Microsoft has agreed to license the source code for communications protocols in its Windows server software in a bid to avoid being fined €2 million a day by the European Commission, the company's top lawyer said Wednesday.

"I don't believe any decision to implement a fine is warranted," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, told reporters in Brussels following the announcement that it would license the code to third-party vendors.

The Commission, which is the European Union's antitrust enforcement arm, has threatened to hit the company with the hefty fines unless it comes into compliance with the Commission's March 2004 antitrust decision against it.

As part of that decision, Microsoft was ordered to license the communications protocols for its workgroup server software so that other vendors can develop products that interoperate smoothly with Windows. The Commission's goal is to create a more level playing field for competition in the server software market.

The European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg will hear Microsoft's appeal of the March 2004 antitrust decision from April 24, a court spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Microsoft was fined €497 million for abusing its dominant market position, the European Commission found.

To comply with the ruling, Microsoft shipped a version of its OS without Windows Media Player.

The company was also ordered to detail technical information to allow competitors to make compatible products. Microsoft is still fighting that part of the decision.

While Microsoft has maintained it has sent proper documentation, a computer expert with the Commission determined it was inadequate. On Tuesday, the European Commission granted Microsoft an extension until February 15 to provide satisfactory technical details.

In December, the Commission said it would fine Microsoft €2 million a day unless it met a deadline, originally set for Wednesday.