Microsoft's EU proposal is monstrous, says Samba

'Monstrous' royalties demanded under Microsoft's proposed server interoperability licence will discourage competition, says Samba's Jeremy Allison
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
The co-founder of Samba, the open source file and print server software, is due to contact the European Commission (EC) in the next couple of weeks to lobby for changes to Microsoft's proposed server interoperability licence. Speaking to ZDNet UK this week, Samba co-creator Jeremy Allison launched a damning attack on the proposed licence, calling the fees that would be demanded under it "monstrous".

Last week, a lawyer representing the Free Software Foundation said the licence that Microsoft proposed following last year's EU antitrust ruling is not compatible with open source software, as it requires royalty payments for every copy sold and stipulates that programs which are built using the licensed information are closed source.

Jeremy Allison, Samba co-creator, said on Thursday that the royalty payments required by the licence are so high that they are unlikely to encourage competition, even from commercial vendors, as many software companies will not be able to afford the fee unless they are creating a high-value product.

"The royalty payments are really high," said Allison. "They have been set as if you were creating a premium product such as a Windows 2000 Domain Controller, but imagine if you are just creating a small embedded system that only uses a small part of the Microsoft protocols. There is no flexibility in the monstrous fixed fee you must pay."

Microsoft has failed to provide a copy of the full licence agreement to ZDNet UK.

Without access to the protocol documentation via the licence, the Samba team will have to work harder to make the application interoperate with Microsoft server products, according to Allison.

"Access to the protocols would allow us to accelerate development and create a more level playing field," said Allison. "We'll get there in the end, but it will slow us down and make it harder to compete."

Maintaining interoperability is made more difficult by frequent changes that Microsoft makes to the protocols, said Allison. "They make changes to the protocol all the time," said Allison. "It is usually some new wrinkle placed on top of things we already have working."

The Commission's anti-trust ruling against Microsoft involved a fine of €497m, as well as asking the company to offer a version of Windows without its bundled media player and to allow rival server makers to use technical documentation to implement server protocols. Allison commented that the ruling would have been more effective if the EC had not fined Microsoft, but had instead forced it to make the server protocols freely available.

An EC spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

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