Microsoft admits its GPL violation; will reissue Windows 7 tool under open-source license

Microsoft admits its GPL violation; will reissue Windows 7 tool under open-source license

Summary: Microsoft officials confirmed on November 13 -- a few days after pulling a Windows 7 download tool that allegedly contained improperly-licensed open-souce code -- that the company did, indeed violate the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). It plans to reissue the source and binaries for the tool next week under the GPL v2.

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Microsoft officials confirmed on November 13 -- a few days after pulling a Windows 7 download tool that allegedly contained improperly-licensed open-souce code -- that the company did, indeed violate the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Microsoft pulled the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool from the Microsoft Store on November 10 after a report by "Within Windows" blogger Rafael Rivera that he had found what looked to be open-source code in the tool. Inclusion of open-source code isn't a no-no, but Microsoft's decision to put a restrictive, non-open-source license on the tool incorporating that code was. (The USB 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.)

From a November 13 blog posting by Microsoft Open Source Community Manager Peter Galli:

"After looking at the code (within the USB tool) in question, we are now able to confirm this (inclusion of improperly licensed GPL v2 code) was indeed the case, although it was not intentional on our part. While we had contracted with a third party to create the tool, we share responsibility as we did not catch it as part of our code review process. We have furthermore conducted a review of other code provided through the  Microsoft Store and this was the only incident of this sort we could find."

Galli said Microsoft plans to make the source code and binaries for the Microsoft tool available the week of November 16 under the terms of the General Public License v2 "and are also taking measures to apply what we have learned from this experience for future code reviews we perform."

Topics: Hardware, 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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105 comments
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  • Tar and feather them (nt) ;-)

    nt
    Economister
    • There appears to be hope!

      If more incidents were handled with this candor MicroSoft could re-established TRUST with many skeptics and many dollars would be saved on unnecessary litigation.
      kd5auq
    • Yeah - they made good on GPL2 - tar them anyway!

      It's Microsoft - hurt them even when they do admit their errors and make good on them!

      Seriously Dude, see a shrink!
      Fark
      • A tad serious?

        Lighten up a bit - a shrink? I will put my mental health up against yours any day.

        In any event. If I pirated some MS SW and got caught, said sorry and stopped using it, I guess they would let me go eh? Fat chance.
        Economister
        • re: A tad serious?

          Actually, if you pirate a single copy of Windows,
          yes, they will let you off. You can even
          continue. Just can't download a lot of their
          "free" software.

          Now, get caught loading hundreds of copies on used
          PCs or selling burned DVDs, and you'll find that's
          a different story.
          kevinddavis
          • And if

            you are audited and found in non-compliance?
            Economister
          • You do realize...

            that Microsoft has always stated that they are after counterfeiters - For example, the WGA screens alert users that their copy may be counterfeit, not that they are somehow unlawful.

            If you make hundreds or thousands of copies of Windows and sell it, then yes, expect to be charged, maybe your company is using 1 Windows key for a few hundreds desktops, then yes, you'll get charged.

            Every business knows that the cost of legal action should not outweigh the cost of lost sales. Windows costs $200 or less? Unless Microsoft can file and win a case in 30 minutes, the cost of legal action exceeds the lost sale of 1 copy of Windows.

            The only exception would be if you're a blogger who hates Microsoft, then they might not care about the cost.
            TylerM89
          • Hate may be a strong word, but

            are they watching me? ;-)
            Economister
          • Ever hear of the BSA?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Software_Alliance

            And our favorite guitar string company's story:
            http://news.cnet.com/2008-1082_3-5065859.html

            ONE machine out of compliance - you get to license it and then pay a fine. Doesn't sound like 'Sorry - our mistake!' would cut it.
            Spikey_Mike
        • The difference is intention

          If you pirate something you are purposefully breaking the law. If you bought a PC where the OEM put a pirate copy of Windows on you wouldn't be prosecuted.
          mikefarinha
      • What's happening here? Is all this happening because it is Friday the 13th?

        Why do talkbackers tend to be so humor-challenged?

        Some people here is too sad to watch, good grief.
        The Mentalist
      • Is that tar.gz or tar.bz2? (NT)

        NT
        Subsentient
  • RE: Microsoft admits its GPL violation; will reissue Windows 7 tool under open-source license

    It was brave of Microsoft to admit this but in the end they are the bigger man for doing so. This was resolved in a very professional way. Its just too bad the linux fanboys had to get up in a frenzy over this when there really wasn't much of a story to begin with. And to show good faith Microsoft is releasing it as source code and binaries. If only all incidents could be handled this way instead of linux fanboys foaming at the mouth with ridiculous demands the world would be a better place.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Yeah...

      and if caught pirating their SW, MS will accept an apology and ask you to please stop.
      Economister
      • Maybe ban you for life?

        http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/11/cheap-to-good-home-used-360-pirated-games-slightly-banned.ars

        :-(
        Arm A. Geddon
    • Laughable!

      They pirate software, when they get caught they apologize and with that they achieve moral grandeur status.

      I wonder what I will get if I pirate software supposedly theirs (as we can see one can never be sure) and then apologize. A medal of honor perhaps, a Nobel Peace Prize, who knows?
      The Mentalist
      • More likely a Purple Heart

        and a grandioso lawsuit by a stable full of lawyers.
        Ole Man
      • Yes, you are laughable (nt)

        nt
        TylerM89
        • What is this?

          .
          The Mentalist
      • GPL Compliance

        You do realize that MS did exactly what the GPL compliance lab from the FSF would have asked them to do, right? Before being formally asked to? So apparently, their supplier made a mistake, once informed MS directly did the right thing (their other option, which would also have been legally compliant, would have been to pull the code and replace the GPL'ed code, but no, they preferred to release the whole package), and yet somehow they are still evil in your book?

        And by the way, given how industrial software development works, comparing this kind of issue to piracy in the sense of cracking MS software is laughable. It's a whole other issue, the huge difference being, as another poster pointed out, intention. Catching the fact your supplier re-used existing code, let alone it's license, is extremely difficult. And it looks like this is the situation MS is in. Hardly comparable to cracking COTS software.
        yozzman