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Windows 7 Download Utility Contains GPL Code

Microsoft confirmed on Friday that open source GNU code landed in its utility software used to install Windows 7.

Microsoft's tool, called the "Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool," facilitates the creation of a Windows 7 ISO image, which can be stored on bootable USB or DVD media. It's particularly helpful for installing Windows 7 on netbooks, which typically lack CD or DVD drives.

The tool uses General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) code, confirmed Peter Galli, open source community manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group.

"After looking at the code in question, we are now able to confirm this was indeed the case, although it was not intentional on our part," Galli explained on Microsoft's Port 25 blog

Galli said that the tool had been developed by a "third party," and Microsoft failed to detect the GPLv2 code on reviewing the project. The tool previously was available through the Microsoft Store, but it now seems to have been removed. At press time, CNet's download.com Web site still offered a free download of the tool.

Windows blogger Rafael Rivera Jr. first noted in his blog that the tool's code had been "lifted" from the ImageMaster project on Microsoft's open source CodePlex site. The ImageMaster project has since been removed from CodePlex.

However, rather than making the tool's code go away, Microsoft plans to make it publicly available, in accordance the GPLv2 license. Users of GPL code can freely modify it for their purposes, but then they have to share the modified code, according to the license.

"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 as described here, and are also taking measures to apply what we have learned from this experience for future code reviews we perform," Galli wrote.

Violations of the GPL are a daily occurrence, according to Bradley M. Kuhn, policy analyst and technology director at the Software Freedom Law Center. He provided some reporting guidelines for those helping track GPL violations in a recent blog post.

In other apparent software intellectual property news, the Groklaw Web site suggested on Wednesday that Microsoft had received a patent on sudo, a command line interface commonly used in open source Linux operating systems. Groklaw, which tracks free software and open source legal issues, pointed to Patent No. 7617530, which was recently granted to Microsoft by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent's description tracked with that of sudo, according to Groklaw.

However, Seattle-PI reporter Nick Eaton interviewed one of the maintainers of sudo, Todd Miller, about the patent. Miller thought that Microsoft's patented technology differed from sudo.

"I really don't think that that patent applies to sudo," Miller told the Seattle-PI. "I read through it and it seems to be something completely different."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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