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Early licensing details emerge from Microsoft-backed CodePlex Foundation

Among the biggest questions about the newly-minted and Microsoft-backed CodePlex Foundation will likely be around how it will handle code licensing and patenting. The organization began outlining some of those answers on September 10.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Among the biggest questions about the newly-minted and Microsoft-backed CodePlex Foundation will likely be around how it will handle code licensing and patenting.

Sam Ramji -- the soon-to-be-former-Softie who is the interim board president for the Microsoft-founded and -funded open-source CodePlex Foundation -- shared a few specifics on these points on September 10.

Ramji spoke to press and analysts on Thursday about the new Foundation, for which Microsoft is ponying up an initial $1 million in funding and is filling a many of its interim board seats with its own execs. The Foundation is dedicated to "break down barriers to open source projects in commercial settings," according to Ramji.

One of the areas about the Foundation that open source developers are sure to be monitoring closely is how it plans to handle contributed open-source code.

Ramji said there will be a "straightforward contributor agreement" available on the Foundation's Web site for individuals or groups interested in providing any kind of open-source code/projects. Ramji said commercial software companies who contribute source won't be required to provide any kind of broad patent-portfolio transfer as part of their contributions. The CodePlex Foundation, in turn, will extend derivative-works rights to all "downstream" developers and users of the contributed code. And the organization will be "license-agnostic," allowing contributors to work with a broad variety of open-source licenses, Ramji said.

Microsoft, for its part, has released a number of its own pieces of technology under a variety of bonafide open-source licenses -- everything from its own OSI-approved MsPL, to the GPL.

Ramji told conference-call participants that the group expects to have created its bylaws, appointed a full-time board head, board members and filled out its advisory board within its first 100 days. Ramji acknowleged he is leaving Microsoft for personal reasons (and not because Microsoft is "mainstreaming" its Open Source Technology Center by folding it into the larger Windows Server engineering organization), but he has another full-time job with an unnamed cloud-infrastructure startup in California awaiting him.

The Foundation is looking for other commercial vendors to join and, ultimately, dilute the Microsoft domination of the organization, Ramji said.

What's your take: Is there a place for a foundation that is dedicated to smoothing some of the bumps between closed- and open-source developers? Any stumbling blocks you foresee already with the CodePlex Foundation?

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