Microsoft U-turns on policy that would’ve banned commercial open source apps


Microsoft logo
Image Credits: Tim Heitman / Getty Images

Microsoft has confirmed that it won’t be introducing a previously announced new policy that would effectively ban developers from selling open source software on the Windows app store.

Section 10.8.7 of its Microsoft Store Policies document, which was updated in mid-June and had been due to come into effect on Saturday (July 16), had said that developers must not:

… attempt to profit from open-source or other software that is otherwise generally available for free, nor be priced irrationally high relative to the features and functionality provided by your product.

Given the nature of open source software, it’s easy for any developer to repackage a project under a new application and offer it for anyone to access for free or charge a download fee. While it seemed as though the intent behind the new policy was to prevent developers from monetizing the hard work of the open source community, in its existing form, the wording essentially prevented even the core project maintainers and IP-owners themselves from selling their software.

With many in the open source community taking umbrage at the policy change, Microsoft said that it would be delaying enforcement so that it could clarify exactly what its intentions were.

As of yesterday, Microsoft has now removed any mention of open source software from the section in question, plus section 11.2 of the document now includes a link for developers and companies to report intellectual property infringements. A Microsoft spokesperson said:

On June 16, we shared changes to updates made to several policies aimed at protecting customers from misleading listing. In listening to the developer community, we have determined one of those updates could be perceived differently than intended.

Today, Microsoft Store has published an update to policy 10.8.7 and 11.2 in order to clarify the language to better reflect our intention. The policy will now go into effect starting today.

Over the past year, we have been on a journey to continue to open the Store to all developers and deliver better customer experiences. This policy update is a continuation of that work and meant to enable developer choice while helping improve customer experience.

Copycat clones

There were conflicting perspectives on Microsoft’s proposed policy. Many developers were broadly in favor of preventing so-called “copycat” apps from monetizing open source software, meaning that all they really wanted Microsoft to do was tweak the wording of the new policy to specify that IP-owners could still charge for their software.

However, others in the community argued that existing trademark laws were sufficient to protect IP-owners and avoid the confusion caused by having multiple apps with the same name. On top of that, they suggested that the very nature of open source software is that it’s free of restrictions — anyone should be able to take a project and transform it into a monetizable application, so long as it meets the conditions set out in the license. So their issue was less about the wording of the new policy than it was about Microsoft positioning itself as gatekeeper to commercializing open source software.

Software Freedom Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that provides support and legal services for open source projects, has responded to Microsoft’s U-turn, “congratulating” the company for changing their app store T&Cs to “again allow commercial distribution of free and open source software (FOSS).”

“Fundamentally, the proprietary and for-profit app store model creates centers of power that, even when implemented fairly, tend to curtail software freedom,” the organization wrote. “Through vendor-controlled app stores, large corporations are problematic gatekeepers to commercial FOSS.”

The main issue moving forward will be how easy it is for IP-owners to have their infringement submissions and takedown requests dealt with in a timely manner.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

19 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

20 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android