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Is the Microsoft/Novell Deal a Litigation Bomb? 342

Posted by Zonk
from the pengui-bomb dept.
mpapet writes "According to WINE developer Tom Wickline, the Microsoft/Novell deal for Suse support may one day control commercial customers' use of Free Software. Is this the end of commercial OSS developers who are not a part of the Microsoft/Suse pact?" From the article: "Wickline said that the pact means that there will now be a Microsoft-blessed path for such people to make use of Open Source ... 'A logical next move for Microsoft could be to crack down on 'unlicensed Linux' and 'unlicensed Free Software,' now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path,' Wickline said." Bruce Perens dropped a line to point out that most of the content actually comes from his post.
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Is the Microsoft/Novell Deal a Litigation Bomb?

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  • by feranick (858651) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:07PM (#16708761)
    "It's possible that Thursday's deal between Microsoft and Novell could conflict with a provision in the General Public License (GPL), according to Eben Moglen, the attorney for the Free Software Foundation that created and oversees the Linux license. "If you make an agreement which requires you to pay a royalty to anybody for the right to distribute GPL software, you may not distribute it under the GPL," Moglen told CNET News.com Thursday. Section 7 of the GPL "requires that you have, and pass along to everybody, the right to distribute software freely and without additional permission." Article from CNET: http://news.com.com/2061-10795_3-6132156.html [com.com]
  • Bad read (Score:3, Informative)

    by sys49152 (100346) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:16PM (#16708895)
    So MS has said that it won't sue Novell's customers, and Novell said it won't Sue MS's customers, (sad, BTW, that this is what it comes to) but how does this protect the corporate Linux adopter from everyone else with a lawyer? If corporate CIOs and legal departments are truly holding off on Linux and open source (and apparently they are) because of potential litigation over IP issues, then I don't see how this is much of a help. If I now go out and install Suse, what's to keep Oracle, or TIBCO, or Cisco from suing me. Do RH and Novell have to secure covenants from every copyright/patent holder in the industry?

    Besides, hasn't the SCO thing proven that suing your customers is not a good idea (despite what the music industry is up to). If MS sues Citigroup for using Red Hat, then I'd put my money on Citigroup.

  • by advocate_one (662832) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:17PM (#16708911)
    The distributors of other versions of Linux cannot assure their customers that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement. "If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-SUSE Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes," Ballmer said.

    "I suspect that [customers] will take that issue up with their distributor," Ballmer said. Or if customers are considering doing a direct download of a non-SUSE Linux version, "they'll think twice about that," he said.
    the link to the article is here [eweek.com]

    I'll let you draw your own conclusions... but he is definitely banging the old "Linux infringes our patents" FUD drum...

  • by free2 (851653) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:51PM (#16709409) Homepage
    7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.
    This means that , should MS enforce its patents on other open source companies, not even Novell can distribute GPL programs covered by the same patents.
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:54PM (#16709431) Homepage Journal
    He says he didn't even read the terms of the deal - "depends on precise terms of the agreement that Moglen hasn't seen" - ... he has no idea what he is talking about. Patent protection != Royalty.


    No, but patent protection may put you in a position where you can't distribute under the GPL, even if there's no money involved.

    7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent
    infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues),
    conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or
    otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not
    excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot
    distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this
    License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you
    may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent
    license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by
    all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then
    the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to
    refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

    Read the above very carefully. What is says is that if you sign an agreement that puts any restrictions on your distribution or on subsequent redistribution of a program licensed under the GPL, then you cannot distribute the program at all (because you can't place additional restrictions on redistribution or derived works of GPLed code).

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Friday November 03, 2006 @07:16PM (#16710509) Homepage Journal
    Several lines above are quotes of me and I'm not attributed. And my writing is coherent, unlike the article cited here. The real article is here [technocrat.net].

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