A recent article in eWeek makes it crystal clear that the crucial
issue in the Microsoft patent license is sublicensing, and that the MS
lawyers can't (or at least won't) change the terms.
Sublicensing isn't an merely because MS is big company with lots of
lawyers. The IBM Public License (see below) that they use for code
that they release to open source projects is sublicensable. So why is
it critical here? The reason you don't allow sublicenses of a free
license is to preserve your ability to change the terms in the future.
I'm not weaving conspiracy theories here, I'm just stating the
So the question is whether we're willing to use a license that
Microsoft has told us that they're considering changing. Without
attributing any evil intent, I find that much too risky simply because
I don't know what situation Microsoft will be in three or five years
from now, and neither does anyone else. As someone who is constantly
writting twiddles to mail software and exchanging them with other
people (qmail patches, mostly) this presents a huge spanner that could
be chucked into the works at any time.
Since a lot of people have made it equally clear that they're willing
to go ahead with Sender ID, the least bad option seems to me to be to
move both Sender ID and SPF ahead as experimental standards. They're
both experimental because we still have only the sketchiest experience
with day to day usage of both, and we don't know about server loads,
DNS loads, likely spammer counterattacks, or anything else
operational. People who are so inclined can easily implement both,
particularly if they use the same DNS records. Then MARID can turn
its attention to other things like CSV which are also useful and less
contentious, and let the IETF standards process work the way it's
supposed to, leading with any luck to the rough consensus and running
code that I think we all still want.
John Levine, johnl(_at_)iecc(_dot_)com, Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet
Information Superhighwayman wanna-be, http://www.johnlevine.com, Mayor
"More Wiener schnitzel, please", said Tom, revealingly.
eWeek article: http://www.eweek.com/print_article/0,1761,a=134028,00.asp
IBM public license:
FYI, I happen to know the guy who write the article, and I think he
can be counted on to get his facts right. Also, several people have
suggested that one could circumvent the sublicensing clause by
rounding up all of your friends and having them all get licenses that
could later be used if the terms change, but no-transfer prevents
that. (No doubt this same scenario occurred to people in Redmond.)
John Levine, johnl(_at_)taugh(_dot_)com, Taughannock Networks, Trumansburg NY