Slashdot.org, a website that features discussions about the open source software movement, is embroiled in a legal row with Microsoft.
Microsoft claims that a message posted on the site discussing the software giant's tweaks to Kerberos, an open source security protocol, violates copyright law and has demanded its removal.
In response, attorneys for Andover.com, Slashdot.org's parent company, have posted a letter asking how Microsoft can claim trade secrecy for a protocol that is distributed over the internet.
Kerberos is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) authentication protocol standard originally developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is available from the university in an open source format for Windows, Unix and Macintosh.
But Microsoft is the only company that adds proprietary extensions to the publicly available Kerberos format.
The text accompanying the Kerberos field authorisation documentation maintains that the specification "is confidential information and a trade secret of Microsoft."
Developers or users who want access it first need to agree not to redistribute or publish Microsoft's code. Slashdot ignored the demand and posted Microsoft's material online.
Robin Miller, editor in chief of Andover.Net claimed Microsoft's action was little more than demanding censorship.
According to Slashdot's posting, "Our friends at Microsoft are upset about some of the readers' comments attached to the story, Kerberos and Microsoft's Dirty Tricks, and would like us to remove those comments from Slashdot."
It continues: "We are not happy about this. But instead of reflexively going into rant mode, we are calmly posting the full text of the email we got from Microsoft, along with our initial response to it, so that you can see what news and community websites, like Slashdot, are up against now that the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act - a US law that protects copyright material] has become law."
That email, sent by JK Weston, Microsoft's designated agent, reads: "Under the provisions of the DMCA we expect that having been duly notified of this case of blatant copyright violation, Andover will remove the comments from its servers."
Even though Microsoft made the information available on its website, it has claimed that Slashdot's republication violates trade secrets.
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