EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS


Microsoft’s Goodwill is to Obey the Law

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Law, Microsoft at 6:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s Linux code is from Microsoft, for Microsoft, which fights Linux

Love tag

“The government is not trying to destroy Microsoft, it’s simply seeking to compel Microsoft to obey the law. It’s quite revealing that Mr. Gates equates the two.”

Government official

Summary: Microsoft’s Linux module was made GPL-licensed only because the law required it after accusations of GPL violation

THIS will hopefully be the last post about an issue that we previously covered in:

A blog post that we linked to the other day revealed that Microsoft merely did what it had to do. It was a legal obligation, not a moral obligation. The pro-Microsoft folks wrote about it by citing the blog with the original claim.

As revealed by Stephen Hemminger – a principal engineer with open-source network vendor Vyatta – a network driver in Microsoft’s Hyper-V used open-source components licensed under the GPL and statically linked to binary parts. The GPL does not permit the mixing of closed and open-source elements.

This is further confirmed in Mary Jo Foley’s blog and there is wider coverage of this in Slashdot and OSNews, which chose the headline “Microsoft’s Linux Kernel Code Drop Result of GPL Violation”

To put things in the right order, also consider the headline from IDG: “Engineer: Microsoft Violated GPL Before Linux Code Release”

So, in hindsight, it was not Microsoft’s intention to release the module as Free software. Microsoft screwed up. Linus Torvalds responds to this too, but in his assessment he makes the mistake of comparing Microsoft’s patches to IBM’s. IBM is not the company which is attacking Linux; Microsoft is very unique in that regard. Why would Torvalds refuse to see that Microsoft writes code to advance the competitor/s of GNU/Linux, which is what makes Microsoft’s code different from code of Intel or IBM? Matthew Aslett says that “we should all be very grateful for Linus Torvalds.” We probably all are (I sure am), but this does not imply that there should be no disagreements at times. As Aslett noted:

Glyn Moody reminds us that there has always been a divide between purists and pragmatists, and that actually there is value in that divide in that debate helps expose weaknesses and refine arguments.

We wrote about this a couple of hours ago.

The Microsoft-faithful (and Microsoft investor) Synder daemonises those who warned about Microsoft’s code, so it’s clear that these folks are trying to bury something. Specifically, he writes:

In case you missed it, Microsoft has released 20,000 lines of Hyper-V device driver code to the Linux kernel community. The news prompted a number of commentators, including InfoWorld’s own Randall Kennedy, to go full-bore ballistic. You’d think the black helicopters were about to swoop down on Linuxland.

The other day we noticed the same type of denial in Beta News, which is typically biased in Microsoft’s favour. They are very specifically targeting critics of the big patch. It has always been self serving and it would be foolish to expect otherwise. Here is another interesting take on the subject.

Now ask yourself this question: would Microsoft have released their virtualization drivers as Open Source if they could have been included in the kernel as binary drivers? Probably not! (especially if as some suggest Microsoft had little choice)

The bottom line is that Microsoft did nothing out of altruism (companies are not like humans with compassion and ubuntu), so to claim this was a change of heart is to totally miss the point and to tactlessly embrace Microsoft’s PR.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. zatoichi said,

    July 24, 2009 at 10:31 am


    Microsoft’s Linux module was made GPL-licensed only because the law required it after accusations of GPL violation

    Hold your horses there, Roy! Whoa, Nellie!

    That’s an overstatement. No one has the slightest idea that the law requires anything at all here, and it would take a court trial to determine that. I know it’s very tempting (and probably kneejerk behavior at this point) to paint Microsoft as a lawbreaker at every opportunity, but t’ain’t so, McGee.

    It may be safely reasoned that the GPL v2 license appertaining to portions of the composite drivers that Microsoft previously distributed required it.

    It can be said with a degree of certainty that accepted open source community practices required it.

    The headline seems to be asserting that Microsoft was in danger of breaking some specific and identifiable law here. I don’t believe that’s true.

    zatoichi Reply:

    Sorry, but it seems sometime that every time I look up, I see something new… I’ll try to save time for everyone by pre-commentating this one, using [square brackets]. Try to keep in mind that you mightn’t get to read the facts here otherwise, it might help.

    Microsoft was not “accused of GPL violations”, at least not as I read the story, although that’s been reported some places that don’t fact-check too carefully when there’s a headline at stake, like,say, here.

    What I understood was that Stephen Hemminger, found some sort of problem in drivers that were already a sort of a problem, being of a binary blobbish nature. He brought it to the attention of Greg, who had a chat with Microsoft about it. No accusation.

    And somewhat late-breaking news supports that sequence of events: Microsoft says that GPL violations were not the reason it released the drivers at all but because it was the right thing to do!

    Sam Ramji said, the decision to release was “not based on any perceived obligations tied to the GPLv2″, and that the GPLv2 was “the preferred license required by the Linux community for their broad acceptance and engagement”. (I’ve met Sam, and Bill Hilf, a few times, at conferences.) [Call me a shill now.]

    [SFX: Cue ]

    Vyatta Vice President Dave Roberts states that neither it, or principal engineer Stephen Hemminger, have accused Microsoft of GPL violations, as reported elsewhere. {like, say here, Roy} In a blog posting, Roberts says “news stories have started to circulate that have bordered on putting words into the mouths of both Vyatta and its employees”

    So, not necessarily a violation, at least not according to the folks who were supposed to have found this violation. ["It's a conspiracy!"]

    Roberts says “Stephen merely called the situation to Microsoft’s attention” and that Microsoft have made the right decision to open source the Hyper-V drivers. Hemminger says “once Microsoft was aware of it, they were eager to resolve” the problem

    So, there was a “problem” or an “issue”, but it apparently was not clearly a violation; and Hemminger didn’t “accuse” anybody of anything, he merely called the situation to their attention, and they were “eager to resolve” it, this according to Hemminger himself.

    [SFX: Cue ]

    [Accusations of someone having been "bought off"]

    [Speculation that Vyatta is "not really a free software company"]

    [Speculation regarding possible threats on the part of large corporations to people's lives and well-being]

    [Attempts to probe Hemminger's and Roberts' past backgrounds]

    [Random conspiracy theories]

    ["Troll! Troll!"]

    Thank you for your kind attention.

  2. Nemesis said,

    July 24, 2009 at 10:50 am


    “The government is not trying to destroy Microsoft, it’s simply seeking to compel Microsoft to obey the law. It’s quite revealing that Mr. Gates equates the two.”

    –Government official

    Who was this “unnamed source” Roy, saying a “government official” may sound nice but does that mean you had a chat to the postman this morning. I know it makes you sound more correct and factural but just stating “government official” with no source or ability to confirm or deny what you are stating to be fact or fiction.

    As for and the GPL’d code, MS is a fairly large company, it has the resources to re-write any drivers it felt may be in any form of violation, also you honestly believe the FSF would risk a test of the GPL in a court of law against a group with pockets way deeper than the FSF’s arms ?

    I dont think so, the GPL has not been properly tested in court, the FSF tend to try to scare people into compliance with copyright law.

    I know here MS can do no good, but it must be hard for you to put a negative spin and FUD on anything MS, Novell or anyone else you dont like does.

    It’s a damn shame you cant /kick MS /kick Novell like you love to do to anyone that does not toe the Roy mantra.

    bixler Reply:

    “The government is not trying to destroy Microsoft, it’s simply seeking to compel Microsoft to obey the law. It’s quite revealing that Mr. Gates equates the two.”
    –Government official

    Who was this “unnamed source”

    This came from the Washington Post on Tuesday, December 8, 1998 during the US DoJ v. Microsoft anti-trust case:

    Gates Escalates PR War Outside Court

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    And the law dealt with in this case is copyright law (GPL).

  3. zatoichi said,

    July 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm


    That’s a whole lotta laws, Roy. Pick one.

  4. NotZed said,

    July 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm


    Well, they could’ve gone a more permissive license, like 2 clause BSD or the like. I guess they see the protections offered by the GPL as worthwhile after-all … since they explicitly chose it.

    This might seem a bit of a far-out comment, but Linux is starting to become a quasi-proprietary kernel since they locked the GPL at an obsolete version of the license. Example, all the drivers are inaccessible to any projects using a more advanced license, and commercial vendors often lock their privates away in binary blobs too.

    And it’s the drivers which define the platform … after-all, apart from all the drivers a kernel isn’t a terribly large amount of code.

    zatoichi Reply:

    This is striking me as just another backseat driver demand that Linus do things your way on his project. I see problems with GPL v3; Linus sees problems with GPL v3; lots of people see problems with GPL v3.

    Maybe there are some problems with GPL v3, and the people pushing it the loudest have a vested interest in propagandizing a license they don’t actually understand?

    I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone who thinks they’ve got a good grasp on the implications of GPL v3, and sect. 6 in particular, on government-regulated and certified mobile devices, such as cell phones, etc. You need to be able to discuss cell phone-related legislation, carrier requirements, and government certification regimes intelligently, for starts.

    I predict a vast silence, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be surprised.

    The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet.

    —Damon Runyon

    Nemesis Reply:

    exactly, ive read of alot of developers and managers specifically veto’ing GPLv3 code, whereas V2 is acceptable.

    many big groups like apache, MIT, BSD apple, google and so on have very little respect for the GPL and prefer to emply less restrictive licenses.

    and yes, probity, certification, QA, “neck to strangle” and the very fact that GPLv3 came about as a knee jerk reaction to a new technology.

    People dont want to live in fear of RMS and becoming the focus of his next campain.

    No one wants to be the next Tivo, or the next target in stallmans cross hairs prompting him to draft a new and more restrictive license to preserve his version of “freedom”.

    A freedom by the way that only benifits a very very small minority of the FOSS community. As basically no one hacks FOSS/Linux code. a very very small percentage of the total commuity. sadly.

    This means for most people the GPL holds little or no value.

    zatoichi Reply:

    …a knee jerk reaction to a new technology…

    Actually there’s a saying among lawyers: “Hard cases make bad law”.

    The corollary to this is that writing a license because you’re aggravated with a specific device is probably not a great idea. The “Tivoization” stuff in the GPL is probably the biggest problem in there.

    Of course, folks here likely don’t know anything about that. They think Microsoft violated the GPL v2…

  5. zatoichi said,

    July 26, 2009 at 10:33 am


    Roy, are you planning on correcting this story, since Vyatta, Stephen Hemminger’s employer, asserts that you’re all wet about this, that there was no violation?

What Else is New

  1. Željko Topić Tries to Do to EPO Staff What He Did in Croatia, Now Crushes Staff Assembly in The Hague

    Reminder to European Patent Office (EPO) staff that the EPO's management has a history of union-busting and serious violations of the rules; a call to join protests later today and later this week

  2. The Spanish EPO Scandal - Part I

    How García-Escudero Marquez, the sister of a Spanish Senate speaker, got controversially appointed to succeed the (now) EPO's Vice-President Alberto Casado Cerviño

  3. Media Alert: IAM 'Magazine' Does Not Protect Sources

    An important discussion regarding the role of IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) in the debate about EPO abuses

  4. Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen on the Microsoft-Red Hat Deal

    Founder of Free software and author of the GPL (respectively) comment on what Microsoft and Red Hat have done regarding patents

  5. Links 30/11/2015: Linux 4.4 RC3, Zaragoza Moving to FOSS

    Links for the day

  6. Public Protests by European Patent Office (EPO) Staff Weaken the EPO's Attacks on the Media

    Where things stand when it comes to the EPO's standoff against publications and why it's advisable for EPO staff to stage standoffs against their high-level management, which is behind a covert crackdown on independent media (while greasing up corporate media)

  7. Why the European Patent Office Cannot Really Sue and Why It's All -- More Likely Than Not -- Just SLAPP

    Legal analysis by various people explains why the EPO's attack dogs are all bark but no bite when it comes to threats against publishers

  8. How the EPO Twisted Defamation Law in a Failed Bid to Silence Techrights

    Using external legal firms (not the EPO's own lawyers), the EPO has been trying -- and failing -- to silence prominent critics

  9. East Texas and Its Cautionary Tale: Software Patents Lead to Patent Trolls

    Lessons from US media, which focuses on the dire situation in Texas courts, and how these relate to the practice of granting patents on software (the patent trolls' favourite weapon)

  10. The Latest EPO Spin: Staff Protesters Compared to 'Anti-Patent Campaigners' or 'Against UPC'

    Attempts to characterise legitimate complaints about the EPO's management as just an effort to derail the patent office itself, or even the patent system (spin courtesy of EPO and its media friends at IAM)

  11. The Serious Implication of Controversial FTI Consulting Contract: Every Press Article About EPO Could Have Been Paid for by EPO

    With nearly one million dollars dedicated in just one single year to reputation laundering, one can imagine that a lot of media coverage won't be objective, or just be synthetic EPO promotion, seeded by the EPO or its peripheral PR agents

  12. EPO: We Have Always Been at War With Europe (or Europeans)

    The European Patent Office (EPO) with its dubious attacks on free speech inside Europe further unveiled for the European public to see (as well as the international community, which oughtn't show any respect to the EPO, a de facto tyranny at the heart of Europe)

  13. What Everyone Needs to Know About the EPO's New War on Journalism

    A detailed list of facts or observations regarding the EPO's newfound love for censorship, even imposed on outside entities, including bloggers (part one of several to come)

  14. EPO Did Not Want to Take Down One Techrights Article, It Wanted to Take Down Many Articles Using Intimidation, SLAPPing, and Psychological Manipulation Late on a Friday Night

    Recalling the dirty tactics by which the European Patent Office sought to remove criticism of its dirty secret deals with large corporations, for whom it made available and was increasingly offering preferential treatment

  15. The European Private Office: What Was Once a Public Service is Now Crony Capitalism With Private Contractors

    The increasing privatisation of the European Patent Office (EPO), resembling what happens in the UK to the NHS, shows that the real goal is to crush the quality of the service and instead serve a bunch of rich and powerful interests, in defiance of the original goals of this well-funded (by taxpayers) organisation

  16. Microsoft Once Again Disregards People's Settings and Abuses Them, Again Pretends It's Just an Accident

    A conceited corporation, Microsoft, shows not only that it exploits its botnet to forcibly download massive binaries without consent but also that it vainly overrides people's privacy settings to spy on these people, sometimes with help from malicious hardware vendors such as Dell or Lenovo

  17. When the EPO Liaised With Capone (Literally) to Silence Bloggers, Delete Articles

    A dissection of the EPO's current media strategy, which involves not only funneling money into the media but also actively silencing opposing views

  18. Blogger Who Wrote About the EPO's Abuses Retires

    Bloggers' independent rebuttal capability against a media apparatus that is deep in the EPO's pocket is greatly diminished as Jeremy Phillips suddenly retires

  19. Leaked: EPO Award of €880,000 “in Order to Address the Media Presence of the EPO” (Reputation Laundering)

    The European Patent Office, a public body, wastes extravagant amounts of money on public relations (for 'damage control', like FIFA's) in an effort to undermine critics, not only among staff (internally) but also among the media (externally)

  20. Links 27/11/2015: KDE Plasma 5.5 Plans, Oracle Linux 7.2

    Links for the day

  21. Documents Needed: Contract or Information About EPO PR/Media Campaign to Mislead the World

    Rumour that the EPO spends almost as much as a million US dollars “with some selected press agencies to refurbish the image of the EPO”

  22. Guest Post: The EPO, EPC, Unitary Patent and the Money Issue

    Remarks on the Unitary Patent (UP) and the lesser-known aspects of the EPO and EPC, where the “real issue is money, about which very little is discussed in public...”

  23. Saving the Integrity of the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Some timely perspective on what's needed at the European Patent Office, which was detabilised by 'virtue' of making tyrants its official figureheads

  24. A Call for Bloggers and Journalists: Did EPO Intimidate and Threaten You Too? Please Speak Out.

    An effort to discover just how many people out there have been subjected to censorship and/or self-censorship by EPO aggression against the media

  25. European Patent Office (EPO) a “Kingdom Above the EU Countries, a Tyranny With ZERO Accountability”

    Criticism of the EPO's thuggish behaviour and endless efforts to crush dissenting voices by all means available, even when these means are in clear violation of international or European laws

  26. Links 26/11/2015: The $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, Running Sans Systemd Gets Hard

    Links for the day

  27. EPO Management Needs to Finally Recognise That It Itself is the Issue, Not the Staff or the Unions

    A showing of dissent even from the representatives whom the EPO tightly controls and why the latest union-busting goes a lot further than most people realise

  28. Even the EPO Central Staff Committee is Unhappy With EPO Management

    The questions asked by the Central Staff Committee shared for the public to see that not only a single union is concerned about the management's behaviour

  29. The Broken Window Economics of Patent Trolls Are Already Coming to Europe

    The plague which is widely known as patent trolls (non-practicing entities that prey on practicing companies) is being spread to Europe, owing in part to misguided policies and patent maximalists

  30. Debunking the EPO's Latest Marketing Nonsense From Les Échos and More on Benoît Battistelli's Nastygram to French Politician

    Our detailed remarks about French brainwash from the EPO's media partner (with Benoît Battistelli extensively quoted) and the concerns increasingly raised by French politicians, who urge for national or even continental intervention


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time


Recent Posts