For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Chris Travers chris.travers at
Tue Aug 21 17:40:18 UTC 2007

On 8/21/07, Michael R. Bernstein <michael at> wrote:
> Hmm. IANAL, but this seems at least a somewhat idiosyncratically narrow
> interpretation of 'you may do so only under this license'.
> You are grouping the words in one way, but ignoring the groupings 'may
> do so' and 'only under', that produces the corollary interpretation 'you
> may not distribute under any other license'. If this is NOT an intended
> interpretation, rewording 3D (and the MS-CL 3E) to exclude that
> interpretation should be relatively simple.

You know, this is pretty funny.  IANAL, neither are you.  We are arguing
over legal theory here and there is nobody chiming in with who is willing to

The legitimate question of law here is whether any copyright license permits
distribution only under the terms of the license provided that copyright is
not abused in the process etc.  My argument is that the same wording is
implied in the combination of the BSDL *and* US Copyright law. But again,
IANAL and so neither of us are likely to be able to know for certain whether
we are right until we buy appropriate legal opinions from duly licensed
vendors of said opinions ;-)

BTW, still haven't seen any statement from Bill Hilf or Jon Rosenberg as
> to whether 3D (or indeed the license as a whole) is or is not intended
> to exclude the use of other licenses for distribution in source form.\

The question is:  does it exclude other licenses for the work as a whole?
For derivative portions?  etc.  Provided no other license compatibilities
exist (let us leave the GPL v3 in part  because there are some oddities that
make me unsure about whether the licenses are compatible or not in corner
cases due to differences in definitions).

> > See, I read 3D as an exception or condition to 2A, effectively altering
> > > the meaning of 2A to 'any derivative works except in source form'.
> >
> > That would be plausible if 3D mentioned derivative works, but it
> doesn't.
> > It speaks of the original software (or parts of it) only.
> Hmm. Well, OK. Again, IANAL, but that seems... wrong somehow.

I am not so sure.  Is "the software" limited to the original copy?  I don't
see it defined in the license anywhere, and so I would think that this only
applies to original versions of the source.

To back this definition, I would note that the MS-CL *does* at least attempt
to extend this to changes made to the software specifically by requiring
that files containing any portion of the software must be under the same
license.  This is GPL-incompatible because the GPL does not permit any
further restrictions, such as preventing the mingling of code under
incompatible licenses in the same physical file.  If this was the means, why
not include such a clause in the MS-PL as well?  It seems to me therefore
that changes to the software are not necessarily required to be under the

Any comment from MS on this interpretation?

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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