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

John Cowan cowan at
Thu Aug 23 16:34:49 UTC 2007

Wilson, Andrew scripsit:

> MS-PL is an odd duck in that it is a non-copyleft license with a
> similar "license stickiness" clause which forbids relicensing.  

This is why I don't like the word "relicensing": it leads to wifty
thinking.  Maddenedly and maddeningly I iterate around the loop once

MS-PL FQA (Frequently Questioned Answers):

0) Is the MS-PL compatible with other licenses?

   I don't know.  What do you mean by "compatible"?

1) Well, can you take a file with an MS-PL license and put
   some other license on it?

   Definitely not.

2) How about just a part of the file?  Then can I put another
   license on it?

   Nope, sorry.

3) Can I create a larger work which, as a whole, is under some other
   license (but not the GPLv2), and includes a portion under the MS-PL?

   Definitely.  It's a derivative work, and the MS-PL says you can make
   those freely, and the Copyright Act says you can license them however
   you like, provided your making the derivative work in the first place
   was lawful.

4) Does it matter if the MS-PLed part of the work is still in a separate
   file or not?

   Probably not.  If it's merged in with the rest of the code, you have
   a derivative work; see 3.  If it's just side by side in the tarball,
   you probably have a collective work, and since you have the right
   to copy the MS-PLed work verbatim, you can include it in your tarball.

After fixing the Y2K bug in an application:     John Cowan
        WELCOME TO <censored>                   cowan at
        DATE: MONDAK, JANUARK 1, 1900 

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