Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 2nd Nov 2006 22:05 UTC, submitted by anonymous
Novell and Ximian At a press conference in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to announce a new partnership between Microsoft and Novell. The unprecedented deal will have Microsoft offering a degree of sales support for Novell's SUSE Linux while both companies work towards better interoperability between their respective operating systems. As part of the agreement, Microsoft also promises not to wield its patent portfolio against SUSE Linux. More here. You can follow the live webcast announcement, by Steve Ballmer, here. Update: Novell has put up a detailed FAQ about this deal.
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RE: is
by butters on Fri 3rd Nov 2006 14:56 UTC in reply to "is"
butters
Member since:
2005-07-08

No, this is not a good case for the GPLv3. The GPLv2 expressly prohibits distribution of code covered by license agreements that cannot be transferred to the recipient. Since Novell has not obtained Microsoft's permission to similarly indemnify their users from Microsoft with regard to SUSE Linux code, Novell may not distribute the GPL portions of SUSE Linux (including the kernel) under these terms.

The text of the GPLv2 (section 7) is pretty clear on this, and the preamble is even clearer:

Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.

I don't know how this provision could have been stated any better, and it directly speaks to exactly this sort of licensing agreement. There is no question about it: Novell, as a distributor of GPL software, is not allowed to buy IP licenses covering GPL software unless they are given the right to grant these licenses (royalty-free) to all recipients of derivative works. Only end-users can license non-transferrable rights covering GPL software.

I'm simply shocked that none of Novell's IP lawyers picked up on this obvious GPL violation. This is one of the situations that the GPL was intended to prevent. It's right there in the preamble! The subtleties of the section 3c source distribution requirements that tripped up MEPIS are understandable. I even sympathize with the LiveCD distros that thought they could distribute binary kernel modules with the Linux kernel. Both had legitimate reasons to believe they were acting in the best interests of the Linux community.

But something about this deal obviously smells, and it's not just the old pizza boxes collecting in the basements where free software zealots brew their conspiracy theories. How could this deal seem to completely sell out the Linux community and still be sanctioned by our trusty free software license? It can't, and that's why the FSF will be all over this one. Expect a strongly-worded response in the near future.

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