Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Mar 2008 23:28 UTC, submitted by irbis
Mono Project "Does GNOME co-founder Miguel de Icaza's backflip over the Novell-Microsoft deal a few days ago mean that he has finally been convinced that he is on a one-way path to nowhere? Has he realised that his own project, Mono, is actually putting GNOME on a development track that can leave it open to patent claims one day? And has he realised that creating Moonlight, a clone of Microsoft's Silverlight, (with which the company hopes to trump Adobe's Flash) is not going to advance the cause of free software one iota?"
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Myths About ECMA 'Safety'
by segedunum on Wed 12th Mar 2008 10:19 UTC
segedunum
Member since:
2005-07-06

I still can't believe that people still believe these myths that come out of the Mono community on this topic:

As anyone who is even remotely familiar with this discussion knows, parts of the framework are under ECMA and therefor safe to use, and other parts are not. The parts which are not are things like ADO.net......


Mono is under an ECMA standard, so the core technology is safe...


...platform are standardised through ECMA (the core) or has no relation with Microsoft (ie. gtk#) whatsoever.


This is completely false. The situation is that when Microsoft submitted the CLR, CLS and C# specs to the ECMA, and they were accepted, they had to enter into an agreement that any patents they had on them would be overlooked on the basis of reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND). You can verify these here:

http://www.ecma-international.org/memento/codeofconduct.htm

However, what ECMA does not do is stop Microsoft from having patents on the technology, now and in the future, and it does not stop Microsoft from using them at such a time as it sees fit. The agreement is not legally binding, and the ECMA is powerless to do anything. The only thing that will probably happen, and can happen, is that should Microsoft decide to break the RAND terms then the ECMA will take them down as their own standards and cancel them. Everyone who used them is left to face the consequences.

This is why there was some hoo-ha a while ago about Miguel and the Mono people allegedly having a letter from Microsoft, Intel and HP about these RAND terms being guaranteed indefinitely. Needless to say, no letter ever materialised.

I have never seen anyone get this. Anywhere.

The second myth that does the rounds is that Mono is at much the same risk from patents as anyone else. The reasonably clever thing that Microsoft have done with their .Net patents is that they have stated that the scope of the patent is anyone who implements a CLR according to the ECMA specifications. I'll have to dig out an example of this, but the USPTO links are impossible to post because of their length. Microsoft like to box in and protect what they see as their IP - regardless of whether it has been submitted to a standards body or not. Microsoft are not into general patents as others are, and prefer technical restrictions. You see this with OOXML as well and what you need to implement it. I'm really not surprised that Miguel doesn't answer questions well on the subject of patents, Microsoft and the usefulness of cloning their technology.

There are other issues related to cloning Microsoft technology, but those are related to technology and the practicality and usefulness of it. For Mono, and Moonlight, to be really useful Microsoft's implementations would essentially have to be put in very dominant positions. Ironically, Mono and Moonlight would have helped .Net and Silverlight to get there. As a result of that dominant position, there is no guarantee that successive versions of .Net and Silverlight will remain compatible with Moonlight and Mono - excessive use of DRM in Windows Media etc. In that sense, yes, you have to ask if you can trust Microsoft and it is not a subject for Cosmo or Teen magazine.

Anyone who doesn't get that isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the box, and yes, the article is slightly inflammatory, but it does give an insight into how Miguel and the Mono people would like to trivialise this. Why they would want to do that, one can only guess. Maybe they just don't understand it.

Edited 2008-03-12 10:22 UTC

Reply Score: 17

RE: Myths About ECMA 'Safety'
by KenJackson on Wed 12th Mar 2008 10:43 in reply to "Myths About ECMA 'Safety'"
KenJackson Member since:
2005-07-18

I really, really want to you a plus for this, segedunum, but I can't because I already posted something further up the page. I just don't understand why OSN put in that limitation.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Myths About ECMA 'Safety'
by miguel on Wed 12th Mar 2008 16:32 in reply to "Myths About ECMA 'Safety'"
miguel Member since:
2005-07-27

Read our FAQ, you clearly did not do it.

Microsoft licenses the ECMA core under RAND-Z (Z stands for "Zero cost").

Miguel.

Reply Parent Score: 3

segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

Read our FAQ, you clearly did not do it.


You can't keep hiding behind the FAQ Miguel. Nowhere on the FAQ does it answer what was written. It merely perpetuates the myth that the ECMA implemented stuff is safe. It isn't the more you read.

Microsoft licenses the ECMA core under RAND-Z (Z stands for "Zero cost").


I'm sorry, I have to take a double-take there. Did you read what was written? Microsoft only licenses the ECMA core stuff because the ECMA requires them to if they want this to continue being a set of ECMA standards.

Problems:

1. Microsoft does not have to license the core material under RAND terms forever. They can change this whenever they like. Most likely is that Microsoft will stop contributing to the ECMA core stuff, but they can cause a lot more damage and scaremongering if they feel like it.

2. The ECMA is powerless to stop Microsoft having patented material within their standards, or acquiring them later.

3. The ECMA is powerless to stop Microsoft revoking the RAND terms, other than cancelling the standards altogether.

4. The ECMA has no legal power at all to hold Microsoft to these RAND terms.

They're legitimate concerns which I think others have raised, but I haven't seen them follow through on.

Why do you think Microsoft licenses Rotor and various other things under strictly academic style licenses? They aren't going to let this go, and that's what they see anything that implements the ECMA core as - an academic project that helps them. Nothing more. In short, you just built your town on a piece of land with an awful lot of mine workings underneath. It might go tomorrow, next week or next year - but it will go.

Edited 2008-03-13 01:52 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Myths About ECMA 'Safety'
by elsewhere on Thu 13th Mar 2008 04:15 in reply to "Myths About ECMA 'Safety'"
elsewhere Member since:
2005-07-13

However, what ECMA does not do is stop Microsoft from having patents on the technology, now and in the future, and it does not stop Microsoft from using them at such a time as it sees fit. The agreement is not legally binding, and the ECMA is powerless to do anything. The only thing that will probably happen, and can happen, is that should Microsoft decide to break the RAND terms then the ECMA will take them down as their own standards and cancel them. Everyone who used them is left to face the consequences.

This is why there was some hoo-ha a while ago about Miguel and the Mono people allegedly having a letter from Microsoft, Intel and HP about these RAND terms being guaranteed indefinitely. Needless to say, no letter ever materialised.


To both of your paragraphs, Microsoft engineers have actually worked with mono developers, and important point that will make sense in the following paragraph, and yes, it's important to note that HP and Intel strong-armed MS into agreeing to terms that were far more lenient than ECMA's RAND requirements. Don't forget that HP and Intel are probably the two companies, next to IBM, that could render MS most vulnerable to the much referred to "MAD" scenario in patent warfare.

There also exists a doctrine of prosecution laches in US law. There is established precedent for companies being denied patent enforceability in situations where they were deemed to have intentionally delayed legal remedy while knowing infringement was occuring. One particular precedent set by the circuit court held that 6 years of knowing infringement was occurring without seeking legal relief rendered the claim invalid. And such and such. Frankly, I suspect this is the actual reason Ballmer has been on his public "linux steals our IP and should license it" campaign, it's an attempt to mitigate the laches defense, should MS ever choose to pursue legal action (not likely to happen), but there have been no such claims made against mono in particular.

Point is that it is not as black and white as you're making it out to be. MS are bastards, I don't think anybody would deny that. They have an established history of eating their own children. But if every company or organization refrained from creating technology under the grounds that it might infringe MS (or anyone else's) ambiguous IP claims, then the industry would have crawled to a standstill years ago.

It's also worth noting that MS has never executed a patent-infringement lawsuit, with only one exception I'm aware of, and that their defense against the various patent lawsuits they constantly face actually helps serve to reduce the validity of software patents.

At the end of the day, the patent mess is more-or-less restricted to the US, and it's a system on the verge of imploding on itself. There's no reason the rest of the world should refrain from innovative coding, in the meantime.

Like I said, I'm not particularly for mono, and I'm not that impressed with it. Just trying to keep the arguments intelligent and on track.

Reply Parent Score: 2