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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hal2k1
Member since:
2005-11-11

//While MS engineers and developers are most certainly capable of looking at asm and C code, there may be legal implications in doing that. //

No.

GPL code is copyrighted code. Under copyright law, anyone may look at the code (just as anyone may read a copyrighted book), but one is restricted as to what one can do when it comes to copying the code.

In the case of the GPL, it gives anyone a license to copy and modify the code, provided that the code and any modifications remains visible to everyone ... ie. provided that the code remains licensed under the GPL.

There is most decidedly no restriction on looking at the code & studying it.

"Legal implications" pertaining to restrictions about looking at and studying code apply to code which is patented or trade secret. Neither of those apply to Linux and/or any other GPL code.

//At least economically it makes more sense to work together with the "other side" so that both sides can agree on what things mean. //

Literally many thousands upon thousands of programmers worldwide contribute meaningfully to GPL code repositories. They do this collaboration over the Internet, mostly via mailing lists and discussion forums. Why should it be the case that only Microsoft programmers need to "work together" in a different way?

Edited 2006-11-08 10:21

Reply Parent Score: 2

Marcellus Member since:
2005-08-26

There is most decidedly no restriction on looking at the code & studying it.

I wouldn't be so certain about that without consulting a lawyer first.

Literally many thousands upon thousands of programmers worldwide contribute meaningfully to GPL code repositories. They do this collaboration over the Internet, mostly via mailing lists and discussion forums. Why should it be the case that only Microsoft programmers need to "work together" in a different way?

The world contains more developers than those employed by Microsoft and those that work on Open Source. Lots "work together" in the same way.
Of course, if no money is involved at all, the concept of working together because it's more economical fails, but that was just one reason anyway.

Reply Parent Score: 1

hal2k1 Member since:
2005-11-11

//I wouldn't be so certain about that without consulting a lawyer first. //

Pfft. Utter rubbish.

There is no restriction on Microsoft engineers looking at Linux and/or Samba code, and contributing some modifications back to those projects under the GPL. Same story for Mono or OpenOffice projects.

That would have the result of making Linux and Windows interoperate better.

If that were truly Microsoft's goal, it could have been done at insignificant cost ages ago.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt

Some quotes from the GPL itself:

"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."

"We protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software."

"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 may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)"

Edited 2006-11-08 11:50

Reply Parent Score: 2

elsewhere Member since:
2005-07-13

There is most decidedly no restriction on looking at the code & studying it.

For closed-source software companies, particularly one with as big a bullseye painted on them as Microsoft, there is a legitimate concern in that paid developers may inadvertently copy the code they are studying, tainting the product and opening them up to claims. OSS projects often employ a clean-room technique when reverse engineering or working on interoperability to eliminate possible claims of stolen or copied code. Even large linux developers like HP or IBM will seperate their OSS and proprietary developers, you can't mix and match without running the risk of code taint.

For Microsoft's sake it's safer and easier to let the OSS guys provide the information rather than try to dissect it themselves. That's about the only single part of this ridiculous agreement that makes sense.

Reply Parent Score: 1

hal2k1 Member since:
2005-11-11

"There is most decidedly no restriction on looking at the code & studying it."

//For closed-source software companies, particularly one with as big a bullseye painted on them as Microsoft, there is a legitimate concern in that paid developers may inadvertently copy the code they are studying, tainting the product and opening them up to claims. OSS projects often employ a clean-room technique when reverse engineering or working on interoperability to eliminate possible claims of stolen or copied code. Even large linux developers like HP or IBM will seperate their OSS and proprietary developers, you can't mix and match without running the risk of code taint.

For Microsoft's sake it's safer and easier to let the OSS guys provide the information rather than try to dissect it themselves. That's about the only single part of this ridiculous agreement that makes sense.//

"Tainting" is only a problem if it is Microsoft's purpose to look at the open source code with a view to modifying Microsoft code.

That was not the context under which this conversation arose.

This thread is about the Microsoft/Novell deal. As a part of that deal, Microsoft stated that their desire in making the deal was "to improve interoperability between Microsoft & Linux".

My point was, Microsoft could have done that for next-to-zero cost at any time simply by submitting a few code changes to Linux or to Samba or to OpenOffice or to Mono.

In this scenario, "there is a legitimate concern in that paid developers may inadvertently copy the code they are studying, tainting the product and opening them up to claims" does not apply, since the developers in question are not tasked to modify Microsoft code, but instead they are tasked to modify the open source code.

As long as the aim is "to get interoperability", and the flow of code is from Microsoft engineers --> Open source applications, then there is no "tainting".

So no, in the final analysis, even this "single part of this ridiculous agreement" makes no sense.

Slight correction ... it only makes sense in the light of "Microsoft trying to establish a revenue stream from Linux without having done any of the work to make Linux". Viewed in that context, where Microsoft gets to deliberately obscure interoperability protocols, then gets to charge everyone for keeping them obscured by labelling that obscuration as "IP" ... then it all makes sense.

Edited 2006-11-08 22:34

Reply Parent Score: 2