Microsoft Finally Supports GPLv3 on CodePlex

Many developers would not put code in the repository, due to the lack of a GPLv3 license option.

Microsoft has finally opened itself up to GPLv3, the widely-used license for much open source software.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry noted the change on his blog, writing that open source projects hosted on CodePlex, the Microsoft-hosted code repository, can now use version 3 of the GNU General Public License. Until the change, developers were restricted to the older, less-comprehensive GPLv2 for their projects. Harry blogged that the addition was due to developer requests:

"Recently the team reviewed the list of licenses project owners can choose from and compared it against the licenses people were wanting to use.  It was clear we had a gap and that some developers wanted to publish their projects under GPLv3."

GPLv3 is now available as a drop-down menu option when a developer opens a new project in CodePlex. " was clear that GPLv3 is important enough and there was enough community demand that it deserved a place in the list," Harry wrote.

The use of GPLv3 has been a contentious one for Microsoft for a number of years. For example, Richard M. Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), wrote that GPLv3 was, in part, a response to Microsoft's desire to enrich itself through patent deals:

"Another threat that GPLv3 resists is that of patent deals like the Novell-Microsoft pact. Microsoft wants to use its thousands of patents to make users pay Microsoft for the privilege of running GNU/Linux, and made this pact to try to achieve that. The deal offers rather limited protection from Microsoft patents to Novell's customers.

Microsoft made a few mistakes in the Novell-Microsoft deal, and GPLv3 is designed to turn them against Microsoft, extending that limited patent protection to the whole community. In order to take advantage of this protection, programs need to use GPLv3.

Microsoft's lawyers are not stupid, and next time they may manage to avoid those mistakes. GPLv3 therefore says they don't get a "next time". Releasing a program under GPL version 3 protects it from Microsoft's future attempts to make redistributors collect Microsoft royalties from the program's users."

The FSF seems pleased by Microsoft's decision. In comments following Harry's blog, Foundation Executive Director John Sullivan wrote, "Thank you for recognizing the widespread use of GPLv3 and adding it as an option!" GPLv3 was originally published on June 29, 2007.

Microsoft has changed its stance on open source software radically over the years, especially in the last several years. One example is the Microsoft Open Technologies Group, which opened in April 2012. The group has released numerous projects in its short existence that allow for open source integration, including the open sourcing of ASP.NET, MVC4, and the Entity Framework; Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) and Performance Counters on Node.js; support for Redis on Windows; an open source Android SDK for Windows; the VM Depot catalog of open source virtual machines for Azure; and the Windows Azure Plugin for Eclipse with Java.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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