Earlier today, Microsoft said that it will make available .NET Framework libraries under a "Reference" license. Anyone accepting the license agreement would be able to look at the code but not modify or redistribute it. The question: Would anyone really want to open this Pandora's Box? My colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols sure doesn't think so. "Microsoft's so-called opening up of .NET Framework is setting a trap for open-source programmers," he asserts. "Open-source developers should avoid this code at all costs."
SJVN's conclusion: Anyone viewing the source code could later be accused of using code or concepts in other projects. This is one situation where the phrase, "What you don't know can't hurt you," really applies. For some developers, looking into this code could be the same as looking into the abyss. The risk is greatest for commercial and open-source developers and least for those doing in-house corporate applications. Microsoft isn't much in the business of suing its customers, but the company has already laid claim—assertion of 235 patent violations—against open-source software. Microsoft has the means and incentive to sue open-source developers, and .NET Framework code could make the assault that much easier.