back to article Microsoft bans open source license trio from WinPhone

Some open-source apps for Windows Phone and Xbox have been banned from Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace. And there's uncertainty hanging over the rest. Apps licensed under GPLv3, Affero GPLv3, and LGPLv3 cannot be sold and distributed on the marketplace, according to Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace Application …


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  1. Julian Smart


    More news to gladden the hearts of Nokia employees, developers and users.

    Wow, the mobile market is in a sorry state at the moment what with Apple lording it over content providers, Nokia going evil, legal threats over Android, and Microsoft living up to their reputation. I'm glad I don't depend on mobile development for a living... yet.

    1. Tigra 07
      Thumb Up

      RE: Julian, it could be worse, at least we had the choice

      Still, android is encouraging and giving a face to open source.

      It's in the best interests of everyone that it succeed as the other options are walled gardens that stifle innovation and actively fight open source.

      Without open source we would be forced to pay high prices for office documents and freeware would be non-existant.

      Android on the other hand can grow and expand in unexpected ways, but always in the way you choose rather than Apple or Microsoft.

      I chose android because at the time there was no WP7 and apple had already been shown to use slave labour for pennies.

      If i had chosen WP7 now i'd be seriously regretting it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Without open source we would be forced to pay high prices for office documents and freeware would be non-existant."

        Freeware existed long before FOSS, it's not the same thing, there is plenty of closed source software which is free.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Qt is GPL, banned on WP7?

      ...seems as the days pass Nokia have less and less to bring to the WP7 mashup!

      If they'd gone with Android (or at least been platform agnostic), their Linux engineers could have kept on working to resurrect Nokia as a platform owner. Retrofitting Meego over an Android Linux system is at least possible, probably easy. Seems even building any Qt based layer cant happen with WP7 and replacing or dual booting the OS isn't an option.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a political game.

    They draw a line in the sand. If no one opposes it or crosses it, then it remains. If too many people oppose it, then it will be bugged slightly, just to say "yeah, we here you and have done something about it".

    MicroSoft gains nothing by supporting it, it takes money away from them and their business model.

    If they were to change them, embrace it somwhow, include it in their model, change how they do business, well....

    But not many will fight this, there may be a little bickering, but that's about it.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the world of software patents..

    Can't really blame MS. Open source people are militant to a fault when it comes to their licensing and I wouldn't want to have to deal with that rubbish either being tied up in courts as some wanker decides it's his time to shine and put MS in their place..

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I down voted you for...

      ...that lame troll attempt

      1. Chad H.

        I voted it up

        Because its not a troll attempt - Its a trend.

        Apple got sued because someone uploaded an app using the GPL because the FSF don't like the DRM iTunes uses. The FSF has decided that the iTunes App store is out of bounds, and the Windows store isn't too different.

        Is it really a "Free" as in Freedom license if someone else is hijacking your work to score points?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      And 'closed source people' don't enforce their licenses?

    3. AdamWill


      "Open source people are militant to a fault when it comes to their licensing"

      You mean, not like those closed source people?

      "Welcome to the world of software patents"

      What, there's some magic that ensures closed source code never infringes on patents?

    4. Anonymous Coward

      "Open source people are militant to a fault..."

      And the downvotes disprove this how?

      1. Sam Liddicott
        Thumb Down

        not the downvotes

        Nice misdirection....

        It's not a matter of disproving it, but showing it's significance - so far the militancy of the "two" licensing "camps" has not been shown to be significant.

        And "down-votes" bury, not disprove - that's how it works

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Welcome indeed

      Just look at how aggressively they pursue companies with their army of patent-trolling lawyers. They seem to spend all of their massive software-biz fortunes needlessly tying poor defenseless companies up in the courts. Just look at all the damage they've done to society! To capitalism! To business! To the Ah-muhrakhin way! Good job! Not only do you paint all open-source folk with the same brush, but you also made the brush up out of thin air.

      Actually, can you cite a single case where a "militant open-source wanker" has brought a patent or copyright suit against a software vendor? I doubt it. I think the paint fumes have got to you sir.

      1. Tom 13

        No, because I'm bad with remembering the wanker names,

        but the guy who started it all, (not Linus) certainly did take a case to court and won. If he hadn't nobody would treat FOSS as legitimate. I consider him a wanker. I also consider Jobs, Ellison, Gates, and Ballmer to be wankers. Seems to go with Big IT CEO territory and yes, FOSS has their OS equivalents. All of which makes me hate the current state of US copyright law, which is the one place where all of this COULD be fixed.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Welcome indeed

        <quote>Actually, can you cite a single case where a "militant open-source wanker" has brought a patent or copyright suit against a software vendor? I doubt it. I think the paint fumes have got to you sir.>/quote>

        Pity you didn't read the comments posted before yours, one of which cited precisely such a case.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should be interesting...

    I can't wait to see how Miguel tries to spin this one as positive!

  5. Pawel 1

    Wording of that fragment

    Means that GPLv2 and possibly even LGPL are excluded too.

    1. Tim Parker

      Re : wording of that fragment

      "Means that GPLv2 and possibly even LGPL are excluded too."

      ..and MIT, BSD, Apache, Mozilla... in fact pretty much anything you want if you're allowed to redistribute the application without charge. It's not just a GPL3 thing, regardless of what the original intent was.

      1. StevenN

        Nope, mostly the virus of GPL.

        It have more to do with DRM and Apache and BSD have no issues.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thanks, I needed a good laugh this afternoon.

  7. Tim Parker

    Not just open source

    The Microsoft Windows® Phone Marketplace Application Provider Agreement actually applies not just to open-source applications, but any applications which can be redistributed without charge - be they open source or proprietary binaries. So if you want to allow your users to, e.g. share that application directly with others without recompense, then you can't put on the marketplace. The relevant sections would seem to be 1.l.(iii) and 5.e listed below [esp. note the use of the word 'or' in 1.l.(iii)]


    Terms and Conditions

    1. Definitions.


    l. “Excluded License” means any license requiring, as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of the software subject to the license, that the software or other software combined and/or distributed with it be (i) disclosed or distributed in source code form; (ii) licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (iii) redistributable at no charge. Excluded Licenses include, but are not limited to the GPLv3 Licenses. For the purpose of this definition, “GPLv3 Licenses” means the GNU General Public License version 3, the GNU Affero General Public License version 3, the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3, and any equivalents to the foregoing.


    5. Application Requirements.

    Each Application you submit to Microsoft for distribution through the Windows Phone Marketplace must comply with the following requirements (the “Application Requirements”):


    e. The Application must not include software, documentation, or other materials that, in whole or in part, are governed by or subject to an Excluded License, or that would otherwise cause the Application to be subject to the terms of an Excluded License.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not licenses

      The first paragraph of that just reinforces that this is the same action as Apple had to take with the VLC mess.

      The problem doesn't seem to be the license, or that you can distribute the source, the problem is that you cannot redistribute the downloaded binary because it is DRMed, and you cannot install ("side load") anything that's not from the marketplace on WP7.

      This is the same as Apple - you cannot redistribute an app once downloaded and you cannot install things you've not downloaded from the single source. On Android you can do both, hence Android is not a problem for these licenses.

      I can't imagine there's anything actually stopping you from releasing your source code. After all, a number of apps on the marketplace are simply compiled versions of the same code MS have supplied freely. And don't MS have their own "open source" license?

      1. Tim Parker
        Thumb Up

        Re : Not licenses

        "The first paragraph of that just reinforces that this is the same action as Apple had to take with the VLC mess."


        "The problem doesn't seem to be the license, or that you can distribute the source, the problem is that you cannot redistribute the downloaded binary because it is DRMed, "

        The agreement states that the application must be signed - whether this equates to DRM in this context I don't know. It also states (4.b)

        "If you provide your own license agreement, your license must, at a minimum, (a) permit the Purchaser to download the Application on up to five (5) mobile devices associated with that Purchaser’s Windows Live ID,without payment of any additional fees to you"

        ..which doesn't preclude redistribution of a signed binary.

        "I can't imagine there's anything actually stopping you from releasing your source code"

        True - but that wouldn't necessarily be an option for a proprietary (but freely distributable) binary-only application

  8. npo4

    Another blow to open source...

    This is a shame especially just after their Nokia deal, as Nokia used to love open source, with Symbian and MeeGo, and one blog post I read from a Nokia developer was talking about how they'd much rather write closed source code for an open source platform than open source code for a closed source platform, as they'd want to promote and help the open source platform and not the closed source one.

    But I really hope we get some more open source mobile OS's as the newer operating systems out there are more aimed at being simple and easy, and some technically minded people like me would prefer more options.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You don't get it

      Linux failed to make a decent phone - and I mean Linux all the way up the stack from the kernel to the GUI.

      This wasn't for lack of trying: Motorola, LiMO, etc. The "Community" is still in total denial about this.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        So that's why my n900 is crap

        OH WAIT IT ISN'T

      2. Windrose

        Why not tell us the truth?

        "Linux failed to make a decent phone - and I mean Linux all the way up the stack from the kernel to the GUI"

        So you never used an N900. Fair enough. Why the run-around tho? Just admit you don't know shit about the topic, and lets get on with life.

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Erm, Android is Linux

        The HTC Desire HD is currently considered one of the best smartphones around.

        You might want to do a tiny bit of research before making such sweeping statements.

  9. Pablo

    Way to go Nokia!

    (Note the sarcasm.)

  10. Tzael


    All you need to know summed up succinctly in the last paragraph prior to the closing sentence. You could move that paragraph to the top so that people know what the real deal is, but then where would be the fun in goading people who don't bother to read the whole article?

  11. colstrom

    I don't think it's about the politics (this time).

    Despite the historic battles between Microsoft and various free software camps, this particular issue doesn't seem to be politically motivated, if you look deeper.

    Effectively, Microsoft has to disallow software licensed under the GPLv3, because Section 6 explicitly requires the disclosure of "any methods, procedures, authorization keys, or other information required to install and execute modified versions of a covered work in that User Product from a modified version of its Corresponding Source."

    That doesn't work with an approval-based distribution model that requires digital signatures from an approving body, as the Windows Phone Marketplace does.

    I've written in greater detail on the subject at for those interested.

    1. Tim Parker

      Re : I don't think it's about the politics (this time)

      Hi Chris,

      I read your article and don't disagree with the reasoning.. however 1.l.(iii) applies (very) broadly to most of the major open source licenses and a few proprietary ones i've seen - AFAICS the wording of that section would indicate that redistribution without charge is a sufficient condition in and of itself, and is quite separate from any parts of the (L)GPLv3, such as section 6, that would cause a problem.

      As stated in the agreement, the question of redistribution does not specify where that distribution takes place or how - so buying an application under a permissive license and, say, passing it on (legally) to others could be argued as constituting a redistribution, and would cause the license to classified as Excluded.

      That said IANAL but i've been through enough similar legal paperwork to recognise some of the more obvious wriggle room - whether this is intentional or not (probably not in this case).

  12. Big-nosed Pengie
    Gates Horns


    How surprising.

  13. Antti Roppola
    Jobs Horns

    GPLv3 is about patents and DRM

    The specific refeernce to GPLv3 is interesting. Two key motivations behind v3 were software patents and DRM; two topics that ought to be dear to MS's heart. Methinks that the veto is based on specific fears on one or both of these fronts. Or it may not be in response to a perceived threat, but a measure to impede adoption of GPL v3.

  14. Chad H.

    As much as I hate Msoft, I don't think they're to fault here.

    Looks like Unca Bill's Piggybank is just simply trying to avoid a lawsuit from the FSF - I think its their fanatical vision of Open Source thats to blame, and their unwillingness to play nice with the things app stores need to do to attract the non-FOSS apps.

    Wondering if we can really keep calling the GNU licenses "Free" as that fanatical core seems to be deciding for developers who and where they should be offering their products - hijacking the entire movement.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      What ?

      >>> Wondering if we can really keep calling the GNU licenses "Free" as that fanatical core seems to be deciding for developers who and where they should be offering their products - hijacking the entire movement.

      Err, how exactly is the GNU licence not "free" ? It places no obligation on anyone to use it, and it places no restrictions on your distribution of code/programs licensed with it. Absolutely no one is forcing anyone to use any form of "open" software - if you don't want to, or don't want to abide by the free licenses the software is released under then you are free to not use it. But if you want to cave cost/time by not writing it yourself (or buying it from a commercial software vendor) then the flipside to getting all this for free is that you don't then try and restrain others who might want to do the same.

      This is MICROSOFT applying the restriction, not FSF - and they are doing it because these open licences work in a way that's an anathema to the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Also, be very aware that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever preventing Microsoft or Apple distributing such programs through their stores - nothing at all except that they aren't prepared to relinquish the crippleware. All they need to do is distribute such programs without the DRM* crippleware and the licensing would be no problem. They won't (note, won't, not can't) do this as it would mean their devices would have to support the running of uncrippled code - and that would mean they couldn't maintain the control they insist on having over other people's property.

      If we didn't have so much software released under GPL and similar open licenses then the crippleware embedded in the iPhone/Windows Mobile systems would be considered positively free and easy compared to what we'd probably have by now.

      GPL3 was specifically written to get around certain techniques being used by corporations who wanted to benefit from free software - without the pesky requirement to be open yourself. Microsoft had some deals in the offing that would have meant that only certain classes of user could run certain open software. And it's well known that TiVo complied with the letter of GPL2 but so locked down their box with DRM* that having the sourcecode wasn't sufficient to allow users to modify and run the code they used - ie they used free software to make money, but failed to reciprocate with the requirement to allow people to modify and use that software in the way they had done.

      * Digital Restrictions Management. It's not about rights, it's about restrictions.

      1. StevenN

        You are 100% wrong on this point...

        <i>and it places no restrictions on your distribution of code/programs licensed with it.</i>

        GPL places very serious, harsh and restrictive modes to the distribution of code based on it. You are right that you are not forced to use GPL, but if you do, you sell your soul to it lock stock and barrel, and as a developer, are chained and shackled.

  15. Don Casey
    Thumb Up

    I suspect

    Microsoft's problem is if they distribute an app with a GPL3 type license, then effectively they are cutting off their ability to sue anybody over any code found later to exist in that app.

    They will, in effect, be granting to the world a license to use any code so distributed, whether they knew it or not.

    Like if somebody included the Linux kernel in such an app.


  16. Lyle Dietz

    Not malicious, not political.

    Microsoft cannot comply with the GPL, LGPL, or AGPL, and these terms reflect that. It has nothing to do with malicious intent, and everything to do with legality.

    I'm sure Microsoft would like to have these apps in there store, but these licenses don't allow that to happen with the way their app store is at the moment. If there was a way that the store could distribute the source code, I'm sure the restrictions would vanish.

    I just wish people would think before bashing away at their keyboards in a religious fervor.

  17. Cyfaill

    Windows mob...ile

    Microsoft did not like the internet and was not very good with it... until they got their hands on the BSD ip/tcp stuff.

    Microsoft is not very good with mobile OS either... as shown by the struggle to stop the world progressing beyond their control... but you know what... its to late for them now as android is going to win in the end.

    I do not have any mobile equipment, so there is no skin in on this one... but the outcome is predictably obvious. this is just more of what Microsoft has always done and always will until company’s and people stop paying for their survivability.

    When will everybody figure out that this is one cat that cannot change its spots even though they try to be a chameleon.

    Its over already... MS is done. they are just flopping on the floor of failure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      MS don't use the BSD IP stack, they did in WinNT 3.11 and 3.5, this was an IP stack supplied for MS by an external company, by NT4 all the IP stack was MS code.

      Mobile Device is not synonymous with Mobile phone, MS is a big player in handheld devices.

      MS is the largest server software vendor in the world, it is also the largest desktop vendor in the world (albeit rather helped by the pre-installation of workstation software.) I don't see them failing at any time soon. Having said that in a couple of areas they're not doing brilliantly - IE is losing market share and WP7 is still on the way up - to where, noone yet knows.

      There is a significant difference between wanting a company to fail, as you obviously do, and them actually failing. Anyway, why do you want them to fail? Why don't you want them to get better or open source their software, for instance? Do you really hate them that much that you want all their employees out of work?

      1. Lewis Mettler

        illegal business practices persist

        Microsoft continues to use illegal business practices.

        That is more than enough reasons for Microsoft to fail. It should fail.

        And employees should leave. Unless they think that using illegal practices is what they think they need to do?

        The US Appellate courts decided that commingling the OS and IE was in fact illegal. And that remains the law to this day. It is illegal for Microsoft to continue to commingle OS and IE code regardless of the purpose. Microsoft's purpose is to control and manipulate consumers and prevent them from not using Microsoft technology.

        If you work for Microsoft you agree that illegal practices are your creed. Your success depends upon illegal work.

  18. raving angry loony

    Not the only one

    Folks, Apple did the same thing a while back. None of these large companies whose only goal is to lock people into their product lines likes anything resembling "freedom". In any shape.

    All I can say is "if you don't like it, avoid them". I know I try to, as much as possible.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Why can't we have...

    ... an Open Source Phone OS with an Open App architecture that allows developers to freely write apps without being tied to go through the Babylonian Captivity of the OS owners' App Stores?

    Perhaps there already are some?

    1. Neil Lewis

      Apps not just through the app store

      Like Android, you mean? Where you can add Android Market sources to with a simple setting, and install apps from anywhere you like with free installer tools? Would that help?

    2. StevenN

      The problem is, do developers want to live in their parents basements?

      We have a few of those. And if you develop for them, you make almost no money.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Does anyone care?

    Seriously, is this going to affect anyone? You know the answer's no. Jailbreak an iPhone and use all the tools you want, from where you want. No one is impinging on your precious freedom. No self-respecting hacker would carry a MS phone anyway.


    "Or it may not be in response to a perceived threat, but a measure to impede adoption of GPL v3."

    Now you're getting to the point.

    The GPL is a political tool to clobber Microsoft with, it was purposefully written so.

    From the Wiki:

    "The license is also meant to cause Microsoft to extend the patent licenses it grants to Novell customers for the use of GPLv3 software to all users of that GPLv3 software; this is possible only if Microsoft is legally a "conveyor" of the GPLv3 software."

    So Microsoft is entitled to tell the 'tards, "Thanks. But no thanks".

  21. mikebartnz
    Jobs Horns

    Stupid sods

    WP7 hasn't exactly been a great success and they want to hobble it even more. Really bright move but that's alright because the programmers will put their time into Android instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      To say that WP7 is only a few months old and has had, by pretty much all accounts, a fairly impressive launch, I'd say you're getting a bit ahead of yourself.

  22. Displacement Activity

    It's *not* "Open Source"; it's GPLv3

    Sorry, Gavin, think you may have missed the point here. As far as I can make out from the article, the problem is specifically with GPLv3. A couple of posters above have pointed out the problem with AppStores, but I think the fundamental problem here is that no sane vendor is going to allow a GPLv3 app anywhere near their device or OS. If you distribute a GPLv3 app, you're effectively legally required to break open your DRM. GPLv2 doesn't have this problem. This is nothing to do with MS - everyone in the "device" business has this problem.

    1. Tim Parker

      Re : It's *not* "Open Source"; it's GPLv3

      It may be aimed at GPLv3, but it doesn't appear to be limited to that. Each of the sub-clauses of section 1.l is sufficient in itself to cause the license to be classified as an Excluded License - in particular 1.l.(iii) has a much, much further reach than any of the GPL licenses. Whether anyone at Microsoft would enforce it on, e.g. a application containing or dependant upon BSD licensed software, is an interesting point - but the conditions are there to allow it AFAICS.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Love how MS get the blame here

    And barely anyone mentions the FSF - it's their shitty license that causes the problems.

    It's the same story with ZFS - Sun release ZFS under a very permissive open source license, which is so heinous to the FSF that they declare that it cannot be used in Linux, because 'Sun deliberately made it incompatible with GPL'. No, they didn't; FSF made GPL incompatible with anything thats not GPL, and they think that is a good thing.

    Just think where we would be today if the BSD socket implementation had been GPL licensed.

    Linux is the 'embrace and extend' of UNIX; in 10 years there probably won't be one interface left that hasn't been 'improved' upon with a GPL implementation that is now 'standard' (cf udev). GPL is truly evil.

    AC, I'm going to get flamed for this :/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'd say that you're a bit wide of the mark, but not much... I do think that some of the biggest proponents of Open Source can actually be some of its worst enemies. RMS springs to mind... Many Open Source people tend to have an almost religious fervor for FOSS, which can be rather off-putting for people who want/need to have mixed FOSS/COTS environments.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Meh - Who cares...

    Basic Phone....

    Basic Phone Calls

    Uses Linux almost all the time on all systems...

    Basically doesn't give a fuck.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    This is a good thing. It means the MS platform will be as dead in the water as expected.

  26. Mark .

    Nokia Ovi

    I forget how things work with Windows Phone - have they gone the Apple route of requiring you to release from their app store, or is it like Nokia, Android etc, where you can release anywhere?

    Admittedly it's still a problem, as in practice if you're not on the "official" store, you'll have a hard time getting people to use the app.

    I forget what the Nokia/MS announcement would mean for the Ovi Store? Will Nokia be phasing that out completely? Or do they still plan to offer than on top of Windows Phone? If the latter, we can still hope they have better conditions.

  27. John Savard Silver badge


    How about adding this to the GPL:

    Distributing software licensed by the GPL over a channel which, through technical means, blocks copying otherwise permitted and otherwise required to be permitted by this license, does not constitute a violation of the GPL, provided an indication is provided of how those blocked from copying the software through that particular channel may copy it in another fashion. The responsibility to provide such an indication does not fall on a distributor which did not initiate the distribution of the particular software in question.

    Which means: Microsoft is not in violation of the GPL for limiting all software, even software bought for $0.00, from being copied between devices, if somebody puts GPL software in their app store. Neither are you if you put some GPL software there, as long as you include a notice that says, "Can't copy from your device? Go and download it again, you klutz".

    Microsoft's lawyers are happy, the free software movement is happy, and everyone can just go back to sleep.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't trust Microsoft....

    " confesses he was "astonished" given Microsoft's friendly overtures to open source"

    Microsoft are behaving exactly as I expect them to behave. You make a deal with Microsoft, especially when your own company is struggling, and you've just let the vultures have at you. You don't cut deals with Microsoft when you're down because they just want to pick your pockets before burying you.

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