Is this MSDN code free for commercial use?

Open Source Asked by user20656 on November 30, 2020

I found this article on the msdn magazine and would like to use the code included in there in a commercial program. Is this allowed?

The code is not complete here, but is given complete in the following site

One Answer

I thought this question was a simple duplicate, but it's now ramified enough that I thought I'd write an answer.

You've found an old article in MSDN Magazine, with some code available either by cutting-and-pasteing from the main page, or via a separate link; we'll call this code A. You also found the same code discussed in another article, which offers a download link for the code; we'll call this code B. You've then found it in a third place; we'll call this code C. You want to know what rights, if any, you have to reuse the code.

Code A has no explicit licensing statement in it. You contend that code is available under the MS-LPL on the authority of this answer, but I cannot find a similar licensing statement anywhere on the current "magazine back issues" website. There is a pointer to MS's generic terms of use, but those don't give you anything useful ("The Software is made available for download solely for use by end users according to the License Agreement"). That puts us back to the usual default position for code-without-licence found on the internet, ie, you have no right to use it at all.

Code B is in fact a link directly back to the repository of code A, so there are no new rights there.

Code C contains an explicit licence statement at the top, which is more generous than the MS-LPL (the MS-LPL is non-free, because it has a platform restriction). Specifically, it says

// You can use this code however you wish subject to the usual disclaimers
// (use at your own risk, etc.)

The question becomes: can you rely on that declaration? My initial inclination was no, because it's so clearly the same body of code as A and B; it has all the look-and-feel of a grant bolted on after the event, without authority, as a fig-leaf. But it's also clear about the provenance of the code (2014 Microsoft Build Conference, April 2-4, 2014, San Francisco, CA). So my gut feeling - and it's only a feeling - is that the licence declaration can be relied on.

However, you intend to re-use this code as part of a commercial program, which raises the stakes. If I were you, I'd try to establish that such code was indeed given to attendees at that conference; if you can, then it's re-usable as you would wish. Otherwise, steer clear of it. And as ever, IANAL/IANYL.

Correct answer by MadHatter on November 30, 2020

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