Microsoft Threatens MVP For Adding Features To The Wrong Version Of Visual Studio

from the oops dept

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous, pointed us to the story of Jamie Cansdale. Cansdale wrote an add-on for Microsoft Visual Studio that was so useful that Microsoft rewarded him with MVP status. Then they realized that his add-on was designed to work on the free “Express” version of Visual Studio, and they began to threaten him, saying that he had violated the terms of service. This was doubly ridiculous, since Cansdale notes that, as a hobbyist, he only had access to the free Express version when developing his add-on, so it was only natural that his version was designed to work with it. As Cansdale pointed out that he doesn’t appear to have done anything wrong (and kept asking Microsoft for evidence of what terms he violated specifically), the legal threats just got stronger and stronger, and apparently, the guy has until tomorrow to make changes to the same software Microsoft gave him an award for writing, even though no one can explain exactly what he did wrong or why he received an award one day and a legal threat afterwards. Update: In the comments, someone points us to a detailed version that gives Microsoft’s side of the story and suggests this isn’t as clear cut as the Register’s article would have you believe.

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Comments on “Microsoft Threatens MVP For Adding Features To The Wrong Version Of Visual Studio”

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ac says:

Re: This made me download it

Exactly! Who gives a &^%!!* who’s right? Great sales pitch for getting into bed with closed source vampires. They make a dyed-in-the-wool moderate like me see the wisdom RMS. The astroturf-ish posts at infoQ completely miss the point and use the situation to take a poke at FOSS zealots, completely missing the fact that they could easily be bitten by beast they feed.

(IT Mgr having recently been extorted by mainframe software peddlers)

Astro73 (user link) says:

It seems clear

It seems clear. He said he wasn’t in violation and that he had consulted a lawyer. Microsoft was bludgeoning the point. He made statements, which Microsoft seemed to gloss over, about his requirements. Microsoft failed to meet these requirements, and he took the action he said he would.

And now Microsoft is sending legal threats because they can’t beat his fair play.

Bob Sadler says:

Honestly, let's look at the WHOLE picture

A Microsoft Manager/Engineer contacts programmer to say “you’ve done a great thing here, and we want to give you a fat juicy reward!”.

Programmer says, “Gee thanks! That’s nifty!”

Then Microsoft Manager/Engineer finally gets a report back from his team saying, “Uh oh, there’s some things in here that we don’t like, you need to make him stop!”

Now, Microsoft Manager/Engineer decides to take it upon himself to tell Programmer that Programmer needs to stop “hacking” Microsoft’s Product, even though he knows FULL WELL that everything “in there” was in Public Domain and free to be used.

The problem here is that, and this is quite freaking amazing considering the level of training MOST Microsoft Managers have to go through, Mr. Manager/Engineer shot off his mouth stating Mr. Programmer had HACKED the product and was a bad bad boy and would no longer be getting his fat juicy reward. What Mr. Manager/Engineer should have done, IF Mr. Programmer was truly in violation of ANY license agreements, was to turn this over to the legal team DIRECTLY giving them FULL EXAMPLES of WHY Mr. Programmer was in violation, and then let the Legal team do it’s job!

What should happen here IMO? Mr. Manager/Engineer should be demoted for trying to overstep his boundaries, Mr. Programmer should be given his FAT JUICY REWARDS promised, since Mr. Manager/Engineer promised them BEFORE his team had done their job looking through the application, and Microsoft should FINALLY provide CLEAR and CONCISE information as to HOW this license has been breached and then should work with Mr. Programmer to see if there’s ANYWAY to make the product work as it was intended, even for the FREE users without violation any licenses.

I think this whole situation could have been avoided if one fool Manager/Engineer hadn’t shot off his mouth and tried to play BIG DOG.

This time I agree that Microsoft as a WHOLE isn’t to blame, but a certain Manager/Engineer is!

Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Re: Honestly, let's look at the WHOLE picture

Now, Microsoft Manager/Engineer decides to take it upon himself to tell Programmer that Programmer needs to stop “hacking” Microsoft’s Product, even though he knows FULL WELL that everything “in there” was in Public Domain and free to be used.

You’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re trying to make a joke and that you actually do know that Microsoft doesn’t (and possibly can’t) release it’s products into the Public Domain.

Sense says:

Missing the point of value

The express edition of VS is offered to entice people to buy the full version. The express edition is full featured for you everyday beginner programmer who wouldn’t need bells and whistles. Microsoft can afford to develop and offer this because it leads to people buying the full version which has all those bells and whistles some people want. But if you put bells and whistles on the free version, why would someone pay for them?

This is why Microsoft is in the right. They compliment and encourage people to build these addons, but not for express; it has been that way for a long time. By keeping the newer features on only the full version, MS can afford to keep offering the Express edition and this developer doesn’t understand that.

Peter Ritchie (user link) says:

Using free software to boost sales

The technical details that I’ve read detail that Jamie is in fact not using any publicly available interface to integrate with Visual Studio Express (it doesn’t have the required interfaces that the retail products to) and is resorting to injecting code into the Visual Studio process, much like a virus. Knowing how to do this would not come naturally or be of public knowledge. Jamie has, unfortunately, violated many terms of the Visual Studio Express license by doing what he’s done.

The ability of his product to integrate with Visual Studio Express actually increases his potential market, as he is selling a product as well.

There’s some pretty simple things that Microsoft can do to quell this; the simplest being to simply retire Express versions and remove them from future releases and existing downloads–screwing it for everyone. The second is to begin a cat-and-mouse game of disabling his ability to inject code into the Express process.

Bah who needs one (user link) says:

Rebuttals, and FOSS

First, the license term supposedly violated: “In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. For more information, see You may not work around any technical limitations in the software”

In other words, it’s against the law (Microsoft’s law, rather than the elected legislature’s, but apparently just as binding on people without them having signed anything) to work around a bug in this software? Nothing in the above limits its scope to a specific subset of “technical limitations”, such as say those Microsoft deliberately introduced to cripple their trash software.

This alone is an excellent reason to use FOSS and ditch M$.

Of course, there’s also that the whole economic premise is bogus. It is absolutely not the case that M$ could “no longer afford to provide the free Express version” if people started extending it, or competing with their fancier products, or whatever. Microsoft has more money than God and software has a marginal cost of reproduction of close to zero (yes, even fancy software does), so they could easily afford to provide all kinds of software (even free Vista for everybody — gag) without noticeably dipping into their petty cash fund for Chrissake.

More significantly, the economics claimed would make the existence and continued development of Eclipse physically impossible. Obviously that’s not the case, so the economic argument against freedom made by M$ is clearly pure baloney.

Eclipse, in case you’re wondering, is the FOSS answer to Visual Studio .NET and its friends, and yes, you can not only get it free, you can also get JUnit and other -unit integration free. Take that, Microsloth!

MS Bob says:

No hack

He didn’t hack, and it shouldn’t be a problem. He added functionality to an existing product that MS did not want enhanced. But our world is full of products that enhance other products. Imagine if the company that built your house wouldn’t let you remodel it. Or you were not allowed to fretilize your plants. Or put sugar on your cerial. The bread company says “no butter on our toast to make it taste better!” I was going to use customizing your car as an example, but I guess some car companies actually are trying the same sort of thing… Oh well – I don’t want any competition on this, so noone is allowed to reply to this or they are violating my made-up policy. Who am I kiddding? This has rambled on so long that noone will read it anyway!

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