Principles of the Law of Software Contracts: It's what Brings Linux and Microsoft Together
Article by George Norman
On 19 May 2009
When you think of things that go well together, you probably think of iPhone 3.0 and Push Notification, Google and Android 1.5, and so on; the last thing that you would thing of going well together is Linux and Microsoft. Normally the Linux Foundation, which recently announced the release of the new domain, would have little in common with the Redmond-based software developer Microsoft; but when it comes to the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts, the two can put their differences aside and work together as a pair.

Executive Director with the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin, comments: “The Linux Foundation issued a joint letter with Microsoft to the American Law Institute regarding a draft of their Principles of the Law of Software Contracts. The ALI is a hardworking group that engages legal experts around the country who write “restatements of the law” or legal treatises in hopes that judges will use them in deciding cases. In order to participate in this process you need to be a member. You have to pay a fee to access material, and there is no public review prior to publication. This is why we decided to participate in drafting this open letter.”


The letter, which is signed by Karen Copenhaver, counsel of the Linux Foundation and Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, asks the American Law Institute (ALI) to grant software developers and software distributors enough time to prepare and respond to the adoption of the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.

“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,” explains Horacio Gutierrez.

According to Jim Zemlin, the principles that the American Law Institute has outlined hinder the natural operation of both open source licenses and commercial licenses. This hindering is done by “creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation” says Zemlin, the result of which could be an undermining of technology sharing.

If you would like to take a look at the letter the Linux Foundation and Microsoft sent to the American Law Institute, you can do so here (PDF warning).

Tags: Microsoft, Linux, Linux Foundation, American Law Institute, Principles of the Law of Software Contracts
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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