Recently several people have asked or discussed with me the legality of bootstrapping the .NET framework as a setup prerequisite and it's applicability to a silent installation story. In fact Aaron Stebner recently blogged on HOW to perform a silent installation of Visual Studio sp's and during he mentions installation of the Framework silently.
But here is the rub.....
Are we actually allowed to do silent installs as an ISV that bootstraps the framework with our applications?
The official answer from Microsoft seems to be a very clear NO. For example the following URL states:
If you are only referring your customers to get the runtime components from Microsoft, and provided that you do not modify the runtime packages and their installation experience (for instance, you can not use silent install), you do not need any specific redistribution license. Your customers will run the component installer and will accept the respective EULA terms before the components are installed.
If, however, you want to either host the components on your site or deliver them on magnetic or optical media (for customers who cannot get them otherwise), you will have to obtain a redistribution license as specified in tables 1, 2, and 3 below. In most cases, this license is part of the development tool license (either Visual Studio or the .NET Framework SDK). The redistribution license does not grant the distributor the right to modify the installation process and suppress the EULA (enable silent install).
Microsoft is once again being the big, unfocused corporation. One division is telling customers HOW to distribute the framework silently ( a logical requirement ) and yet another division is saying that you are not allowed. I was recently in Schaumburg, IL meeting with the makers of Industrial Strength Household Name MSI Editing Tool ( ISHNMET ) and the topic came up. The only answer they could give was: Talk to your lawyer.
Considering everything is clear as Mud from Redmond and IAMNAL, I'd say talk to your legal department also.