Microsoft excludes free software from EU ruling

By EDRi · February 9, 2005

The Free Software Foundation Europe says Microsoft is blocking Linux, Samba and other major open source projects from taking part in a protocol licensing scheme mandated by the European Commission’s antitrust ruling.

If developers want to build the protocols into their products, they must agree not to distribute that product in source-code form, or to subject it to licenses that require source-code disclosure, a formula that excludes many open source licenses.

The European Commission gave Microsoft a record fine of 497 million euro after a five-year investigation by the Competition Commissioner into Microsoft’s business practice. The Commission ordered Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without a bundled media player and to share more technical information with server rivals.

According to the Commission’s ruling Microsoft’s illegal conduct has enabled it to acquire a dominant position in the market for work group server operating systems and has significantly weakened competition on the media player market.

Microsoft announced that it will not further challenge the ruling and will release an additional Windows version for the European market that will have the Windows Media Player code removed from it. The company will also inform competitors about how they can license communications protocols from the Windows Server product.

Industry analysts doubt that an unbundled version of the Windows Operating System will have a serious impact as most PC manufacturers will not see any advantage in shipping PCs without Windows media player.

The Microsoft license for server protocols, ordered by the EU, may now block free software projects like Linux and Samba from taking advantage from the EU ruling. The Free Software Foundation Europe says the Microsoft license will prevent free software developers from competing with Microsoft’s Windows Server product.

The Free Software Foundation Europe will take its concerns to the Commission, which may negotiate with Microsoft over the licensing terms.

Free Software Foundation Europe

Microsoft Communications Protocol Program