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Microsoft’s “Irrevocable” Open Specification Promise is Hollow: SFLC

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The open source advocates at the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) are telling the open source community at large that Microsoft’s “irrevocable” Open Specification Promise (OSP) protecting open source projects from patent risk as far as its up-for-standardization OOML file format goes is hollow and can’t be relied on “for any free software implementation, whether under the GPL or another free software license.”

SFLC bases its decision on the fact that Microsoft doesn’t cover future versions of any of the specifications subject, it says, to Microsoft’s discretion on a case-by-case basis and can yank the rug out from under its promise “even to standardized specifications” simply by withdrawing from standards setting.

“While technically an irrevocable promise,” SFLC says, “in practice the OSP is good only for today.”

The SFLC is obviously trying to remake Microsoft in its own image when it complains that “The OSP will apply to implementations of the specifications, but only to the extent that such code is used to implement the specification. Any code that implements the specification may also do other things in other contexts, so in effect the OSP does not cover any actual code, only some uses of code.”

And, as SFLC points out, there are no sublicensing rights in it, nothing unusual except in SFLC’s carte blanche world. And of course the last thing SFLC wants is for the Microsoft file format to be standized by ISO.

Microsoft has suggested that open source developers – even those adhering to the GPL – can implement the specification.

According to SFLC, “It is true that a broad audience of developers could implement the specifications, but they would be unable to be certain that implementations based on the latest versions of the specifications would be safe from attack. They would also be unable to distribute their code for any type of use, as is integral to the GPL and to all free software

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