Microsoft Code-Sharing: Mixed Blessing

Microsoft's "shared-source" scheme, a response to the growing popularity of open-source software, is a "Faustian bargain," says lawyer Craig Horrocks. The shared-source approach, which lets some large users see Windows source code but not alter it, could rebound badly on software developers who are careless at building mental walls between their own legitimate intellectual property and what they have learned from perusing Microsoft code.

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Shared source could severely handicap those developers who have seen Microsoft code, if not forbid them from developing in an open-source framework, Horrocks said in a recent address to the New Zealand Computer Society. Microsoft itself warns in its shared-source agreements of the danger of "impairing intellectual property."

Microsoft first raised the issue of shared source in a presentation to New York University's Stern School of Business in May 2001. Craig Mundie, senior vice president of advanced strategies at Microsoft, said then that the open-source software philosophy embodies "a strong possibility of unhealthy forking." Forking is the emergence of two materially different versions of a product, drawing on the same intellectual property.

News source: PCWorld

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