FSF keeps pushing for Microsoft server protocols

FSF keeps pushing for Microsoft server protocols

Summary: Microsoft argues that revealing its server protocols would violate its intellectual property rights, but the Free Software Foundation Europe believes that the software giant's 'secret' information is just a messy implementation of standard technologies


The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has applied to intervene in a case Microsoft filed against the European Commission in August, claiming that the software giant is trying to protect a technology with little intrinsic value.

The FSFE is already involved in Microsoft's ongoing lawsuit, which the software giant filed in June last year to appeal against the measures imposed by the EC.

The new case that Microsoft filed in August claims that the EC's request that server protocol information can be used in open source projects violates Microsoft's intellectual-property (IP) rights.

"The distribution of source code in which the protocols are implemented would put the intellectual property that makes up the protocols in the public domain," said a Microsoft spokesperson on Friday. "There are a range of different pieces of IP in the protocols, including patents and trade secrets."

But Carlo Piana, a partner at Milan law firm Tamos Piana & Partners, which represents the FSFE, said on Thursday that Microsoft is trying to protect a technology that has little intrinsic value.

"For the secret stuff Microsoft is claiming, the value of this technology is yet to be assessed. Most of what you have [in the server protocols] is an implementation of standard technologies like LDAP, SMB and Kerberos. They have made a mess of it, but that's not necessarily a technological value," said Piana.

Piana compared the value of the information in the server protocols to the value of a key, claiming that the information is merely being used to prevent other firms, such as Samba, from creating systems that can access the information in a Windows server.

"[The server protocols] are just a key Microsoft have hidden under a brick. Of course the key is valuable because it unlocks the door to the loot, but the key has very little value on its own," he said.

Jeremy Allison the co-founder of Samba, the open source file and print server software, said in an interview earlier this year that Samba finds it difficult to maintain interoperability with Windows servers due to frequent changes that Microsoft makes to the protocols.

"They make changes to the protocol all the time," he said. "It is usually some new wrinkle placed on top of things we already have working."

Piana also said that Microsoft's statement that any implementation of the server interoperability information will infringe the software giant's intellectual property was "too general".

"We don't disagree that this might happen, but it must be assessed on a per case basis — you must assess if it is true for each component of the technology," said Piana.

Piana added that a balance must be struck between Microsoft's interest in protecting its IP and the European Commission's interest in promoting competition.

"Even if there are parts of Microsoft's intellectual property that are revealed to the public, it could be reasonable, if you consider the damage that its anti-competitive behaviour is causing and could cause in the future to the market," said Piana. "Microsoft cannot say that just because it is suffering some damage, no steps can be taken."

The Microsoft spokesperson was unable to comment on the FSFE's claims.

The European Commission conducted a market test of Microsoft's server interoperability licence over the summer to evaluate the "innovative character of the protocols" and check whether the royalties Microsoft proposes to charge are "reasonable". On Thursday it was still analysing the results of the market test, according to an EC spokesman.

The original antitrust ruling also asked Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without its bundled media player, but PC vendors still have no plans to sell this the altered version of Windows, almost six months after it was released.

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • Tomorrow Mr. Piana will request to make source code of all .net applications available openly just because they are implementation of standard .net technology, and then c++...and so on...guys in europe need to understand trade secret is trade secret, you may have something or you may have nothing but idea is how much it is of value to the company who has created it.
    Go and create some trade secret.
  • It has always been M$ practice to make changes so there is no interoperability between OS's. They ONLY want M$ products available. It has always been their goal to monopolize the globe. The only OS they want is their own unstable, insecure, software.
  • > guys in europe need to understand trade secret is trade secret, > you may have something or you may have nothing but idea is > how much it is of value to the company who has created it.

    Three little words to that one

  • Enough has been said. Microsoft wants to protect his IP and EC wants "more competition: the rapport has been set; it is like two giants fighting but the winner (if there'd be such a thing). It's not like the song:
    The winner takes it all.
  • Theres a huge difference between a trade secret and an interface.

    Programmers need to know how to interact with the interface - they dont need to know what goes on behind the interface Surely as a "software developer" you know all about black box programming?

    Its like Ford saying that you can only put ford tyres on your Ford because the internal workings of the drive train are a "trade secret" and telling you how the wheel bolts onto the hub will reveal all their secrets.