Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Apr 2007 17:13 UTC, submitted by davidiwharper
Novell and Ximian "The Free Software Foundation has published a third draft of the GPL3 license. The FSF had indicated leading up to this draft that it would be addressing some concerns it had with the Novell-Microsoft agreements in the draft. Here's Novell's position on the new draft."
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Almafeta
Member since:
2007-02-22

Now, I'll admit, I'm no fan of the copyleft movement. Nothing would make me happier than seeing Stallman and the FSF get taken up on anti-trust charges and its licenses (and all licenses like it) declared null and void by all the freedom-loving nations of the world.

But my bias aside...

Isn't attacking Novell and attempting to 'kick them out of the playground' not only juvenile, but actively dangerous to the Linux community?

Novell's already taking a risk in a very niche market, and it has put in a lot of money and research into Linux's development. (I'd dare say they're a leader.) However, as soon as Novell reaches a Linux-related agreement with Microsoft -- who they were doing business with anyway, making Windows products -- the community attacks them as if they had been "betrayed." Going so far as to change the license to try to prevent people from doing business with the foes Stallman identifies as "the enemy" (without asking if everyone agrees) is just one example of this.

Now, take a step back for a moment, and consider: isn't doing that incredibly dangerous? If you were Novell, and you had the choice of two major competitors, who would you rather deal with: Microsoft, who has been quiet and even-headed throughout all this, and who has gone out of their way to ensure Novell's products would stay stable over new versions of Windows over the years (despite the fact that their SUSE Linux is a competitor for Microsoft's lucrative server business); or the Linux community, whose leaders have been attacking Novell viciously and taking steps to prevent Novell from doing business with anyone but them. With these factors, if the community doesn't take a step back and look at what it's doing, Novell might just withdraw its Linux support altogether.

If worst comes to worst, Novell still owns their code. They could pull their code from the GPL (the GPL is many things, but as of v2.0 at least, it is neither pepetual nor exclusive) and continue to develop their SUSE, now without the Linux trademark, and possibly sue others who were still using SUSE code. Whether or not these lawsuits would work and prevent the distribution of their code is another discussion entirely, but you all have to agree that that sort of hostility would be completely contrary to the collaborative environment that existed before the open-source community let loose their collective rage.

I mean, it seems silly to me. Novell convinces the largest OS company on the planet to help develop and market Linux -- a possible step in Microsoft getting on the open-source bandwagon, which would be a enormous paradigm shift that would probably be welcomed by everyone but me -- and the community tries to prevent it. This should be looked upon as a coup for the Linux community, not a catastrophe.

Edited 2007-04-03 18:53 UTC

Reply Score: 5

SReilly Member since:
2006-12-28

Microsoft, who has been quiet and even-headed throughout all this

I'm sorry to say this, but MS has been anything but quiet concerning this deal. In fact, Ballmer started beating his chest and crowing out that the deal was mostly about patent infringement from almost day one and in direct reply to Novell saying that it was not.

Novell convinces the largest OS company on the planet to help develop and market Linux

Market, yes. Develop, no. MS never signed up to help develop anything. In fact, the only thing MS had agreed to was to help Novell create better interoperability technology and to support Linux used in Virtualisation.

If worst comes to worst, Novell still owns their code. They could pull their code from the GPL

I'm afraid that it's to late. Although Novell could relicense they're code and release any future versions according to that new license, what they already have released will remain in the wild and I doubt that, once source code is released via the GPL, it would be possible to legally block any attempts at using that code even if you had changed your license. The only thing the community would lose is any changes that Novell would make in the future.

Anyway, Novell's code is miner compared to what they would lose if the GPLv3 prohibits them from distributing any GPLv3 code. We can do without them but they cannot continue to release a valid Linux distro without us.

Reply Parent Score: 5

trenchsol Member since:
2006-12-07

Far as I know GPL asserts that the author may change the license anytime she sees fit. If the license is changed to proprietary one everybody "in the wild" could be sued.

DG

Reply Parent Score: 3

markjensen Member since:
2005-07-26

Isn't attacking Novell and attempting to 'kick them out of the playground' not only juvenile, but actively dangerous to the Linux community?

I suppose one has to weigh the danger to the "Linux community" of fragmentation by supporting the Novell-Microsoft deal. After all, that deal provides legal protection from Microsoft on code from Novell only. Yet, identical code from Red Hat, Ubuntu, or even source code tarballs would not be protected, and subject to the whims of Microsoft and their legal team.

Is there greater benefit in making a cohesive Linux community, rather than one that has to check the download IP address of where you got your code to see if you are protected from Microsoft or not?

I'm not opposed to a non-aggression pact between Microsoft and the Linux community, but I do believe it should be apply to all, not just to one company.

Reply Parent Score: 5

h times nue equals e Member since:
2006-01-21

I will skip commenting on your "anti-trust" theory against the copyleft licenses (it definitely sounds "interesting", although I fail to see a legal lever to pull this, but nevertheless) and will concentrate on the parts, where you seem to still not have grasped the concept of - and the ideas behind - the GPL:

However, as soon as Novell reaches a Linux-related agreement with Microsoft -- who they were doing business with anyway, making Windows products -- the community attacks them as if they had been "betrayed."


It is not a far stretch to say, that they at least some of them (the SAMBA folks for instance) indeed can quite legitimately feel betrayed. The GPL implicitly states, that you can't discriminate the rights of some of the parties that receive the software downstream if one is not the sole holder of copyright (e.g so that one is itself a receiver) und thus in the position to dual license. Tit for tat, like Linus has put it once. Sadly, Novell has collaborated with MS to find a way to outsmart the license, that grants them the rights to distribute software that they have neither developed themselves nor would otherwise hold the distribution rights to (one could go easily so far and say, that Novell has snubbed the very same individuals, that gave Novell the base for their product).

Going so far as to change the license to try to prevent people from doing business with the foes Stallman identifies as "the enemy" (without asking if everyone agrees) is just one example of this.


The way Novell and MS read the GPLv2 was certainly not the way the FSF intended it to be read when they worded it. So the FSF has decided to state explicitly what should have been clear implicitly. This is neither juvenile nor dangerous, this is the way exploits of code and licenses should be addressed. Period.

If you were Novell, and you had the choice of two major competitors, who would you rather deal with: Microsoft, who has been quiet and even-headed throughout all this...


Yeah, Mr. Ballmer for example was very even headed. Especially the quiet "you owe us money for our IP if you are not a Novell customer" speech sent without doubt warm fuzzy feelings down the spines to all stakeholders in the FOSS community.

.. and who has gone out of their way to ensure Novell's products would stay stable over new versions of Windows over the years


Have I missed something? So far, the only fallout of the interoperability deal is (to my knowledge) the OOXML plugin (written in Mono, still don't know why ... ) for OpenOffice.org and if the "openess" of OOXML is not only a PR stunt, it should (in theory) be possible to achieve this following the OOXML specifications MS had to submit in order to reach for ISO standard status. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but how is it, that it takes a special interoperability deal/sugarcoat to implement something which is allegedly an open standard? Furthermore, I guess we should judge the impact of future versions of Windows on the stability of SLED and Co. when both arrive, Ok ?

If worst comes to worst, Novell still owns their code. They could pull their code from the GPL (the GPL is many things, but as of v2.0 at least, it is neither pepetual nor exclusive) and continue to develop their SUSE, now without the Linux trademark, and possibly sue others who were still using SUSE code.


You still seem to be a little bit confused about the differences between "trademarks" and "copyright". Novell can not take back what they have already contributed under GPLv2, but they are of course free to dual license their 100%-own contributions and do whatever they want to do with it, as long as they have not assigned their copyright to somebody else. So sueing people over the use of SuSE code is a no-go for the things they have already contributed.
Furthermore, I doubt they would remain competative compared to their direct competitors (which is not so much MS, but RedHat, Sun, increasingly Canonical, et al as they operate in the same or at least a very similar ecosystem) without the contributions of others in the FOSS community, so that the (how possible?) trademark infringement on the (GPLv2) Linux kernel would be a minor problem.

I mean, it seems silly to me. Novell convinces the largest OS company on the planet to help develop and market Linux -- a possible step in Microsoft getting on the open-source bandwagon, which would be a enormous paradigm shift that would probably be welcomed by everyone but me -- and the community tries to prevent it. This should be looked upon as a coup for the Linux community, not a catastrophe.


It would have been indeed a big shift in paradigm if MS would have chosen to collaborate in conformance with the ethics of the community, that provide the base for the business model of their partner. Trying to outsmart others is not a paradigm shift for MS, sorry. Stating "You owe us money for our IP" without disclosing what parts of their IP portfolio are allegedly affected is neither. This is business as usual for MS. It is however, sadly I have to add, a paradigm shift on behalf of Novell.

Reply Parent Score: 5

butters Member since:
2005-07-08

Nothing would make me happier than seeing Stallman and the FSF get taken up on anti-trust charges and its licenses


Anti-trust legislation exists to prevent monopolists from leveraging their market share in one market to eliminate competition in another. Free software doesn't have dominant market share, and it doesn't engage in anti-competitive behavior. It doesn't even fit the definition of predatory pricing, since it funds the losses due to undercutting the competition on licensing with revenues from the highly competitive IT services market.

Going so far as to change the license to try to prevent people from doing business with the foes Stallman identifies as "the enemy" (without asking if everyone agrees) is just one example of this.


The drafting process for the GPLv3 is undoubtedly the most collaborative and democratic process ever used to craft a copyright license. It's impossible to get everybody in a sufficiently sized group to agree on anything, but the FSF is doing their best to please the various stakeholders.

Microsoft, who has been quiet and even-headed throughout all this


Are you kidding me? Ballmer declared that Linux infringes Microsoft IP, warned the Linux community that it "will have to respect IP rights," and called running non-Novell versions of Linux "an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."

Novell might just withdraw its Linux support altogether.


It would be unfortunate to see the situation come to this, but so be it. As we've seen, Red Hat and a host of other companies (Google, IBM, Intel, etc.) are more than happy to employ experienced Linux developers. The corporation made the deal. The developers do the work.

isn't doing that incredibly dangerous?


As far as I'm concerned, the only viable threat to the free software community and to commercial Linux users alike is intellectual property law. In this particular case, the Novell deal represents a resolution to play out the IP controversy in the court of public opinion rather than in the court of law. It doesn't explicitly affect any future legal action that might be taken against Linux vendors or users. But it tarnishes the perception of Linux in the marketplace, and future patent covenant deals might carry more explicit legal implications for excluded parties.

There will always be plenty of talented developers to move the Linux platform forward, with or without Novell. But if we don't take steps to protect our right to distribute free software with nonexclusive and transferable IP grants, then our work will go to waste. I appreciate what Novell has done for our community, and I don't believe that their deal with Microsoft places our IP rights in jeopardy, but this deal exposes a loophole in the GPL that must be closed to protect our rights going forward.

I'm in favor of this draft without the Novell Escape Clause because there's no compelling reason for their deal to be grandfathered in. Red Hat told their customers that they stand by their products and will defend them against any IP claims. Novell can nullify their deal and do the same. The customers are right to expect legal protection when using their licensed software, but they should get it from the vendor, such as Novell, and not from various IP holders such as Microsoft.

This should be looked upon as a coup for the Linux community, not a catastrophe.


It's not a catastrophe, it's a learning experience, and we will be better off because of it.

Reply Parent Score: 5

lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

{If worst comes to worst, Novell still owns their code. They could pull their code from the GPL (the GPL is many things, but as of v2.0 at least, it is neither pepetual nor exclusive) and continue to develop their SUSE, now without the Linux trademark, and possibly sue others who were still using SUSE code. }

You have a major misunderstanding here.

(1) Most of the code in the SuSe Linux distribution isn't Novell's code. It is GPL code, relatively little of it was even written by Novell.

(2) That part of GPL-licensed code in SuSe that does indeed originate from Novell and belongs to Novell (principally this is Mono) could indeed be made into a proprietary product by Novell ... but that wouldn't mean that the existing version of Mono would cease to exist as GPL code. There could be a "fork" - there would be a "free" Mono under the GPL, and a "Novell Mono for SuSe" that was closed, proprietary, and people had to pay for. Guess which one would win in the market?

(3) In the same way that Novell insist that they can continue to distribute code which they didn't write (GNU/Linux itself) since it is under the GPL, then GNU/Linux can continue to distribute Novell's GPL code (such as compiz, Mono, Yast etc), since it too is under the GPL. If FSF cannot "pull" GNU/Linux from Novell, then equally by the exact same reasoning Novell cannot "pull" compiz, Mono, Yast etc from GNU/Linux.

{I mean, it seems silly to me. Novell convinces the largest OS company on the planet to help develop and market Linux -- a possible step in Microsoft getting on the open-source bandwagon, which would be a enormous paradigm shift that would probably be welcomed by everyone but me -- and the community tries to prevent it. }

You again fail to understand. There is no attempt to prevent marketing and development of Linux ... there is only an attempt to stop Linux from being subverted into proprietary conditions ... such as any condition that you have to get Linux from Novell/Microsoft in order to be assured that you won't be sued. That last bit is the utterly unacceptable bit. After all, this is for the most part NOT Novell's code, and it is most certainly not Microsoft's code, so where do they get off trying to put conditions on its distribution? We "free market" GNU/Linux people recognise instantly that any move to a sole source supplier and/or cartel is intrinsically bad. This is an obvious truth that utterly escapes Microsoft supporters every time.

Edited 2007-04-04 02:31

Reply Parent Score: 5