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Microsoft GNU is Not Unix

SFLC Says Microsoft Violated the GPL 237

Posted by kdawson
from the only-haggling-over-the-price dept.
After Microsoft donated driver code to the Linux kernel under the GPLv2, stories surfaced that they had done so under duress of already being in violation of the GPL. Microsoft quickly denied that any GPL violation was a driver for their decision to donate the code; the company's senior director of platform strategy, Sam Ramji, said at the time: "Microsoft's decision was not based on any perceived obligations tied to the GPLv2 license." Now the Software Freedom Law Center confirms that Microsoft was indeed in violation of the GPLv2 when it distributed its Hyper-V Linux Integration Components without providing source code. Community members led by Greg Kroah-Hartman contacted the company and coached them through the process of getting compliant. Microsoft now says that they had already been on the path for several months toward releasing the software under GPLv2 before Kroah-Hartman got in touch.
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SFLC Says Microsoft Violated the GPL

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:26AM (#28850217) Journal
    So I downloaded the Hyper-V Linux Integration Components from Microsoft [microsoft.com] and unpacked the exe. I was prompted with this agreement:

    MICROSOFT SOFTWARE LICENSE TERMS

    MICROSOFT WINDOWS SERVER 2008

    HYPER-V LINUX INTEGRATION COMPONENTS

    PLEASE NOTE: Microsoft Corporation (or based on where you live, one of its affiliates) licenses this supplement to you. You may use it with each validly licensed copy of Microsoft operating system products software (for which this supplement is applicable) (the âoesoftwareâ). You may not use the supplement if you do not have a license for the software. The license terms for the software apply to your use of this supplement. Microsoft provides support services for the supplement as described at www.support.microsoft.com/common/international.aspx.

    After it unpacks, I get an RTF named "Linux ICs for Hyper-V" and LinuxIC.iso ... no source code. Anybody know where said source code is? Because when I do a search on their site [microsoft.com], I'm not finding it.

    Sure, it may have contributed the source code to some repository somewhere but I think the GPLv2 says you need to provide it if you are distributing. Which is what they're doing. Pretty obvious violation right there. Also, when you distribute it, you should have a copy of the GPLv2 license with it. I can't find a trace of it when I get the iso from them ...

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by leuk_he (194174)

      Well, it seems you did not download the gpl version, but an old version. I am unsure where you can find the gpl version.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        Well, it seems you did not download the gpl version, but an old version.

        Sorry, but copyright law doesn't work that way. Even if they do abide by the license when they release a new version, the old version is still a separate work (according to the law) and still in violation. They need to either release the source code for the old version too, or quit distributing it.

    • by sunny256 (448951) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:37AM (#28850321) Homepage

      PLEASE NOTE: Microsoft Corporation (or based on where you live, one of its affiliates) licenses this supplement to you. You may use it with each validly licensed copy of Microsoft operating system products software (for which this supplement is applicable) (the ÃoesoftwareÃ). You may not use the supplement if you do not have a license for the software.

      (Emphasis by me.) Addidionally, if this is GPL, as they say, they can't demand that you have a MS Windows license to use the software. When you've got a copy of it, you're free to use it as much as you want, with or without a MS Windows license.

    • by ComputerDruid (1499317) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:40AM (#28850337)

      It's easy to find. It is posted on the linux kernel mailing list as well as in several git trees from kernel.org. Where all kernel patches belong. See http://lkml.org/lkml/2009/7/20/167 [lkml.org] .

      • It's easy to find. It is posted on the linux kernel mailing list as well as in several git trees from kernel.org. Where all kernel patches belong. See http://lkml.org/lkml/2009/7/20/167 [lkml.org] .

        Thanks for the link and I am aware of that. I guess I was wondering how they found themselves in compliance with Section 3 of the GPLv2 [gnu.org] and I think this is where the article and SFLC are coming from:

        3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

        a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

        b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

        c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

        What I'm trying to say is I'm not seeing any of this and when I actively look on their site for it, nothing comes up.

        So I grab GPL code, modify it and upload it to some remote unnamed repository with a license and go about my business releasing it under my own license as a binary on my site? I don't think so.

        • by Jurily (900488)

          So I grab GPL code, modify it and upload it to some remote unnamed repository with a license and go about my business releasing it under my own license as a binary on my site? I don't think so.

          That's the viral nature of GPL: once they get it, they're stuck with it. They can't put their own license on it, no matter what they do elsewhere.

          I think we need a lawsuit to sort this out. And for the patent threats, of course :)

          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:03AM (#28851429)

            That's the viral nature of GPL: once they get it, they're stuck with it. They can't put their own license on it, no matter what they do elsewhere.

            If GPL is viral, than so is copyright. If I take someone else's source code, use it without a license in my own program, and distribute the new source code, everything that uses that code could potentially be a violation of copyright. Similarly, if I distribute a movie that someone else holds the copyright to without a license, me and everyone else who distributes that movie has violated copyright. And if I distribute Microsoft Windows without a license, the BSA will most certainly take me to court and press for criminal charges. It's not the GPL that's viral, it's copyright law. GPL simply provides a fair set of rules by which you can use another person's code. If you don't like the license, write your own code.

            • by wastedlife (1319259) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:20AM (#28851781) Homepage Journal

              This.

              Too many people seem to think that GPL is a trap to get you to release their precious code. However, it only requires them to release their code if it contains GPL code. At its heart, it is like saying, here is my code, I grant you a license to use, modify, and distribute as much as you would like. My payment is that you need to distribute the entire source, including your own changes.

              The bottom line is, if you don't want to be held to the GPL license, either work out a different license with the copyright holders, or write it yourself. If you want free code from someone else with little to no restrictive licensing, use BSD-style licensed code or public domain code.

              In my opinion, writing and using GPL code makes more sense from a business perspective than BSD, because you get a community of free and paid developers to add to your own, and other businesses need to release their improvements so that you can use them as well, protecting your ability to compete.

              • Whoops, this:

                My payment is that you need to distribute the entire source, including your own changes.

                should say this:

                My payment is that if you distribute, you need to distribute the entire source, including your own changes.

                The GPL does not require distribution of changes if I modify but do not distribute.

                Also, I am unsure of how internal distribution is mandated. For example, if I deploy a modified Debian or Ubuntu as a desktop OS for workstations in the company I work for, do i need to deploy a copy of the source code on each machine or include a copy of the license with a form for requesting a CD or DVD of the source code?

            • Thank you for the most brilliant and succint refutation of the "viral GPL" nonsense I've ever seen.

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          If the code is in the kernel tree, wouldn't the exception apply?

          However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable.

    • by eht (8912)

      Source code is in the correct place, send them a letter asking for it and they send you back a copy of it, they're not obligated to provide a copy on the web.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        They are obligated to make it apparent on how to get the source code though. If they chose to mail the source upon request, then they needed to include that written offer with the binary to make it obvious.

  • GPL2 (Score:4, Funny)

    by TechForensics (944258) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:27AM (#28850231) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft now says that they had already been on the path for several months toward releasing the software under GPLv2 before Kroah-Hartman got in touch.

    Yeah, right.

    • by Fringe (6096)

      Microsoft now says that they had already been on the path for several months toward releasing the software under GPLv2 before Kroah-Hartman got in touch.

      Yeah, right.

      I believe Microsoft on this one... because IF they hadn't already been working on a GPL source release, the MS response to legal threats and letters is to dig in their heels. When I was at Microsoft (I'm feeling much better now!), legal would have us avoid doing anything that looked like agreeing with the premise of such a letter, which means we weren't allowed to comply with the letter request once it hit legal until legal drew up contracts and such, even if the same actions were already in our developme

  • Usually, companies with lawyer armies are rather careful about the words they allow released to the public. They'll get all symantic and never say anything that they can be nailed for later. But they denied being in violation publicly and are proven to having been in violation. Okay, I guess I do see where they have weasel room -- "we were already on the path to being compliant before this guy helped us." Really? But their "donation of code" to the GPL2 was anything but "their idea."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I believe you meant to say "getting all Symantec". It's much funnier that way, and takes advantage of your partial spelling of 'semantic'.

  • Your honour (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Norsefire (1494323) * on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:31AM (#28850269) Journal
    I had been on the path for several months of buying a legitimate copy of Windows before Microsoft's lawyers got in touch. Honest.
    • I had been on the path for several months of buying a legitimate copy of Windows before Microsoft's lawyers got in touch. Honest.

      Really? Why? ;)

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @08:33AM (#28850285) Journal
    I'm actually pretty surprised by this news. It is well known that MS hates the GPL; but they are a big company, with a nontrivial legal team, and they know that the GPL has, thus far, held up in court.

    Surely legal would have thrown a screaming fit if they tried to release anything that constituted a clear licence violation. In practice, copyright holders of GPL licenced stuff have been mild and cooperative about this sort of thing, generally aiming at compliance and occasionally fairly small damages; but they are under no legal obligation to do so, and MS has very deep pockets, which would bring the lawyers swarming if they were in clear violation.

    Are they trying to provoke a test case, or did they just fuck up?
    • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @09:32AM (#28850957) Homepage

      They just effed up. There's no "test case" to be had. The way that the GPL works is a derivative works and publication license.

      What that means is that releasing your modifications to the code so licensed and the means for which you used to build binaries from it is the royalty payment for being able to use it. Without such payment, you aren't licensed to produce derivative works or publish complete copies. In the act of making a copy and giving it to someone else, you're publishing.

      There's nothing unreasonable/illegal about the royalty payment being required, so there's nothing really out of the ordinary for courts to "invalidate". If it's able to be invalidated, each and every rights deal for book, music, video/movie, or software publishing deal is equally invalid.

      Not even MS wants to go there.

      • by nametaken (610866)

        My understanding was that the GPL only really required you to provide the source if asked to provide it, at a minimum.

        Isn't this saying that they did exactly that?

    • by Locutus (9039)
      the problem is that Microsoft does not act like a company under any kinds of anti-trust constraints. So when some project grabs some GPL'ed code and uses it in their project, it is very unlikely that their lawyers got involved at all. It was only after someone found something in the binary code which triggered the findings outside of Microsoft that GPL'ed code was inside their driver code.

      What I would like to know is how exactly did this code get in the driver to begin with. What I'm talking about is the pr
  • For failing to release the code under GPL for a period of 5 months after they were notified of the violation? Will the SFLC do anything about it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323)

      Note that even if they release the code, that doesn't help them - they've still violated copyright law. Just as if someone is sued for sharing mp3s - saying that you'll stop won't help you.

      Why aren't they being sued for $150,000 per violation?

    • by jamesh (87723)

      For failing to release the code under GPL for a period of 5 months after they were notified of the violation? Will the SFLC do anything about it?

      Who would that benefit, aside from the lawyers?

    • They won't. It has always been the policy of the FSF to try to work out GPL violation problems behind the scenes, then if it fails, go public (unless the public finds out first about the violation) and finally seek legal remedies. I don't know any cases that reached this final stage.

      What really bothers me is the marketing spin they put on what is essentially complying with copyright laws. "Today, in a break from the ordinary, Microsoft..." yada yada - break from the ordinary my ass! This is what happened:

      • Code was found in violation of the GPL by Stephen Hemminger - the main engineer at the open-source networking vendor Vyatta
      • Hemminger approached Greg Kroah-Hartman, who agreed that there is a problem and worked behind the scenes to rectify the situation.
      • MONTHS later Microsoft ended its copyright violation by finally releasing the code and complying with the GPL.

      Then they went on with another spin:

      "We arrived at the decision to release the drivers to the community under the GPLv2 through this process. Both Greg K-H and Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation have reiterated that this is the same process that other companies follow when deciding how to release new device drivers to the Linux community."

      This is so typical - there are some half-truths in there. It is the normal process the FSF has pursued for getting violators in complience with the GPL, however, it is NOT the NORMAL process for those companies or individuals who genuinely want to donate code to the FSF or the linux kernel. "Today in a break from the ordinary..." yeah, well you can say this is a break for the ordinary, for usually it takes far more time to get Microsoft to comply with laws and regulations. 5 months only - amazing!

  • by hackus (159037) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @09:27AM (#28850905) Homepage

    So, seems like Microsoft for SEVERAL MONTHS has been on the GPL path to compliance?

    I would like to point out, that if you pirated several Microsoft so called "Intellectual Property" binaries and eventually paid for them all, you would land in court with some fairly large fines.

    Furthermore, this idea that companies cannot show source code for violations in the GPL rules seems a bit, well, warped.

    This loop hole allows companies to hide behind IP rules, to protect their violations of copyright.

    It is well known that Microsoft is in the HABIT of taking OTHER companies/individual works and using them for thier own gains, fairly shamelessly in some cases, and in others covertly.

    -Hack

    • Actually, if you are a large corporation with say 7,000 desktop licenses for XP, and you are found by Microsoft to have say 7,500 copies deployed, you will not find yourself in serious legal trouble. You will find yourself with a strongly worded letter that basically says "Pay us or we'll see you in court."

      The GPL community members basically did the same thing. MS was in violation, and were told "Pay us or we'll see you in court." The payment in this case isn't monetary, but is a royalty payment of givin
  • I would have said that too. Nothing better, plausible deniability. But, I fear they(M$) might be telling the truth. Now what is the world coming to? Strange days are upon us for sure. So I think they are lying, but why. We'll "you caught me, now what do you want" might have been cooler. M$ is going to have to starting kicking some ass and start taking names if they are going to slow their downward spiral. Right now there is another Google out there? Where?

  • Why are people obsessed over this? Does it matter? Either way, the code is GPL now, right?

    • by lbbros (900904)
      For some it matters as it was not a release out of good will (like some may have thought) or out of interoperability, but simply because they were forced to.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        The two aren't mutually-exclusive. If they were intending to release it as GPL all along, maybe they were only in violation in the first place because their legal team moves slowly. There's not necessarily any conspiracy here.

        • by lbbros (900904)
          I don't think there's a conspiracy at all. But the spin Microsoft put into this, compared to what the truth was, is annoying.
          • by sumdumass (711423)

            How do you know the spin wasn't the truth?

            It's entirely possible that both realities are completely true and the length of time to get into compliance was simply legal delays ensuring they had a right to the code and that the code wouldn't move into other licensed code they had. Meanwhile, not producing the source code when you distribute something is something that is almost always violated. Even major distributions do it when they offer binary update services and don't provide the source code along side i

        • by arose (644256)
          That's not how legal works. You wait for legal instead of violating licenses just because they're slow. No, this was probably a calculated risk on their part. Not quite sure why exactly, but this is Microsoft so...
    • by DMalic (1118167) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:14AM (#28851653)
      It's interesting to see a company which so violently protects their own code against violation treating their own copyright infringement so frivolously.
    • Obsessed? Hardly. On the one hand, we have MS marketing singing a duet with MS fanbois. "Oh, praise MS, praise Gates, and praise Ballmer, for we are contributing to the competition". It makes a pretty song, if you are unaware of the facts.

      Embrace. Extend. Extinquish. This is history. MS takes, MS never gives.

      The ONLY reason MS gives ANYTHING away, is that they think that doing so will increase their money flow. Or, in this case, eliminate a threat to their cash flow.

      Those who object to the falsehoo

  • So? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@PARISlynx.bc.ca minus city> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @09:49AM (#28851191) Journal
    Okay... I'm no Microsoft fan by a long shot, but so what if they had been violating the GPL all this time before releasing the source code? I think that the important point is that they are doing so *NOW*... because, after all, isn't that the point of the GPL? Sure, in an ideal world they wouldn't have been violating the GPL in the first place, but if you will forgive me for the apparent paraphrasing Gandalf from LotR, there's really no point in dwelling on it because what's done is done... the most important thing is what we decide to do about it to make things better... _today_. And I really don't think that more Microsoft hatred is the way to accomplish that.
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:44PM (#28856537) Homepage Journal

      Okay... I'm no Microsoft fan by a long shot, but so what if they had been violating the GPL all this time before releasing the source code? I think that the important point is that they are doing so *NOW*... because, after all, isn't that the point of the GPL?

      If there are no negative consequences to violating the GPL, companies can do it as a matter of course, and then only come into compliance when forced to. This hugely increases the burden on those enforcing the GPL, because as long as there's any value in non-compliance for a time, companies may as well not comply. That's why the FSF has begun demanding cash settlements and other punitive measures for violators.

      Additionally, as other posters have noted, it appears that Microsoft is actually still *NOT* in compliance. Providing the source to the Linux kernel team is not sufficient per the terms of the GPL. Since MS is distributing binaries, the GPL requires them to either distribute the source with the binaries, or to accompany the binaries with an offer, valid for at least 3 years, to provide the source upon request. Also, MS must not impose additional licensing requirements beyond those of the GPL, but it seems they are imposing additional requirements which violates the GPL another way.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't it amazing how /. posted yet another anti-Microsoft story?
    Bunch of freakin' whiners.
  • Oh, how convinient. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:41AM (#28852255)

    Microsoft now says that they had already been on the path for several months toward releasing the software under GPLv2 before Kroah-Hartman got in touch.

    I wonder if MS would accept that same reasoning if it were applied next time an auditor finds a pile of incorrectly licenses MS product in a company. "Ah, yes, that. I'm on the path toward paying for the licenses I should have."

  • Microsoft now says that they had already been on the path for several months toward releasing the software under GPLv2 before Kroah-Hartman got in touch.

    I wish I had time to dig up the article, but 9.5 years ago when I paid their passport.com bill, they claimed that they had figured out the problem internally, and when they went to pay, well, by golly, it was already paid.

    Same theme, new problem.

  • what can be explained by sheer ignorance.

    Microsoft, though we keep referring to them in the singular, has well over 80,000 employees, and I'm betting most of them are not versed in the nuances of the GPL licenses, neither their driver developers, nor the paralegals writing the EULA's (though I bet the lawyers are).

    Now, this doesn't excuse them of a violation one bit. Though it's possible, I doubt they had a a strategy "all along" to open-source the

  • their words are worthless and as soon as the press and public get this, the sooner we can all stop wasting our time discussing what those words mean or meant. It is not as if this is the first time they've done this kind of PR spin trick. Not even close.

    LoB
  • When this originally came up, at least one contributor on the OS News discussion (http://www.osnews.com/story/21882/Microsoft_s_Linux_Kernel_Code_Drop_Result_of_GPL_Violation) of the issue suggested that the GPL code that was being linked to Microsoft's binary blob was *also* Microsoft's code (see http://www.osnews.com/thread?374824 [osnews.com] for example). I've not seen a definitive statement from an interested party either supporting or refuting this.

    The guy who pointed out the violation to Greg KH notes that the d

  • Get over it. Linus was right. Let's not discriminate code based on who contributed it.

    Now it smells like "We don't need no fucking Microsoft code" now. So we accept it, and then discredit Microsoft.

    I think it shows more confidence if we just treat it based on technical merits without spreading FUD.

  • Thank God that we live in an enlightened society that doesn't give copyright protection to software! Just think of the horrors that would happen if rights-holders demanded compliance with various licenses, and used lawsuits as a threat to gain that compliance!

  • Gee look at the MS shills left and right "It doesn't matter now, move on" and my favorite "These articles make us look immature".

    MS violated the license, got called on it and were pressured to comply, then they go on to use the compliance as positive PR.

    PR is important dammit, it help us build trust relationships, when PR is fudged everybody else loses, so it's important these kinds of spins get reported.

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