MS-PL/GPL compatibility, was Re: For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Chris Travers chris.travers at
Tue Aug 21 18:22:18 UTC 2007

On 8/21/07, Nils Labugt <elabu at> wrote:

The following seems clear enough to me:

Yes, but see below why this does not solve the disagreement particularly
over GPL v3 compatibility.  I don't think that the disagreement is in a
reading of this license, but rather a reading of other licenses. and
copyright law in general.

fre, 10.08.2007 kl. 09.16 -0700, skrev Jon Rosenberg (PBM):
> > ·        Can MS-PL code be redistributed under a different license?:
> >
> > No.  The license states that "If you distribute any portion of the
> > software in source code form, you may do so only under this license…"
> > This restriction is similar to the restriction in the Mozilla Public
> > License that states "You may not offer or impose any terms on any
> > Source Code version that alters or restricts the applicable version of
> > this License or the recipients' rights hereunder."  The MS-PL license
> > explicitly prohibits relicensing of the original licensed code under a
> > different license, regardless of whether the original code is
> > redistributed in whole, in part or as part of a different piece of
> > software.

I don't think anyone is actually arguing over this point.  The points are
generally related to questions outside the scope of the license itself.
These arguments seem perpetual here such as whether the BSDL *really* gives
you the right to impose additional restrictions on code you distribute (I
say it doesn't).  IANAL, however.

Whatever disagreements I have with the FSF, it seems that we do agree on the
question of what the GPL requires in this case.  It seems to only require
that components used under other licenses grant the set of copyright
permissions (not necessarily restrictions).  In other words, the standard
seems to be the question of whether there is anything that you are given
permission to do under the GPL that you are not given permission to do under
the other license.  In this view, the GPL amounts to a set of permissions to
excersize certain rights otherwise restricted to the copyright owner and
would be additive to additional permissions in the absence of contracts
waiving such rights (for example, in exchange for support, services,
warranties, etc).  While this view poses some really interesting problems
for another related license, the AGPL current discussion draft,

In this view nothing prevents a content author from granting additional
permissions beyond the scope of the GPL for his/her work nor do additional
permissions cause problems for the GPL.  However, the additional permissions
would be limited to the original elements (at least in the US) of the
Author's work and derivatives thereof.  I would think the UK standard of
"sweat of the brow" would have a similar (and possibly even broader) effect
relating to additional permissions.

I therefore suggest that the question of the above condition does not by
itself pose a GPL compatibility issue unless the license fails to grant some
permissions granted by the GPL.  The only possible problem I see here
relates to definition conflict and whether something not considered a
derivative work here in the US but considered as such, for example, in the
UK might be altogether banned under this license (excluding additional
permissions) but allowed under the GPL.  However, I am not sure that the GPL
requires that one accomodate copyright laws elsewhere in the world for
downstream distribution outside of the limited question of copyright owners
of portions of the corresponding source.  (i.e. if nobody from a given
country owns copyrights to corresponding source and that country has
additional restrictions which prevent people in that country from meeting
the terms of the GPL when distributing, I don't see why you would have to
accomodate those local regulations.)  Thus, for a US developer, I don't see
any problems unless I start using code written by people in other countries.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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