The Lure

I see Miguel is expecting flak for his initiative to implement Silverlight on GNU/Linux, and I'm sure he'll get it. The thing that caught my eye, however, was what terms I was asked to agree to if I as much as give Silverlight a try on any other platform in the ecosystem Miguel is helping create. Just take a look at the license agreement you're assumed to agree to if you so much as click the "Get Silverlight" button (yes, your acceptance is there in 4-point text in the Get... graphic). You will be agreeing you will not:

  • work around any technical limitations in the software;
  • reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble the software, except and only to the extent that applicable law expressly permits, despite this limitation;
  • publish the software for others to copy;
  • rent, lease or lend the software; or
  • transfer the software or this agreement to any third party.

In addition to that, you are agreeing:

  • that the limit of Microsoft's liability in any matter (including "internet services") is $5;
  • that Microsoft can gather information about your computer and internet connection;
  • that they can automatically modify the software.

Update:As Miguel repeatedly points out, if you're smart enough to actually read the license you'll discover you can opt out of these last two defaults. Most people won't.

If you're a business, you're also not covered by the MPEG patent licenses, and you may be agreeing to waive some of your other contract terms if you're a Microsoft competitor.

Now, I'm not a lawyer but to my eyes, all those are terms that are incredibly hostile to the spirit and practice of Free software. Miguel is encouraging you to surrender your freedoms if you're using the technology he promotes anywhere but the operating system he is working on. He's the lure for someone else's trap.

That's also why I don't yet share Tim O'Reilly's enthusiasm for Microsoft's apparent epiphany. I realise it will take them a long time to modify their historic behaviours, and I would welcome their decision to promote software freedom. Their new projects, however, should not be actively undermining our freedoms like this, and I can only conclude that regardless of any lip-service to "open source", software freedom is not yet their goal. That's the issue, Tim.

Update: Luis has a great photo and also a great point about patent protection. Also, to be clear, Moonlight is under a Free license, not under the EULA I'm commenting on above. My issue is rather that it acts a the lure to an architecture designed at best with no regard to software freedom and at worst withthe intent of removing it.

Comments:

Simon,
Sad, wonder if Miguel and associates truly believe their numerous 'projects' are assisting, versus undermining, global computing?
(Reference: No 'A.M.Turing Award' code evident here!)
Interesting OS software from the Northwest, my friend has recently toiled troubleshooting an odd (yet another FAT 32 'lost it's place') system.
Redmond's Finest? READ AND COMPREHEND THEIR EULA(S)!

Posted by William R. Walling on September 05, 2007 at 11:26 PM PDT #

Some interesting research:

New Basics: 12 Principles for Fair Commerce in Mass-Market Software and Other Digital Products[1]

1. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=730907

Posted by Haren Visavadia on September 06, 2007 at 02:32 AM PDT #

Simon,

Moonlight is not governed by the Microsoft Silverlight license. Moonlight is governed by the LGPLv2 and MIT X11 licenses.

Do not want to defend Microsoft, but I expected more from you.

Your statements about what you are "agreeing to" are incredibly misleading. I just read the license again, in horror by what you hinted, only to find out that you are taking some very liberal interpretations of the license (you know, omitting the whole thing about opt-out and twisting the MPEGLA terms).

The interpretation is as liberal as equating a falafel food truck with a "mobile bio-weapons lab". Where have I seen that before?

FUD is alive and kicking, it is a shame that this is no longer an IBM and Microsoft exclusive.

Miguel.

Posted by Miguel de Icaza on September 06, 2007 at 04:46 AM PDT #

Miguel: I'm sorry you take that view. I'm no expert, but the license seems to me to be the antithesis of software freedom. You're telling me you're happy for your friends to agree to these terms? That there's no conflict between them and software freedom? that to question Microsoft's terms is "FUD"?

Oh, and I didn't intend to imply Moonlight was equally tainted, I didn't think for a moment that you'd license it as anything but Free software and I think I made that clear in my first paragraph. My apologies if you thought otherwise.

Posted by Simon Phipps on September 06, 2007 at 06:28 AM PDT #

Simon: The Microsoft Silverlight agreement is a software license for a proprietary product, not unlike the SunSolve product license (http://sunsolve.sun.com/show.do?target=tous)

The SunSolve license also includes terms preventing me from benchmark publication (that are simpler but less fair than Microsoft's), preventing me from reverse engineering, sending my system information back to Sun (with no opting out), and the like.

They do many things that require close watch. But fair's fair. Glass houses and all that stuff.

Posted by Stephen Walli on September 06, 2007 at 03:43 PM PDT #

Stephi: I disagree with the comparison. You'll find examples of those sorts of agreements in any commercial concern, and the people who submit to them are aware of what's involved. Submitting to them is not the first step every employee takes in the technology. They are instead dimensions of a more mature (and usually paid) relationship. Additionally, Sunsolve could not have a communications opt-out because it is an agreement to engage in communication that has to involve identification

But the Silverlight agreement is a different class. It is expressly a consumer agreement; it is one you agree to by clicking a button on a third-party site just to download the technology; and it is part of an ecosystem in which Free software users are being invited to casually participate.

As to glass houses: I expect there are Sun agreements that actually are a threat to software freedom, but it's my (and I believe Sun's) goal to eliminate as many of them as possible. By contrast, the Silverlight agreement is new, and its terms appear intended not just to protect Microsoft but to advantage them. I'm a bit surprised to find you making this apples-to-oranges comparison. I'm an easy target when I'm talking about what concerns me, but do you really believe there's no issue here?

Posted by Simon Phipps on September 06, 2007 at 06:23 PM PDT #

"...you know, omitting the whole thing about opt-out and twisting the MPEGLA terms..."

Miguel, can you explain this in more detail for those of us that aren't familiar with the licensing terms? Are you implying that the things Simon mentioned above can be opted out of while still downloading the software?

Thanks,
Mark

Posted by Mark Nelson on September 06, 2007 at 07:16 PM PDT #

Morning Simon: I think we're both sensitive to things Microsoft does (or avoids doing) when they mistaken place shareholders ahead of customers: their foot dragging on free and open source software participation, and their mauling of the world's standards development process are but two.

I reread their agreement, and taking your cue, went and had a quick read of other consumer facing runtime agreements from:
- Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/acrreula.html)
- Real Networks Helix Community (http://forms.helixcommunity.org/helix/builds/index.html?filename=20070902/player_all-realplay_gtk_stable-20070902-sunos-5.10-i386-studio10/realplay-10.0.6.3007-sunos-5.10-i386-studio10.bin)
- Sun Java Runtime (http://www.java.com/en/download/license.jsp)

I had to hunt for the RN community license, as they've made the RealNetworks website almost un-navigateble pushing the new "SuperPass" service.

I must admit a humble lack of legal training here: I'm not seeing a substantial amount to difference. The Microsoft agreement may even be more readable.

I certainly wouldn't let Microsoft off the hook, if they think "support" for open source software means not contributing code or participating as equals in a community. But I [perhaps naively] think the Silverlight run-time agreement falls into the bucket of run-time EULAs we all mostly click through and ignore.

Posted by Stephen Walli on September 07, 2007 at 01:32 AM PDT #

Just to let you know that I skimmed this post after it was linked on Louis' blog and got the impression that the points in the license that you raise are in Moonlight rather than Silverlight.

I didn't realize until I read Miguel's comment that this is not the case.

Of course, it is obvious on a second reading that you are talking about Silverlight. But I hope no-one else makes the same mistake as me, but worse does not realize it.

Posted by Justyn on September 07, 2007 at 03:43 AM PDT #

Stephen: No doubt you're right about those runtime licenses. What really caught my attention was not that EULAs are awful (we all knew that already) but more than Novell is claiming to promote software freedom and yet leading people directly to a nasty EULA from Microsoft which appears to be activated far earlier in the customer experience than any I have seen before in similar circumstance.

I suppose this is just the same as my issue with Mono; that it's a trailing-edge implementation of an ecosystem that's intended by its architects to take away freedoms. Tht'a what I'm reacting to.

Justyn: I'll add an update to clarify.

Posted by Simon Phipps on September 07, 2007 at 03:55 AM PDT #

My response in detail:

http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2007/Sep-07.html

Posted by Miguel de Icaza on September 07, 2007 at 05:46 AM PDT #

Wouldn't mono + silverlight for windows avoid most of these licensing problems since they are LGPL/MIT?

Posted by David Novakovic on September 07, 2007 at 07:47 AM PDT #

woops, LGPL/X11, my bad.

Posted by David Novakovic on September 07, 2007 at 07:56 AM PDT #

In the comments to Miguel's blog, a commenter asks about using or developing Moonlight:

"What about microsoft patents? If I create my own linux distro or I use a distro that is not mainstream or just doesn't have a deal with the daemon.. err Microsoft.. like Novell has.. Will I have to suffer the shadow of Microsoft patents over Silverlight when using or developing Moonlight?"

Miguel's complete response:

"Not as long as you get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include patent coverage."

I don't understand why Miguel is surprised that people are upset about this.

Posted by MiggyLuver on September 07, 2007 at 08:11 AM PDT #

David: Yes, they would, if someone were to build Moonlight for Windows. However, since the CODECS that will be used for commercial applications will remain binary-only and non-Free, people are likely to still be drawn in to the Silverlight world in order to join the ecosystem.

This issue is about more than just the availability of the base code. The ecosystem also includes the use of market power to promote certain media formats. That will likely drag DRM with it.

A good deal of my despair here is around that issue rather than the alternative uses the code can be put to outside Microsoft's ecosystem, and around the tendency of some to dismiss those fears becuase the code is great.

Posted by Simon Phipps on September 07, 2007 at 08:11 AM PDT #

What really bothers me about this -- and I'm talking about Moonlight, not Silverlight -- is the codec issue. If the core codecs aren't free, the package is de facto not free. Sure, it may be possible to use other codecs with Moonlight, but if all of the content is encoded with proprietary codecs, Moonlight is de facto useless without those bits. And to brush it off with "sorry, those are the rules for the Media codecs" misses the whole point. If Microsoft really wanted to collaborate with the free software community, it could have done so.

It's Miguel's code, and he can license it however he pleases. It's hardly in the spirit of the GPL, though, to effectively require binary codecs (it's hard to see how it's very interesting except to render third party content), and to "encourage" people, by threat of patents, to get the code from only one place.

And finally, what's to prevent Microsoft from coming out with new codecs (or other goodies) down the road that it refuses to allow to be used with Moonlight?

Posted by Robert Krawitz on September 08, 2007 at 02:19 AM PDT #

What kind of open source software is such that requires proprietary codecs to work correctly? I guess you can try to license something as GPL at the same time you try to game it, I just hope that could stop in some future.

And yep, you WILL require the codecs to use Moonlight, because the developers that will use silverlight (in part out of the advertisements that it is 'cross platform' and "supported" on Linux (all thanks to moonlight) will not care about using other codecs.

Moonlight is an unnecessary project right now, and only serves one purpose, to promote silverlight, We didn't need another flash but from Microsoft and tied to .net at all, and we don't really need silverlight in Linux right (I would say the quantity of pages that use it is zero?)

So, Moonlight is a project with the only use of helping Microsoft advertise something that got the objective to add a microsoft tax to browsing the web. Sorry but cannot "yay" to that...

Posted by Victor Soliz on September 08, 2007 at 03:49 PM PDT #

My point is slightly more explicit than yours, Simon: it is a lure which puts a user at significant risk of being threatened with a patent lawsuit. This isn't abstract- it is very concrete. And Miguel's own words, in the comments on his own blog, confirm that risk.

Posted by Luis Villa on September 08, 2007 at 10:21 PM PDT #

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