he'd do for some time now - to begin a direct and outreaching dialogue with anyone in the software community concerned on the topic of software intellectual property. You might not agree with Jason. You might violently object. You might think he's only half right, or even agree.

What matters most is the conversation is happening.

In his second post, provides a high-level analysis of the various source licensing approaches, and shares his thoughts from a Microsoft perspective. A couple of highlights for me:

"I think there are three core layers of source licensing. Reference (review-only grants), Permissive (attribution derivative grants), and Reciprocal (restrictive derivative grants). Each has a purpose and a time for use. In Microsoft’s work on the Shared Source Initiative, we have never limited ourselves to using only one of these models. There is beauty in diversity, and our approach to source licensing is completely in line with this thought."

Reference grants are “open” in that they give access for viewing the code, but they’re closed in that they place restrictions upon the licensee to use that code as they would an encyclopedia. They can help licensees do their work more effectively but not modify the original work. From the Microsoft perspective, this is what we have done with our core assets: Windows and Office. I argue that this is what the Linux source code is good for as well. Most Linux support contracts specify that no modifications of the source are allowed. Well in excess of 99 percent of developers who look at Linux source code will never modify it – but they will absolutely use it as a reference mechanism."

So, if you feel you have something to say to Microsoft on this matter, talk to Jason. He's open.

Update: Mike Hall posts a useful link on this topic:

"I listened to a discussion of open vs shared source given by Jason on a flight to SFO last week (here’s a link to the audio file – this is from the Software Industry Podcast site)."