Strange Bedfellows: Microsoft and Linux Foundation

Who says the lion can't lie down the with the lamb? The normally mortal enemies Microsoft and the Linux Foundation have signed a joint letter that argues against advice a key legal group is planning to recommend to judges regarding software licensing. I guess Microsoft and the Linux Foundation have found the only thing that they hate worse than each other --- lawyers.

The letter was sent to the American Law Institute (ALI), which according to a Computerworld article, "is an association that develops documents meant to help guide judges as they make decisions on complicated legal subjects." The document in question is the group's draft Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.

The joint letter concerns the part of the document that is about warranties on software defects. I'm not going to get into the fine points of the mumbo-jumbo involved, but both Microsoft and the Linux Foundation believe that the ALI document will lead to lots of unnecessary litigation.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, had this to say about it in his blog:

"The ALI Principles are meant to provide guidance to judges and others as they interpret software licensing agreements. While the Principles reflect a lot of hard work and thought by the ALI, Microsoft and the Linux Foundation believe that certain provisions do not reflect existing law and could disrupt the well-functioning software market for businesses and consumers, as well as create uncertainty for software developers.

"We have asked the ALI to allow more time for comment from interested parties reflecting the wide range of software developers and users."

He goes on to say:

That's putting it mildly. He then adds: "But there is a wide range of issues that affect all software developers alike."

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, agrees, and has this to say about it in his blog:

"The principles outlined by the ALI interfere with the natural operation of open source licenses and commercial licenses as well by creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation, which would undermine the sharing of technology."

I'm sorry to be cynical here, but don't Microsoft and the Linux Foundation realize that for many lawyers, "a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation," is not something to be avoided, but rather embraced? How else will all those lawyers make a living?

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