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Microsoft Nixes Windows 7 Tool on GPL Concerns

Microsoft on Monday took down a migration tool it had posted to its online store just a couple of weeks earlier after allegations surfaced that some of the code in it was actually from an open source license and in violation of the license at that.

At issue is the accusation that code from Codeplex, Microsoft's open source site, has been used in another Microsoft product without complying with the rules regarding the release of the code.

The tool, called the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool, is no longer available on the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Store site. It enables a user to convert a Windows 7 download so it can be installed off of a DVD or a USB drive. The latter is important because many netbooks don't have optical drives, so a USB drive would be the only way to install Windows 7.

Controversy over the tool, which Microsoft introduced when it launched Windows 7 on October 22, began late last week when Rafael Rivera Jr. wrote on his blog Within Windows that some of the code in the tool looked suspiciously like code from an open source product governed by the GNU Public License version 2 (GPLv2).

"While poking through the … internals of the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool, I had a weird feeling there was just wayyyyyyyyy too much code in there for such a simple tool. A simple search of some method names and properties … revealed the source code was obviously lifted from the CodePlex-hosted (yikes) GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project," Rivera said on his blog.

Upon looking at the code, Microsoft decided to remote the tool for the time being.

"We are currently looking into this issue and are taking down the Windows USB/DVD Tool (WUDT) from the Microsoft Store site until our review of this matter is complete. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience, "a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.

The source code in question comes from ImageMaster, a tool for reading and writing disk images, according to a description of the project on the Codeplex site. That's the rub.

"Microsoft did not offer or provide source code for their modifications to ImageMaster nor their tool [as required] according to GPLv2," Rivera's post continued. Additionally, Microsoft inserted some of its own proprietary licensing language into the migration tool's license -- also in violation of GPLv2, he said.

The software giant has had testy relations with members of the open source community for years. In 2007, for example, the company claimed that Red Hat and other Linux vendors were in violation of 235 Microsoft patents.

At nearly the same time, however, company executives tried to cool the rhetoric and opened Codeplex.

Microsoft has not said when, or if, the download tool will be reinstated.