Samba Team Receives Microsoft Protocol Documentation

Today the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (PFIF), a non-profit organization created by the Software Freedom Law Center, signed an agreement with Microsoft to receive the protocol documentation needed to fully interoperate with the Microsoft Windows workgroup server products and to make them available to Free Software projects such as Samba. Microsoft was required to make this information available to competitors as part of the European Commission March 24th 2004 Decision in the antitrust lawsuit, after losing their appeal against that decision on September 17th 2007.

Andrew Tridgell, creator of Samba, said, "We are very pleased to be able to get access to the technical information necessary to continue to develop Samba as a Free Software project. Although we were disappointed the decision did not address the issue of patent claims over the protocols, it was a great achievement for the European Commission and for enforcement of antitrust laws in Europe. The agreement allows us to keep Samba up to date with recent changes in Microsoft Windows, and also helps other Free Software projects that need to interoperate with Windows."

Jeremy Allison, co-creator of Samba said, "Andrew did a superb job in negotiating the agreement with Microsoft. We will be able to use the information obtained to continue to develop Samba and create more Free Software. We are hoping to get back to the productive relationship we had with Microsoft during the early 1990's when we shared information about these protocols. The agreement also clarifies the exact patent numbers concerned so there is no possibility of misunderstandings around this issue."

Volker Lendecke, head of the Samba Team in Europe said, "I am very pleased to see that the European Commission acknowledged Free Software as a valid competitor in the IT industry and that the License conditions on the protocol information offered to the Free Software world are indeed compatible with the GPL. This is much better than what we have seen in similar cases in other countries and the Commission has done a great job to push the case to this point."

News source: Groklaw
Link: Protocol Freedom Information Foundation | The Samba Team
View: The Agreement (PDF, 735KB)

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Ok so now we have protocol documentation for SMB. Now how many years will it take to get some protocol documentation for the Exchange protocol?

Unfortunately, fines and sanctions are about the only way you can get companies like Microsoft to comply with laws and regulations. I just wish the USDOJ would have had the same resolve (aka balls) as the EU when it came to their antitrust case ~10 years ago.

markjensen said,
/me falls backward

Agreed... Microsoft guarded SMB like it was the last Toblerone left on the planet.

According to this report (which references a Groklaw analysis), the Samba team apparently paid the 10,000 Euro fee to license the documentation. The documentation cannot be redistributed, but this allows the Samba team to see the specifics of SMB, and to code to match it. Importantly, it also seems to detail the patents that apply, so the Samba team can likewise write code that does not infringe on Microsoft's patents.

And, if you recall, Ballmer has been pretty noisy over the past 3 months or so about Linux infringing on patents.

Seems like Microsoft is being forced to provide information on these patents (if only by paying for protocol documentation), which will lessen the unspecific FUD that Microsoft is able to spread by claiming general patent liabilities in Linux.

how can someone write open source code that implements a patented and licensed protocol without the code itself revealing the protocol? I'm sure they have some kind of agreement, but it seems impossible. Still, this will solve my number 1 complaint about linux right now: samba kinda sucks as it is.