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Re: Licensing of code for proprietary file types

Siggi Langauf <siggi@debian.org> wrote:
> On Sat, 17 Aug 2002, Dave Smith wrote:
> > I have developed a set of functions and routines for accessing a
> > prorietary file format of Microsofts and wish to find out what
> > objections Microsoft can make if I license the code under an open
> > source license (preferably the GPL).
> >
> > There are no other free code libraries around that will do this
> > stuff, and any applications I have seen have got their code
> > licensed from Microsoft.
> well, there is xine-lib (package libxine0) which does decode ASF
> files, for example. And more come to my mind: wine is said to run
> .EXE files just like OpenOffice does read .DOC or .XLS files...

That is interesting.  The author of Virtual Dub had to remove ASF
support because of patent threats from Microsoft.  I haven't looked at
the patent, so maybe it only covers encoding, and not decoding.  Or
xine is still too small to be noticed by Microsoft.

> > Can Microsoft come down heavy on me, for writing and publishing code to
> > access their file format and licensing other people unlimited use of the
> > code via the GPL?

It really depends on where you live.  In the US, Microsoft's lawyers
can always send you threatening letters.  You can probably just tell
them to go away, but I would strongly recommend real legal advice
before you do anything like that.  I don't know what your personal
situation is like, so maybe you can afford to have some legal

> > PS, the fileformat in question is the outlook PST file.

For this particular format, it really depends on how many other people
have figured out how to read those files.  I have a feeling that
Ximian has already done so, since they want to fully interoperate with
Exchange.  If there are a lot of different groups that have done this
already, then you will probably not be noticed.

But really, IANAL.

Walter Landry

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