Visual FoxPro for Linux: A Violation of the EULA?
Since this article was originally written, Microsoft did indeed respond to the request for a clarification of the EULA terms, but it did not actually clarify anything. Here's the wording:
Visual FoxPro was designed and tested for use in creating applications that run on the Microsoft Windows platform; the same applies to the components that are provided to developers for redistribution with Visual FoxPro-based applications. If a developer wishes to distribute the Visual FoxPro runtime with an application, the runtime may only operate in conjunction with a Microsoft Windows platform. As with any contract, you should seek your own legal counsel's advice when interpreting your rights and obligations under the Visual FoxPro End User License Agreement.
So instead of clarifying, Microsoft simply passed the buck and told us to get lawyers to interpret the meaning of the contract. Well, one lawyer did exactly that: John T. Mitchell, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., area who specializes in copyright law, picked up the story from The Register. He wrote a piece on his web site that warns Microsoft risks invalidating its abilities to enforce its legitimate rights under copyright law by trying to enforce "rights" that legally are not theirs. You can read his writing, titled "Microsoft Risks Copyright Impotence", along with a more detailed elaboration of the legal basis for his opinion in an e-mail posted to ProFox, an mail list for Visual FoxPro support. I am not a lawyer, but his reasoning and examples are clear and easy to follow.
This controversy also seems to have breathed some life into the Visual FoxPro market. People who had never heard about the product or had assumed it died a long time ago wondered what all the fuss was about. Numerous developers report an increase in inquiries, and membership on the ProFox mail list, which I host, has increased by 10%. If this persists, the controversy might end up costing Microsoft in ways they never anticipated, as more and more companies learn of a tool that can develop data-intense applications for a fraction of what they would pay in license fees for a Visual Studio/SQL Server solution.
Ed Leafe is a cross-platform sort of guy, who works in OS X, Linux and Windows about equally. He is a long-time Visual FoxPro developer and has received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award for each of the past nine years. He also runs the OpenTech Forum, where people with both Visual FoxPro and Linux questions can go for support.
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