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Five days ago, three members of the free and open source software community finally heaved a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from their brows after winning a battle they had waged for years.
Samba developers Andrew Tridgell, Jeremy Allison and Volker Lendecke have, along with some intrepid investigators from the European Union, wrested an agreement with Microsoft that specifies that every one of Microsoft's network protocols which are used to work with Windows Server will be provided to a newly formed body, the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation.

The three Samba geeks got involved in Sun Microsystem's 1998 complaint to the European Commission over Microsoft's refusal to provide the necessary documentation so that Sun could create software that could work seamlessly with Microsoft Active Directory.

The complaint was filed after Microsoft said nay to a request from Sun for this information - despite the fact that Microsoft has to provide such information due to the anti-trust laws in place.

Tridgell, like the brilliant scientist he is, has provided a marvellously detailed and simple explanation of the entire saga and also his interpretation of how the agreement will work. I can't better that, so the source, as always, is provided.

But there are four paragraphs from the Samba team's announcement about the deal which need to be reproduced here, four paragraphs which, more or less, say it all:

"After paying Microsoft a one-time sum of 10,000 Euros, the PFIF will make available to the Samba Team under non-disclosure terms the documentation needed for implementation of all of the workgroup server protocols covered by the EU decision.

"Although the documentation itself will be held in confidence by the PFIF and Samba Team engineers, the agreement allows the publication of the source code of the implementation of these protocols without any further restrictions. This is fully compatible with versions two and three of the GNU General Public License (GPL). Samba is published under the GNU GPL which is the most widely used of all Free Software licenses. In addition it allows discussion of the protocol information amongst implementers which will aid technical cooperation between engineers.

"Under the agreement, Microsoft is required to make available and keep current a list of patent numbers it believes are related to the Microsoft implementation of the workgroup server protocols, without granting an implicit patent license to any Free Software implementation.

"No per-copy royalties are required from the PFIF, Samba developers, third party vendors or users and no acknowledgement of any patent infringement by Free Software implementations is expressed or implied in the agreement."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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