For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at
Sat Aug 18 15:25:32 UTC 2007

On Sat, 18 Aug 2007, Nils Labugt wrote:

> Some of us wants to license our code under a permissive license, and
> also wants our code to *remain* under a permissive license. Isn't that a
> legitimate wish?

That's an inconsistant wish. What you are saying is that you want code 
licensed under the license you choose to remain licensed under the license 
you choose. That's hardly permissive. While I appreciate that there is a 
mild sense of "compatibility" with other licenses (via linking or keeping 
different source files under different licenses), as a developer I would 
not wish to have licensing issues dictate the design of my software and 
would simply avoid your software unless I'm also using your license. That 
makes the license spiritually closer to copyleft licenses like GPL than to 
permissive licenses like BSDL (again from the perspective of a developer).

IMO, there is no fundamental difference between MS-PL and GPL except in 
who they choose to exclude from their code-sharing club: GPL excludes 
closed-source projects, MS-PL excludes GPL projects. MS-PL doesn't 
have to explicitly prevent linking or keeping different source files under 
different licenses because it acquires this level of exclusion from GPL by 
virtue of GPL's own clauses interacting with the MS-PL. This is hardly an 

Either you want people to do what THEY want with your code, or you want 
people to do what YOU want with your code. The former is permissive, while 
the latter is restrictive (though not necessarily copyleft). I have no 
objection to calling MS-PL "open source" since it clearly is. I do have 
objection to calling it "permissive" since it clearly is not.

It's unfortunate enough that "free" now means "free to do what the the GPL 
says you can do". Let's not also have "permissive" mean "permitted to do 
what the MPL/MS-PL says you can do".

> And this license permits linking to code under different licenses,
> doesn't it? Unlike GPLv3.

Being more permissive than GPL is a far cry from actually being 
permissive, given how restrictive GPL is.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the
hawkins at                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,                biological ones grow exponentially."

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