Microsoft Tweaks Sender ID Deal For Open Source

Redmond works to make its anti-spam proposal more palatable for the open source community, but much remains unclear.
Posted August 25, 2004

Jim Wagner

Microsoft is giving administrators a peek at its new Sender ID license agreement, which is an update to the company's Caller ID for E-Mail technology proposed in February.

Whether the terms are open enough for the open source community to climb on board in support remains unclear.

The license is an update to an e-mail authentication specification designed to reduce the number of spoofed e-mails used by many spammers today.

Currently, the technology is under discussion at the MTA Authorization Records in DNS (MARID) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a possible Internet standard. According to the group's charter, the specification is scheduled to be submitted as a proposed standard by the end of the month.

In June, parts of the Caller ID for E-Mail technology were merged with parts of the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) technology created by Meng Weng Wong, creating Sender ID.

But the combination created some new problems along the way. SPF is popular with open source MTA's like Sendmail, Postfix, Qmail and Exim, which license the software under various open source licenses. Caller ID for E-Mail, however, comes with a license that's royalty-free but contains clauses that have raised questions since the the two technologies merged.

Harry Katz, program manager for Microsoft Exchange, recently posted the new license agreement to the MARID's ietf-mxcomp discussion list. ''Over the last few weeks we have had discussions with a number of parties about our published Royalty Free Caller ID Patent License,'' the post stated. ''As a result of those discussions and the merging of elements of SPF and Caller ID to form Sender ID, we have made a number of updates to the patent license.''

Also included was a FAQ sheet to elaborate on the terms of the new license agreement, which includes some small, though important, revisions meant to appease the open source community.

For example, section 2.5 of the original Caller ID for E-Mail agreement stated that if a software developer downloaded and signed the license, developed an application using the technology and then bundled or distributed it with yet another application by a third vendor, that vendor would have to get the licensee's authorization and sign the Caller ID for E-Mail license agreement before moving forward.

Such wording didn't go over well with open source groups, who view open sourced code as freely exchangeable and able to be modified. The Sender ID agreement removed the clause and elaborated further in another part of the license agreement regarding end users:

''For clarification, this Agreement does not impose any obligation on You to require the recipients of Your source code implementations of such Licensed Implementations to accept this or any other Agreement with Microsoft. Your End Users may use the Licensed Implementations licensed in this section 2.2 [source code distribution] or in section 2.1 [patent license] that they receive directly or indirectly from You without executing this Agreement. This Agreement will be available to all parties without prejudice.''

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