Microsoft Windows 7 download tool may have violated GPL

According to a report by Rafael Rivera, Microsoft's recently released Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool has used GPL code illegally.

The tool, which has been pulled by Microsoft, allows end users to upgrade to Windows 7 in an easy way. Rivera states "while poking through the UDF-related internals of the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool, I had a weird feeling there was just wayyyyyyyyy too much code in there for such a simple tool. 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 GNU General Public License (or simply GPL) is a widely used free software license typically used in licensing open source software.

According to Mary Jo Foley, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that Microsoft had removed the tool stating "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."

It's not immediately clear whether the allegations are true but if Microsoft has pulled the download then clearly there were reasons to do so. Stay tuned for further updates.

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42 Comments

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I suspect they are re-writing that part of the code and are going to use a new selection of software devs so they can't get slammed for the coder being 'tainted' or 'inspired' by the GPL'd code.

Either way this, because microsoft actually used the code in the first place, is somewhat of a victory for the 'open-source movement' that microsoft strives so hard to suppress.

Microsoft does this yet throws a fit because a paying customer doesn't upgrade their computer correctly and calls them a thief. This is why they have such a bad reputation that probably never will change.

TC17 said,
Microsoft does this yet throws a fit because a paying customer doesn't upgrade their computer correctly and calls them a thief. This is why they have such a bad reputation that probably never will change.


If somebody uses an upgrade to do a regular install of windows without owning a full version that is at least xp, they are a thief.

Thank goodness Microsoft didn't charge a penny for that program! I can only imagine the temperature of this thread if that were true LOL.

The GNU General Public License (or simply GPL) is a widely used free software license typically used in licensing open source software.

Everyone wants Microsoft to open up to open source correct? if something is free, how is it bad?

OIC, because big ol' bad Microsoft didn't code the tool, they're bad little boys and gurls. Hell the open source community should be thrilled a proprietary company used their product. this could lead to more collaboration of proprietary systems and open source.

I think that the facepalm picture is appropriate. But probably not in the way you intended. It works well as a reply to the very post you wrote!

It's not that Microsoft can't use what they didn't write. Or that the FSF or community should be somehow grateful that Microsoft used their code under GPL-violating terms. It is just that Microsoft (like everyone else that elects to use GPL code) must simply comply with the terms and release the code for what they used/modified.

That's it.

ah ok Mark. the facepalm photo was used to show that MS may have indeed used GPL software. but was it illegal?

the reason why I ask is, since Novell and MS teamed up to work together, "technically" speaking, doesn't that make it fair for MS to use free open source software? when I was learning VisualBasic 4 way back in the day, the guy who taught me to use it kept telling me, "Use the API's, basically someone elses work. he said "no reason to reinvent the wheel."

I think it's kinda cool on the one hand to see MS use GPL software but, as you all say, if it was illegal, illegal "IS" illegal no matter how small the infraction

Thanks for setting me straight Mark!

ChrisJ1968 said,
ah ok Mark. the facepalm photo was used to show that MS may have indeed used GPL software. but was it illegal?

the reason why I ask is, since Novell and MS teamed up to work together, "technically" speaking, doesn't that make it fair for MS to use free open source software? when I was learning VisualBasic 4 way back in the day, the guy who taught me to use it kept telling me, "Use the API's, basically someone elses work. he said "no reason to reinvent the wheel."

I think it's kinda cool on the one hand to see MS use GPL software but, as you all say, if it was illegal, illegal "IS" illegal no matter how small the infraction

Thanks for setting me straight Mark!

Microsoft and any other company are free to use GPL software. And no, "knowing someone who uses it" (or having a business relationship with them) does not exempt them from complying with the GPL, which is a COPYRIGHT document, not a EULA license.

Just because I purchased a copy of Windows 7 does not allow me to make unauthorized copies and re-distribute. Same with GPL software, except the "authorization" is merely passing on the same GPL rights to source code access as you received when you got the GPL software.

Exactly right. Microsoft is free to use it. In fact anyone is free to use it just as long as comply with the GPL. I'm not sure why that is so hard to understand.

If the code is swipped, I would feel a lot better about MS if they would admit their mistake, give the auther credit and re-release it with the proper license included if that's what's required. It would be much better than trying to cover it up or sweep it under the rug.

On a side note, I wonder if Ballmer threw another chair around when he heard about it?

Stupid mistake. Microsoft should either pay a certain amount of money to the FSF, or put it back up with the source code and license included. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, and would probably improve their image with alot of open-source fans.

freeeekyyy said,
Microsoft should either pay a certain amount of money to the FSF, or put it back up with the source code and license included. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, and would probably improve their image with alot of open-source fans.

Stop with this FSF terrorism.
If MS uses MY open-source code I do NOT want FSF to get money for it.
freeeekyyy said,
would probably improve their image with alot of open-source fans.

Yeah... Like when they sponsored Apache Foundation or when they donated 20000+ code lines to the Linux kernel.

RealFduch said,
Stop with this FSF terrorism.
If MS uses MY open-source code I do NOT want FSF to get money for it.

I agree the money (if any) should go to whoever wrote the code
Yeah... Like when they sponsored Apache Foundation or when they donated 20000+ code lines to the Linux kernel.

The 20,000+ lines of code mostly benefited MS, it added support for their own software (their VM)

Rudy said,

I agree the money (if any) should go to whoever wrote the code

Well, who did write that GPL'd code? There would be many hundreds of contributers, potentially. Say, for example, they came out with a hardware product (like a super-smart keyboard) that used an embedded processor running the Linux kernel and their own software running on top of that.

They cannot "pay" anyone to keep their changes to the Linux kernel secret. The FSF isn't after the money. They have sued for GPL violations in the past, but will always drop the suit when the defendant complies with the GPL. I imagine if legal expenses were large, they might also add in something to cover the legal costs. But, providing that Microsoft made their app without also using GPL code in that, they would not have to release their application code at all, and that could remain proprietary.

fo you know how big microsoft is and how many coders they have. It was probably a simple oversite. They took the tool down. Its not like they said screw it and kept it there.

Why didn't they contact the developer if they were going to use it? :S

They could surely have arranged something? It just sounds like such an unnecessary mistake.

Heck, if I got MS on the phone and they told me "Hey, your work is so good that we want to use components of it in our upcoming OS Windows 7, can we come up with an arrangement to do so?", I wouldn't exactly be hard to work with. :-p I'd be humbled enough to let them use the code free of charge as long as they just credited me as an assisting author in some about text.

Note this is not actually part of Windows 7, it's a separate tool. And I don't see what would be so bad about releasing an app like this under the GPL... It'd be a good PR move and would help the Windows development community.

The point is not that the code was free.. Its that the licence to use the code dictates that any changes or improvements are to be released. They did not release the modified code and thus they violated the license.

It would be unfortunate if this were true - an easy mistake but one that shouldn't have occurred. It's clearly a valuable tool for their customers, so releasing the source code onto MSDN could make it useful for the wider developer community too, while adhering to the terms of the GPL.

It's not really an all too easy mistake. I'm also a developer, but would never use code in our projects from e.g. Codeplex or Code Project without carefully reading their license texts. We do use some third party code, but pretty much only if it's a short license and easily understandable so you can't get it wrong.

The bigger issue (PR wise) is that it's from their own initiative which I'm sure some people will love to pick apart.

I don't see how you can accidentally steal someone elses work, though. Perhaps it was an oversight on their part whereby they considered they made no meaningful changes to contribute back to the project? I'm not sure of the GPL specifics in that area, though.

omni1 said,
I don't see how you can accidentally steal someone elses work, though.

They probably though nobody would notice it if they steal the code.
They either need to release the full source code or buy the code if they don't want to release it.

There is nothing wrong with Microsoft using someone else's code - all they had to do is abide by the licence and share the changes they made. Why not open source it so that the contributions can go back to the codeplex project?

rawr_boy81 said,
There is nothing wrong with Microsoft using someone else's code - all they had to do is abide by the licence and share the changes they made. Why not open source it so that the contributions can go back to the codeplex project?

Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.

cabron said,
Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.


Why not? As long as they follow the GPL they can use it.

Anyone can use the code, even large corporations with big amounts of resources and capabilities to produce software (and those do use GPL'ed software too). What is asked is just that they obey the license. It wasn't the case here, hope they can correct it.

cabron said,
Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.

Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use HTTP and HTML? It is not right to do it.

cabron said,
Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.


it probably wasn't microsoft as a corporation. it was probably a single lazy developer trying to meet a deadline.

brent3000 said,
why reinvent the wheel?

Cause we can. We can improve the aerodynamics as well as the grip, speed and velocity. I say this is a necessary change that we will see in future generations. The wheels we have now will be replaced with the wheel of tomorrow. I recommend everyone puts of buying a wheel just for now as the next wheel is just coming around the corner.

cabron said,
Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.

I see no reason why they can't use open source code. So long as a company abides by the GPL guidelines, I see nothing wrong with them using open source solutions. By disclosing their enhancements and changes, they could make it better.

Billus said,
Cause we can. We can improve the aerodynamics as well as the grip, speed and velocity. I say this is a necessary change that we will see in future generations. The wheels we have now will be replaced with the wheel of tomorrow. I recommend everyone puts of buying a wheel just for now as the next wheel is just coming around the corner.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel in order to improve it.

Not saying some people shouldn't reinvent it for the sake of progress, but if it works why not use it until that next something comes along?

cabron said,
Well, Microsoft is a big corporation with thousands and thousands of developers. Why they need to use Open source code? It is not right to do it.

OSX doesn't ring a bell?