Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7 (Updated)

Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7 (Updated)

Summary: Whether it's free as in beer or as in speech, apps with free software licenses are not welcome on the Windows Phone 7 marketplace.

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Thinking of submitting an application to the Windows Phone Marketplace? Better check the fine print in the developer agreement. Microsoft has a message there for many free and open source developers: You are not welcome. (Updated: Added reaction from Microsoft below).

Developer Jan Wildbeoer pointed out the clause on Wednesday, but it's actually been there unnoticed since September. You can read the full PDF version, but here's the part about free software:

The Application must not include software, documentation, or other materials that, in whole or in part, are governed by or subject to an Excluded License, or that would otherwise cause the Application to be subject to the terms of an Excluded License.

and earlier in section 1l it defines an "Excluded License" as (emphasis mine):

“Excluded License” means any license requiring, as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of the software subject to the license, that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with it be (i) disclosed or distributed in source code form; (ii) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (iii) redistributable at no charge. Excluded Licenses include, but are not limited to the GPLv3 Licenses. For the purpose of this definition, “GPLv3 Licenses” means the GNU General Public License version 3, the GNU Affero General Public License version 3, the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3, and any equivalents to the foregoing.

Note that the agreement does not keep you from making your app available for no charge. It does not keep you from publishing the source code to your app. What it does prevent you from doing is using a license that *requires* either of these qualities.

Specifically, the clause attacks copyleft licenses, a category that includes GPL, LGPL, and MPL (Mozilla Public License). The Free Software Foundation defines copyleft as follows:

Our aim is to give all users the freedom to redistribute and change GNU software. If middlemen could strip off the freedom, we might have many users, but those users would not have freedom. So instead of putting GNU software in the public domain, we “copyleft” it. Copyleft says that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it. Copyleft guarantees that every user has freedom.

Permissive open source licenses such as EPL (Eclipse Public License), ASF (Apache License), and BSD/MIT should be allowed by the agreement because they do not require the freedom be "passed along". Probably. Insert standard not-a-lawyer disclosure here.

Ironically, Simon Phipps points out on his blog that Microsoft may have just banned some its own licenses. I wonder of Nokia knew about this before joining forces on Windows Phone 7?

Updated: MJ has posted this response from an unnamed Microsoft spokesperson on her blog:

The Windows Phone Marketplace supports several open source licenses, including BSD, MIT, Apache Software License 2.0, MS-PL and other similar permissive licenses. We revise our Application Provider Agreement from time to time based on customer and developer feedback, and we are exploring the possibility of modifying it to accommodate additional open source-based applications in upcoming revisions.

Translation: Permissive business friendly open source = good, copyleft reciprocal hippie GNU free software = bad. I'm trying to get confirmation about the ones that sit on the fence such as MPL and EPL.

Related articles:

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development, IT Employment, Windows

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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92 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

    it seems to me that they were looking to protect themselves from being slammed with a ton of apps for sale that were required under license to be free. If someone takes them to court and they break out the agreement, they're covered.
    hysonmb
    • Stuck in the Windows Phone 7 Walled Garden

      This is Microsoft's walled-garden in action.

      Microsoft is foolish to try to take all the profits for itself, restrict everyone to Microsoft's own app store, and ban any free open-source software.

      Windows Phone 7 is the most restrictive platform that ever existed (even more than iOS).

      It's too late for Microsoft to pull this kind of trick. Now that the open-source Android OS is out there and popular (and lets people obtain whatever software they want from wherever they want), the closed Windows Phone 7 stands no chance and will fail.
      Vbitrate
      • im sorry zndac but your wrong on that

        @zndac
        Remember that one thing ... When you think that people cannot get any more stupid .... they make sure to prove you wrong.
        so yes WP7 may actually perform rather well also think about all that money those tech will do repairing those phone ... brilliant
        Quebec-french
      • Is that like Open Sorce's walled garden

        @zndac, where people are required to pass on all recepies using food from that garden?
        If you don't like it, you're not allowed in?
        John Zern
        • Quebec-french

          @John Zern [i]all that money those tech will do repairing those phone[/i]
          What are you saying, exactly? Last time I checked, there are a lot of techs repairing iPhones, Samsung, ect.

          So what's your point?
          John Zern
      • wait a few month

        @John Zern

        wait when W7P will by more infected that a crack whore
        wait until all the stuff that infect a pc will get on a WP7 phone ...... like i said tech love MS its our bread and butter .... User are stupid idiot they click on everything they see . Windows is a swiss cheese everything pass trough the first time ....

        stupid user and windows =$$$$$$ for technician
        Quebec-french
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @Quebec-french

        With that attitude toward users I'm shocked that you have any customers/clients at all. I know that if I was ever doing business with you and this kind of drivel seeped out of your mouth it would be the last time you ever saw me.
        boomchuck1
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @zndac Are you kidding me about your comment "Windows Phone 7 is the most restrictive platform that ever existed (even more than iOS)." Apple is so restrictive that no one else can make hardware for it.

        Open source is not always the best option due to many variations in OS's. As long as android keeps dropping a new OS every month it won't be long before people get frustrated. It's not like they drop it and a individual get upgrade their phones. They either have to buy new hardware or wait until the manufacturers feel like it.

        As for MS failing that won't happen for one they have to much money and to many patents. The only way for them to fail would be for MS not to have made WP7. It's only a matter of time before they start to gain ground.
        Duk3togo
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @zndac

        ...They haven't banned all open-source licenses yet. In some ways, the GPLv3 license is quite restrictive on where the software licensed under it can be used. In fact, the GPL itself prevents software licensed under it to be used in an app store which wraps copy protection around distributed software - something that Apple learned the hard way with VLC. The clause is only to prevent some idiocy like that from happening again.
        spacespeed
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @zndac <br><br>or maybe MS is saving themselves with dealing with the hassles of said licenses so that just incase their is legal trouble ms dosent become a victim
        Viper589
    • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

      @hysonmb

      All MS would be required to do is have the seller provide a mechanism for distributing the source, or if they fail to do that, remove the offending software. As long as MS makes the effort to comply once informed of a GPL violation, they will not be slapped with a lawsuit.

      This method is certainly one way of accomplishing that. Although it would require no more effort to allow GPL apps as long as no one complains but remove them if someone does. So I doubt fear of a lawsuit is the driving force behind this decision.
      Michael Kelly
      • EXACTLY!!

        @Michael Kelly - exactly correct! All it would take is for them to add a field to the manifest, "URL for source code", and handle complaints if an app creator doesn't honor the license they themselves chose!

        This really is about freedom, in the RMS sense -- do you truly own your phone or don't you, are you allowed to truly own an app if the app creator says they want you to, or aren't you. I'm not saying I agree or disagree, just that all the other discussion and excuses are balderdash.
        daboochmeister
      • You mean like the policies Napster followed..?

        @Michael Kelly

        ..taking down offending titles at the request of the author worked really well for them, didn't it?
        daftkey
    • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

      @hysonmb
      Exactly.

      The Apple App store has a similar policy. VideoLan pulled VLC because they were not happy about the Apple policies violating the terms of Open Source.
      dazzlingd
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @dazzlingd Mild correction. One single dipshiat who insisted his contribution was released under GPL V3 sent a DMCA takedown notice to Apple. The Applidium people got a letter from Apple that essentially says "We had to take down your app because of thus assh0le. Talk to him. "
        His_Shadow
      • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

        @dazzlingd you are right. Apple has almost the same exact policy! I have been developing on the Apple platform for years (Obj C) and I wasnt suprised to see such a request. This article is crap! Either way, Windows Phone is going to be a good player... I started dev in C# several years ago and I must say it is way better than Obj C.
        apetti
    • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

      @hysonmb
      You misunderstand the ZD article and probably didnt read it. Then again the ZD writer isnt that bright.
      Very simply they are banning an open source.
      30% of known MS apps of the 8000 apps as of Feb 19th, are FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      JABBER_WOLF
    • And NMBers b!tch about the iPhone?

      You jerks don't have a pot to p!ss in...
      search &amp; destroy
  • Great Troll Baiting Here from ZDNet

    Open Source =/= Free Software.
    dazzlingd
    • RE: Microsoft bans Free Software on Windows Phone 7

      @dazzlingd

      What certain ZDnet writers are best at.
      wendellgee2