Did Microsoft Windows 7 download tool violate the GPL?

Did Microsoft Windows 7 download tool violate the GPL?

Summary: Microsoft has pulled an update tool for Windows 7 from the Microsoft Store site after a report indicating that the tool incorporated open-source code in a way that violated the GNU General Public License.

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Microsoft has pulled an update tool for Windows 7 from the Microsoft Store site after a report indicating that the tool incorporated open-source code in a way that violated the GNU General Public License.

Rafael Rivera of the "Within Windows" blog reported on November 6 that he had found something suspicious when mucking around int he code for the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. (That tool, which Microsoft made available on October 22, is designed to help netbook users upgrade from XP to Windows 7 in a more streamlined way.)

On November 9, Microsoft pulled the download tool from its site. A spokesperson sent me the following update:

"Microsoft is looking into this issue and is taking down the WUDT tool from the Microsoft Store site until its investigations are complete. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

Rivera noted that the Microsoft tool may violate more than a few GPL terms and conditions. From his post:

"A simple search of some method names and properties, gleaned from Reflector’s output, revealed the source code was obviously lifted from the CodePlex-hosted (yikes) GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project. (The author of the code was not contacted by Microsoft.)...

"Microsoft did not offer or provide source code for their modifications to ImageMaster nor their tool.... Second, Microsoft glued in some of their own licensing terms, further restricting your rights to the software (TermsOfUse.rtf)."

Microsoft has run afoul of the GPL licensing terms on a few occasions. Most recently, there were questions raised by some in the open-source community about Microsoft's motives for making some of its drivers available for inclusion in the Linux source tree. (Microsoft officials maintained that the company didn't release the source code because of potential legal issues; some in the open-source community begged to differ.)

Stay tuned for more on this, as Microsoft proceeds with its investigation....

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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84 comments
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  • Probably

    A microsoft programmer probably used code he found in the net(IE code-plex...) instead of developping his own code...

    At school the programmer would have failed his course, here MS will face, once aggain, the wrath of Stallman's little cultists.
    Ceridan
    • Deleted Duplicate Post

      Deleted Duplicate Post
      Looks Confused
      • Dang

        Sorry about the double post. Is there a way to delete one or the other of them?

        Hans
        Looks Confused
        • Do I have to reply to both? (nt) ;-)

          nt
          Economister
        • And no....

          I believe you can only edit (down to nt/nt I guess) If you do that at the bottom, I will have to do the same. Cheers.
          Economister
  • if true they should get penalize (nt)

    nt
    Quebec-french
    • No they shouldn't

      Unless of course we start penalizing Open Source, too.

      Seems to me that some open source companies have run afoul of that very GPL in the past.

      If you're not willing to penalize them for what may have been a mistake or oversight, then you shouldn't penalize MS for that same reason.

      I mean, you allways talk about doing things fairly, right?
      John Zern
      • Wrong comparison

        "Fair" would be to treat MS violations of GPLed code the same way as MS treats violations of their IP/copy right.
        Economister
      • Fair is as fair does...

        To ditto what economister said, a more apt fairness test would be to apply to Microsoft the same standards they apply to everyone else. Of course, a real honest fairness test would have to consider both and nobody really wants to be that truly fair. That would require things like critical thinking skills and the application of various shades of grey to an otherwise black and white world so many people seem to be stuck in.
        jasonp9
    • I doubt that...

      there is a big conspiracy at MS to use (or steal) GPL code.

      If I have to guess either it's code from a 3rd party that had some programmer who "stole" GPLed code from codeplex or some soon to be fired programmer at MS who was too lazy.

      It could also be just coincidence... or plain stupidity from the researcher(IE:
      "Oh the tool is using a readbyte() function and ImageReady also uses a readbyte() function so MS stole the idea from ImageReady")...
      Ceridan
      • Assume for a moment that......

        MS indeed did violate the GPL. Also assume that it was an accident. No big deal, right?

        Wrong. MS makes users/customers spend significant resources to MAKE SURE they are in compliance. Any violations, accidental or intentional, are treated the same. If the customers are not in compliance, they are penalized.

        It therefore is reasonable to expect MS, with its vast resources, to act likewise in respecting others' IP. They should spend the resources to MAKE SURE they do not violate the GPL, but they don't, because the consequences are trivial.

        That is IMHO what is despicable in these cases. The ruthless enforcement of your own IP and the casual disregard for that of others. But that is MS for you. That is another reason why it is often despised.
        Economister
  • It was a CodePlex project?

    Well unlikely then that the cult of Stallman or anyone else will give much of a crap here.
    BFD
  • FSF should sue M$

    and ask for triple damages.
    Linux Geek
    • triple damages?

      What damages? $0.00 x 3 = $0.00.
      hjagla
      • Shush you...

        you'll make young Linux Geek's head explode with your logical math.
        Ceridan
      • Maths?

        But for the RIAA 50 songs x $1.00 a song = $250,000,000.

        Certainly the math isn't as simple as "the author didn't charge anything so they don't get anything." Copyleft is copyleft, not public domain.
        The Evangelist
  • Who cares?

    No users care one way or the other.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • "No" is rather a glib generalilzation...

      "Most", maybe, but most end users aren't particularly bright either.

      HypnoToad72
    • so if its ok for ms to violate gpl

      its ok for linux to violate ms big time ... btw
      until proven other wise linux doesnt violate
      anything
      Quebec-french
    • Wow bit...

      If it's MS violating the GPL license then "who cares?"

      If someone is violating MS' license terms you are outraged and everyone should care.

      Can you say zero credibility?
      Tim Patterson