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[DotGNU][Fwd: [CoreTeam]Re: Microsoft Shared Source License and Portable

From: Rhys Weatherley
Subject: [DotGNU][Fwd: [CoreTeam]Re: Microsoft Shared Source License and Portable.NET]
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 20:24:35 +1000

I asked Eben Moglen, the legal counsel for the FSF,
to comment on the Rotor license and how it may
affect us.  His reply is appended below.



--- Begin Message --- Subject: [CoreTeam]Re: Microsoft Shared Source License and Portable.NET Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 00:06:38 -0500 (EST)
Hi Rhys,

The key provision in the license is:

   You may use any information in intangible form that you remember after
   accessing the Software. However, this right does not grant you a
   license to any of Microsoft's copyrights or patents for anything you
   might create using such information.

This is pretty clear (they're becoming rather good at drafting "shared
source" licenses; I'm beginning to feel stylistically challenged).  It
means that they don't claim any right to control knowledge you may
gain from reading their code, but you can't copy their code or
practice any of their patent claims.  The patent issue is unaffected
by the reading of their code, from our point of view.  On the
copyright side, our responsibility is the same as it would be under
any other circumstances: we must write all our code from scratch,
copying nothing contained in their Rotor code.  If there is no copying
there is no infringement under their license.

My advice is to tell people to code where possible from the ECMA
standard.  Where (which is likely to be everywhere), ECMA is
insufficiently descriptive to create interoperable code, it is
acceptable to read the source of the Rotor implementation.  Notes
taken in the course of reading that source should be made in
pseudocode, so that programmers do not copy snippets of the Rotor
source as aides to their memory.  We want every line of code in our
projects to have come out of the original invention of one of our
coders, having been expressed in his or her own way.  Ideas abstracted
from the Rotor implementation should always have been put in our
programmer's own "words," because copyright protects expressions, not

I hope this is helpful.  If you need further or more specific advice,
please don't hesitate to shout.


On Thursday, 28 March 2002, Rhys Weatherley wrote:

  Hello Eben,
  My name is Rhys Weatherley, the author of Portable.NET,
  which is part of the GNU Project and DotGNU.  The goal is
  to build an implementation of the "Common Language
  Infrastructure" (CLI) that Microsoft has standardised
  through the ECMA standards body.
  Microsoft has recently released their "shared source" CLI
  implementation, called Rotor.
  For now, I have been advising people not to look at the
  Rotor code if they intend to work on Portable.NET.  But I
  would like to have a legal opinion as to how we should
  approach this code.
  Microsoft's license can be found at the following location:
  We don't intend to use any of Microsoft's code directly
  in Portable.NET.  So the main concern is whether someone
  who has looked at the Rotor code can subsequently work
  on Portable.NET.  And what procedures they would need
  to follow to avoid contamination.
  Rhys Weatherley
  Cc: Bradley Kuhn and DotGNU Steering Comittee
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