Many companies were unaware that providing hosting services on a commercial basis required an SPLA, [Microsoft regional hosting specialist, Phil Meyer] said.
“You can't fault a reseller for wanting to make a buck, but many have inappropriate licensing for hosting,” he said. “These guys are undercutting those who charge the correct pricing fees.”
Meyer said Microsoft had legally pursued various service providers because they did not hold a suitable license.
In essence, Microsoft want to (have for a long time) rent software to hosting providers instead of selling it. While this is more expensive (big surprise there), they spin it as being a benefit:
With SPLA, service providers have near zero start-up costs, since they only pay for licenses based on what they used to provide services each month.
The SPLA is also complicated; the “user rights” document describing what the provider may or may not do with each package amounts to over 500kB, and of course you’re deemed to have read and understood all of it before you deploy any Microsoft product as a hosting provider. It’s a sick parody, really, since the “user rights” document is describing which rights the user is losing.
Here is the SPLA I work under; it's an interesting contrast:
PreambleJust read the two documents side by side. It’s an education in itself.
The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software — to make sure the software is free for all its users. [...]
When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.
To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. [...]
You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program’s source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program. [...]
You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works.