Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Nov 2006 22:56 UTC
Novell and Ximian "Often cast as the peacemaker in free software disputes, Bruce Perens is on the warpath. When we caught up with him, he wasn't in a mood to be charitable to Novell. On Friday the Utah company, which markets the SuSE Linux distribution, revealed that it was entering into a partnership with Microsoft. Redmond would pay Novell an undisclosed sum in return for Novell recognizing Microsoft's intellectual property claims. Novell received a 'Covenant' promising that it wouldn't be sued by Microsoft."It's a case of 'Damn the people who write the software'", he told us. "Novell is in a desperate position - it has a smaller share of the market than Debian,"" he told The Register. Update: Novell responds to community's questions: here, here and here. Update 2: Havoc Pennington's take.
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I'd hate to be a Novell customer
by danieldk on Tue 7th Nov 2006 23:46 UTC
danieldk
Member since:
2005-11-18

Ethics aside (I pretty much agree with most reactions from the community), it must be uncomfortable to be a customer of their enterprise Linux products. While the patent convenant buys a little temporal protection (for only five years at the moment, and with possibilities for Microsoft to bail out), it is dangerous license-wise with two possible turns this could take:

- If Novell did not "work around" section 7 of the GPL correctly, they may lose their right to distribute a lot of GPL-ed software.
- Even if this does not happen, developers may relicense software under a license with stricter rules when it comes to patenting. And there are some major organisations that do copyright-assignment, that can apply a new license to their software for new versions.

If the second scenario happens, Novell may lose permission to distribute some essential software. As a result it will not be able to distribute their enterprise distributions with newer software, or provide customers with updates that use newer versions[1].

IANAL, but my estimation is that customers have less protection and more uncertainty since the deal.

[1] I haven't looked well enough at GPLv3 yet, but if it's anti-patent clauses are stronger than GPLv2, they may possibly be out of the league when it comes to GNU software that is relicensed.

Reply Score: 3

tomcat Member since:
2006-01-06

Ethics aside (I pretty much agree with most reactions from the community), it must be uncomfortable to be a customer of their enterprise Linux products. While the patent convenant buys a little temporal protection (for only five years at the moment, and with possibilities for Microsoft to bail out), it is dangerous license-wise with two possible turns this could take:


Nah. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Novell's customers gain the certainty that they won't be sued by MS for patent infringement. Neither Novell nor Microsoft have to assert any particular code as infringing on any particular patent. So, the issue of the GPL is a red herring.

Reply Parent Score: 1

elsewhere Member since:
2005-07-13

Nah. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Novell's customers gain the certainty that they won't be sued by MS for patent infringement. Neither Novell nor Microsoft have to assert any particular code as infringing on any particular patent. So, the issue of the GPL is a red herring.

Novell has offered IP indemnity for their enterprise linux platforms ever since the SCO debacle began, so this isn't really ground-breaking and not likely to sway customers any more than before. Besides which I think the red herring in all this is the concern that a company like MS would actually go after users of a patent-infringing product rather than the producer, when has that ever happened and what would the likelihood of success be? That simply goes beyond FUD into the realm of near-infinite improbability. After all, we're not talking about something concrete like copyrighted code being illegally distributed or unlicensed software, unless there's something Novell really isn't telling us.

Anyways, I still say it's all about protecting the questionable mono bits, but the way I see it is if enterprise IT customers choose to deploy it for mission critical applications after experiencing Novell's own failure to make it work effectively for Zenworks, well then patent litigation is the least of their worries. They'll be more concerned with their employment status.

Reply Parent Score: 1