Microsoft does the right open-source thing

November 13, 2009 5:41 PM EST
I'm staggered. Microsoft has admitted that it violated the GPL2 with its Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. That's not too surprising, since the violation was about as clear-cut as you could get. What's surprising, even shocking, is that Microsoft is going to re-release the tool under the GPL2!

In a note on Microsoft's open-source Web site Port 25, Microsoft's Peter Galli, a former colleague of mine as it happens, said "After looking at the code in question, we are now able to confirm [that GPL code from the ImageMaster open-source program had been put in Microsoft's proprietary program] ... although it was not intentional on our part."

The Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool is meant to help netbook users upgrade from XP to Windows 7. It makes it possible to take a Windows 7 DVD image and place it on a USB stick. Since many netbooks don't have a built-in DVD drive, this was an essential program for users who wanted to install Windows 7 on their XP desktops -- not an easy job on any PC. ImageMaster is a general-purpose tool for moving DVD images to USB sticks.

Galli continued: "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."

Now for the amazing part. Galli added: "When it comes to our attention that a Microsoft component contains third party code, our aim is to be respectful of the terms under which that code is being shared. As a result, we will be making the source code as well as binaries for this tool available next week 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."

Microsoft admitting to taking open-source code, albeit by accident, and then doing right by the open-source community. Amazing.

Maybe Microsoft is changing their ways when it comes to open source. I can't see Microsoft moving to Linux. But maybe, just maybe, Microsoft is going to become a good open-source citizen. Now that would be amazing!