December 20th 2007. Today the Protocol Freedom Information
Foundation (PFIF), a non-profit organization created by the
Software Freedom Law Center, signed an agreement with Microsoft to
receive the protocol documentation needed to fully interoperate
with the Microsoft Windows workgroup server products and to make
them available to Free Software projects such as Samba.
Microsoft was required to make this information available to
competitors as part of the European Commission March 24th 2004
Decision in the antitrust lawsuit, after losing their appeal
against that decision on September 17th 2007.
Andrew Tridgell, creator of Samba, said, "We are very pleased to
be able to get access to the technical information necessary to
continue to develop Samba as a Free Software project. Although we
were disappointed the decision did not address the issue of patent
claims over the protocols, it was a great achievement for the
European Commission and for enforcement of antitrust laws in
Europe. The agreement allows us to keep Samba up to date with
recent changes in Microsoft Windows, and also helps other Free
Software projects that need to interoperate with Windows".
Jeremy Allison, co-creator of Samba said, "Andrew did a superb
job in negotiating the agreement with Microsoft. We will be able to
use the information obtained to continue to develop Samba and
create more Free Software. We are hoping to get back to the
productive relationship we had with Microsoft during the early
1990's when we shared information about these protocols. The
agreement also clarifies the exact patent numbers concerned so
there is no possibility of misunderstandings around this
Volker Lendecke, head of the Samba Team in Europe said, "I am
very pleased to see that the European Commission acknowledged Free
Software as a valid competitor in the IT industry and that the
License conditions on the protocol information offered to the Free
Software world are indeed compatible with the GPL. This is much
better than what we have seen in similar cases in other countries
and the Commission has done a great job to push the case to this
Compatible with Free Software
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
No per-copy royalties are required from the PFIF, Samba
developers, third party vendors or users and no acknowledgment of
any patent infringement by Free Software implementations is
expressed or implied in the agreement.
The patent list provides us with a bounded set of work needed to
ensure non-infringement of Samba and other Free Software projects
that implement the protocols documented by Microsoft under this
agreement. Any patents outside this list cannot be asserted by
Microsoft against any implementation developed using the supplied
documentation. Unlike the highly dubious patent covenants recently
announced by some companies this warranty extends to all third
parties. Also unlike past agreements, this agreement has been
carefully scrutinized by the Software Freedom Law Center, the
premier legal experts for the GPL and Free Software.
Microsoft must keep the documentation up to date with new
products and provide error correction assistance to parties signing
the agreement. Disputes will be resolved by the Trustee appointed
by the Commission as part of the court decision.
The Samba Team would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to
Carlo Piana from the Free Software Foundation Europe and Eben
Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center, who have been our legal
representation on this case. They have provided world-class legal
services for many years and we are sincerely grateful.
The Samba Team.
20th December 2007.
For more information on the agreement see:
An article on the history of the case:
An article explaining some details of the agreement:
The Protocol Freedom Information Foundation Web site:
The PFIF agreement text:
Some of the products that appear on this site are from companies from which QuinStreet receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. QuinStreet does not include all companies or all types of products available in the marketplace.