Alleged GPL violation downs Win 7 tool

November 11, 2009 | 13:08

Tags: #gnu-general-public-license #gpl #imagemaster #windows-7-usbdvd-download-tool

Companies: #microsoft #open-source

Microsoft has removed access to its Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool following reports that it used code licensed under the GPL without permission.

The allegations of the use of code covered under the GNU General Public License - which is a popular open-source licence, allowing re-use of the code providing the code or modifications thereof are also licensed under the same terms - were made by Rafael Rivera - via neowin.net - who spotted the issue when "poking through the UDF-related internals of the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool."

Rivera claims that "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 [...] GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project."

While Microsoft hasn't made any official statement regarding the GPL licensed code, company spokesperson Mary Jo Foley has said that "Microsoft is looking into this issue and is taking down the WUDT tool from the Microsoft Store site until its investigations are complete."

While there is nothing wrong per se with Microsoft using GPL-licensed code in its software - after all, the very heart of the open-source ethos is in encouraging code reuse and not re-inventing the wheel - the terms of the licence are very specific: use of code from a GPL-licensed project must include a disclaimer as to its use along with a copy of the source code licensed under the same terms. By violating this, and by replacing the rights granted by the GPL with its own more restrictive terms and conditions, Microsoft has lost the right to use and redistribute the code.

Do you believe that Microsoft should have thought twice before using code from a GPL project in its products, or was this a simple human error somewhere? Did you expect better from a company which often rigidly enforces its own licensing conditions? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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