Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th May 2009 22:32 UTC, submitted by lemur2
Mono Project If there is one technology in the Linux world that ruffles feathers whenever it's mentioned, it's Mono, the open source .Net clone. Since .Net comes out of Microsoft, and has some patents encircling it, it is said to be a legal nightmare. Supposedly, you can obtain a "royalty-free, reasonable and non-discriminatory" license from Microsoft regarding the patents surrounding Mono. iTWire decided to look at just how easy (or hard) it is to get such a license. Turns out it's kind of hard.
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by JeffS on Sat 30th May 2009 14:05 UTC
Member since:

When using Linux, have you used any of the fowllowing:

1. Samba
2. Fat
3. WMA
4. Wine
5. OpenOffice
6. Desktop environment

If you answered "yes" to any of these, you have used Microsoft patent encumbered technology.

Let's take Microsoft out of the discussion. Let's think of the hundreds, if not thousands, of patents, held by others, that any Linux distro, as well as any major piece of open source or proprietary software, violates. Software patents are a joke.

IOW - Mono is the least of our worries.

MS will always play this coy little game. They'll never give a definitive answer. They're quite happy with Mono's existence - it will always be 1 or 2 steps behind MS .Net in development, and they love the uncertainty.

So my attitude is, if you like Mono (technologically), use it. If not, don't.

BTW - there are a number of commercial entities using Mono in their products - just check out the Mono website. Apparently, they're not too concerned about MS's BS.

Also, it's MS that's usually the recipient (victim) of patent lawsuits. They just got sued for using XML in OOXML.

Reply Score: 11

RE: minefield
by wawrzyn on Sat 30th May 2009 14:54 in reply to "minefield"
wawrzyn Member since:

>When using Linux, have you used any of the fowllowing:

>1. Samba
>2. Fat
>3. WMA
>4. Wine
>5. OpenOffice
>6. Desktop environment

Don't you forget "double-click" and "mouse pointer" - lol ;-) Of course it's a joke, but this is where we can go with software patents.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: minefield
by Slambert666 on Sat 30th May 2009 16:28 in reply to "minefield"
Slambert666 Member since:

Finally a sane voice in the midst of all this stupidity.

The US patent system is broken and rotten to the core. To even put forth the argument that mono must be avoided because of "patents" is the exact same as saying that the software patent system is working and must be "respected". Personally I find it difficult to believe that there are so many "patent lovers" on this site.

The second problem is that many of the comments here against mono seems to argue that you as a software developer are better protected against patent threats when developing for microsoft? Ie you will not be sued if you use microsoft dotNET only if you use an alternative implementation like mono...

Finally mono is currently the best all round development framework for linux, I can do gui's with native look and feel and good integration with the rest of the os, I can do web applications, deamons etc. With MonoDevelop I have a good IDE with debugger that will allow me to be productive as a developer. If Mono were not there I would not be using or developing for linux, it is as simple as that.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: minefield
by setec_astronomy on Sat 30th May 2009 17:34 in reply to "RE: minefield"
setec_astronomy Member since:

I guess it is safe to say that most readers of OSNews can reach an agreement about the stupidity of software patents and the state of affairs especially in the US wrt these issues. My problem wrt mono runs deeper than a vague fear about MS sueing individuals and/or FOSS projects over a bunch of mono/.Net related patents.

The consituents of what is known as "Mono" are distributed under a mix of licenses. And please correct me if I'm wrong, but the licenses used for the C# toolchain part and the runtime libs seem to be (at least as of now) the GPLv2 and the LGPLv2 respectively, both licenses that require upstream parties to ensure that all potential downstream recipients, regardless of their position in the supply-chain and relationships to upstreams, have equal access to all necessary patent licenses.

The problem is that Microsoft itself is - when it comes to mono, at least as far as I know - not a party of the GPLv2 / LGPLv2 (e.g. they have not distributed Mono or equivalent software under these terms) but are in a position to suddenly start collecting license fees (which is allowed under RAND terms). There are several potential ways to craft even an RAND-Z license which is incompatible with the GPL/LGPL, like for example reserving the right to sublicense so that each and every user has to obtain a license directly from Microsoft. This practice is actually quite usual for several technologies that can be licensed royality free from Microsoft (afaik, the Core fonts and the the license for the ribbon interface have or at least had these restrictions in the past).

Call me odd and paranoid, but the words "kill switch" are pretty much what I would use to describe this scenario. Note that (let's say) MS does not even have to actually sue somebody. All that it takes is that some parties (like for example RedHat, Debian, etc.) are excluded from getting a GPL compatible license.

It is especially because of the large number of trivial patents that are already out there which may be used to wreak havoc on pretty much any FOSS project regardless of their preferred toolkit/language/etc. (double-click and progress bars anyone?) that it seems a bit strange that a project like GNOME increasingly relies on Mono which - according to this article - introduces some additional legal concerns.

If you like mono / .Net as a development environment, then go for it. But if you work on an (in the perspecitve of the FOSS desktop: extremly) important FOSS project, then I hope you take the legal ambiguity resulting from the conflicting interpretations of the patent situation into account when you form your strategic decisions.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: minefield
by segedunum on Sat 30th May 2009 20:34 in reply to "minefield"
segedunum Member since:

1. Samba
2. Fat
3. WMA
4. Wine
5. OpenOffice
6. Desktop environment

If you answered "yes" to any of these, you have used Microsoft patent encumbered technology.

No, not in the same way at all, and I've pointed this out before. With what you've listed there it is possible to create implementations that just happen to be compatible with Microsoft's, or parts of them. It's difficult to make anything stick. What they've done with .Net and the core CLR specification that makes everything tick, in particular, is different.

For the first time there is a written and nailed down specification where you can point to an implementation of .Net technologies and say "Ah, that is CLR and ECMA compliant". The Mono guys might just as well have looked at the Rotor code. You cannot do that with Samba, Wine or even any of Microsoft's office file formats and you could never make it stick legally. With this, they have a pretty reasonable chance of saying that if you implement something within a compatible CLR then you're covered. If you were to implement something similar in a JVM for example then you'd be OK. They're ring fencing their own technology as they see it and nailing down that fence.

BTW - there are a number of commercial entities using Mono in their products - just check out the Mono website. Apparently, they're not too concerned about MS's BS.

Well they wouldn't be. They've almost certainly caved and licensed something from Novell and Microsoft. What we're concerned about around here is the ability for organisations, and open source projects, to create implementations completely independent of that without any outside interference.

I wish Mono proponents would stop saying "Oh, you could be sued for anything and look at Samba and Wine!" as some kind of defence. It isn't.

Edited 2009-05-30 20:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

Failure to understand licences.
by oiaohm on Sat 30th May 2009 22:46 in reply to "RE: minefield"
oiaohm Member since:

1. Samba = GPLv3
2. Fat < Optional long filename
3. WMA = Optional Feature with codec with patent coverage buyable patent protected codec from Fluendo so not a issue.
4. Wine = LGPLv3
5. OpenOffice = GPLv3
6. Desktop environment = Lots GPLv3 or LGPLv3

Anything LGPLv3 or GPLv3 patent holder cannot take on individuals license is negate with whole or nothing.

Mono is GPLv2 not 3 for the engine. In the runtime itself MIT license no patent protection for you. So yes it can be done against individuals.

MS is desperate to dispute they are not distributing gplv3 because once distributing they have already given a patent license.

The GPLv3 blocking of patent attack is why from time to time changing of Linux kernel license to it comes up. With Mono a user targeted licensor already exists that is really restrictive on who they will sell patents to.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: minefield
by niemau on Sun 31st May 2009 04:13 in reply to "RE: minefield"
niemau Member since:

I wish Mono proponents would stop saying "Oh, you could be sued for anything and look at Samba and Wine!" as some kind of defence. It isn't.

well put! ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: minefield
by JeffS on Mon 1st Jun 2009 16:09 in reply to "RE: minefield"
JeffS Member since:

I'm not a Mono proponent by any means, other than I find it interesting technologically. For myself, I strongly prefer stuff like Java and Qt, for a myriad of reasons.

"With what you've listed there it is possible to create implementations that just happen to be compatible with Microsoft's, or parts of them."

I don't understand what the difference is. Mono's C# and CLR are implementations, with 100% original source code, based on published standards.

Samba is a compatible implementation of an MS protocol.

I guess the only real difference would be that Samba, to my knowledge, is not an open standard. So presumably, the Samba devs had to reverse engineer the SMB protocol, and create their own implementation from that.

If anything, it seems to me, that Samba would be even more legally dangerous than Mono, for the simple fact that the former might have involved reverse engineering, and the latter was based on a published standard.

But, IANAL (standard disclaimer). That legal crap gives me headaches! ;-)

In any case, my only interest in Mono is for transporting existing ASP.Net (or other .Net code) code to non Windows platforms, if the need ever arises. Apart from that, Mono offers me nothing that I can't already get from stuff like Java, Qt, Python, and many others.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: minefield
by TechGeek on Sat 30th May 2009 22:11 in reply to "minefield"
TechGeek Member since:

Just to be factual and correct:

1. Samba is owned by IBM and they have open sourced it to the world. Plus they are part of the Open Source Patent Protection program. No patent problem there.

2. FAT is free. Just long filenames are patent encumbered. We could live without this, no big problem here.

3. WMA is MS owned. Most distros dont support it out of box. Not a problem in most other countries.

4. Wine is reverse engineered. It doesn't use Microsoft code but not sure about the patents.

5. Open Office? Why would OOo be encumbered? People have been making Office suites for a long time. Lotus 1-2-3 anyone? WordPerfect?

6. Desktop? Seriously? Its widely known that Xerox invented the technology and gave it away. I don't think Microsoft could argue they should own a patent on it.

Mono - Strictly a Microsoft creation. Like WMA it is not worth bothering with. It actually IS a mine.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: minefield
by Lobotomik on Sun 31st May 2009 08:05 in reply to "RE: minefield"
Lobotomik Member since:

The vastness of your ignorance is impressive. You really should read a bit before saying such nonsense.

Samba may be financed by IBM, and IBM may be a member of thirty different open patent groups. However, Samba implements a protocol which embeds patents that are property of Microsoft. Whether Samba is safe or not does not depend at all on what IBM would like it to be.

The original idea for the desktop metaphor might have come from Xerox, but MS, Apple, IBM and others have added their bits to it, even the stupidest of which may well be patented too. Font optimisation, page layout, and various GUI bits have patens all around.

Wine implements the Windows API. While it possibly cannot be acused of copyright infringment, it surely infringes many, many Microsoft patents.

Why could OOo violate MS patents? Well, in a thousand different places, starting from the .doc interpreter. The fact that there are other suites does not make any of them non-infringing.

Mono? It might be a minefield, but at least Microsoft has published the specs, and is providing help, support and codecs. The published parts should be about as safe as Samba.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: minefield
by trenchsol on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 19:59 in reply to "minefield"
trenchsol Member since:

Free software might be a minefield, too. For example. database drivers for MySQL, version 3 and higher, are under GPL. MySQL people decline to interpret the license, and also decline to come clear are they willing to go after people who write non-GPL applications that work with version of MySQL server that is downloaded for free. Instead, they recommend to buy MySQL and be safe.

I write software for living, and placing any part of my code under GPL is strictly not an option. I find difficult to explain customers why they need to buy something they already downloaded for free.

The final outcome is that I have never sold any application that works with MySQL database. For customers that have not chosen database engine yet, I always advise against MySQL, to avoid problems.

My engine of choice is PostgreSQL, but I also find MS SQL much more developer friendly than MySQL, because license situation is clear, customers know that they need to pay, and, second, there is a developer version for free.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Crying closed source maker.
by oiaohm on Wed 3rd Jun 2009 00:38 in reply to "RE: minefield"
oiaohm Member since:

I deal with the Crying my business is stuffed because my program don't work any more.

Closed source in that case is a extrema pain in but. If you wish to make closed source so be the costs. All firms I have is a strict I will not buy a application unless source code is provided for custom software anyhow. So Mysql license does not bother me in the least. The more businesses that do that to you the less you will worry about GPLv3 restriction against closed source.

Reply Parent Score: 1