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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 RagingFuryBlack (956453) <(NjRef511) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday November 03, 2006 @04:50PM (#16708487) Homepage
    In one way, you can easily scream OMG ITS A TRAP! The article pretty much gives us the worst case senario, which leaves me thinking FUD. Yeah. That pretty much seems like it. FUD.
  • by common middle name (657525) on Friday November 03, 2006 @04:54PM (#16708555)
    I distrust Microsoft about as much as any other /. reader but this article is just stupid. The author seems to be implying that because Microsoft has made an alliance with a Linux vendor they all of the sudden own all open source software ever created and can just sue people for patent infringement at will. What a crock.

    People....CALM DOWN.

    The world is not coming to an end. Microsoft is not coming to steal your children.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:01PM (#16708673)
    You may not be a lawyer, but Eben Moglen [com.com] is:
    "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."
  • by acvh (120205) <(geek) (at) (mscigars.com)> on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:03PM (#16708699) Homepage
    not to mention that the linked article, and articles linked from that, are pretty much incomprehensible. Microsoft and Novell agree to work together to make Linux and Windows work together, Microsoft agrees to support SUSE for Novell customers, therefore Microsoft owns Linux? Sloppy reasoning, sloppy writing, sloppy discussion.
  • by FatherBash (632310) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:07PM (#16708755)
    I think the confusion is a result of using the terms "unlicensed linux" when that's not the case. They're referring specifically to the way a linux server or desktop would interact with Windows machines CIFS/SMB etc. Also, many of the Windows desktop features emulated in KDE/Gnome could be patented by Microsoft...like old Apple/MS lawsuits over the GUI in the first place.

    Personally, I think Novell has the touch of death for everything it gets involved in. It's not enough for them anymore to issue grossly untested patches and releases of their own propietary Netware/Groupwise crap any longer (I'm referring to modern incarnations of Novell software, yes they used to be good a long time ago), overcharge and overprice for their software and lousy support; now they have to take a formerly good linux distro, send all the good developers and managers from it running and now create potential legal issues for the entire OSS world!

    p.s. I hate Provo

  • by HighOrbit (631451) * on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:10PM (#16708783)
    I don't see anything necessarily nefarious in this. As I commented in the earlier article, most likely, Novell is may making sure that Microsoft continues to support NDS/NetWare (which is now the Linux-based Open Enterprise Server) by having the client software supported on Vista. Microsoft wants to make sure that .Net has a foothold in the linux/unix backend market. They both get something out of the deal. Novell gets Windows desktops to provide a market for their server products. MS gets Novell supported Mono/.Net-based servers to provide a market for the desktop and application products. Anything that grows the NDS/Netware line is good for Novell. Anything that grows .Net is good for MS. They both win.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Intron (870560) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:18PM (#16708919)
    MS doesn't distribute Linux, so they don't violate the GPL.

    Novell can make any deal that they want, as long as they don't try to pass any restrictions along with GPL code to their customers. In this case it looks like they are passing on the additonal benefit "You won't get sued by MS for patent violations".

    As for everyone else, they are free to redistribute, burn CDs, modify the code, mix it with Ubuntu, etc. You can't violate an agreement that you are not a party to.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by maggotty (206064) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:27PM (#16709049)
    I actually am a lawyer. I litigate intellectual property cases. There's nothing to get. The article and Mr. Wickline's comments are the baseless, reactionary ramblings of the grossly uninformed.
  • by jammer170 (895458) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:27PM (#16709057)
    I have a suspicion that what Wickline mean was Microsoft would only support software on Suse Linux that was Microsoft approved. What this could do is creat an imbalance in relation to commercial acceptance of open source software. Microsoft will say "We support package X, but not package Y or Z." So commercial companies who need the functionality provided by X, Y, or Z will choose X because it's supported, not necessarily because it's better. As an example, for customers using Suse Linux, Microsoft may say we only support Cedega, not Wine. More people will start using Cedega over Wine, and more money filters into Cedega over Wine. Taken to extreme, the Wine project may run out of money and have to shut down (it's not likely, but possible). Now, in Wine and Cedega's case, they are both open source, but Wickline may be worried that Microsoft will only support close sourced, commercial software running on Suse Linux, creating a shift of corporate funds away from the open source projects they may currently be supporting. Considering it's the Inquirer, I suspect they edited what Wickline said, but didn't fully understand it and screwed it up.
  • Patent Agreement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NullProg (70833) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:33PM (#16709155) Homepage Journal
    I was all for this at first until I read the patent agreement for OpenOffice, Samba and .Net.

    • If Microsoft wanted to interoperate with OpenOffice, all they had to do was support ODF.

    • According to Miguel de Icaza. there are no patent concerns with Mono because Microsoft has granted RAND+Royalty Free licenses to any patents they might own that are required to implement the ECMA 334/335 standards.

    • Didn't the EU just recently decide the SMB/CIFS implementation was legal?


    I personally think Microsoft is trying to plant a patent FUD turd inside the head of any CIO thinking of deploying Linux.

    Hey Miguel de Icaza, what are your thoughts on this?

    Enjoy,
  • by Aim Here (765712) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:37PM (#16709227)
    The nature of the Novell/Microsoft deal is somewhat irrelevant. The problem is the threat of Microsoft launching patent attacks against ANYONE over anything in SuSE. The public statements say that Microsoft won't launch a patent suit against noncommercial distributors or against Novell - that still leaves commercial distributors open to a patent lawsuit.

    If THAT happens, Section 7 of the GPL kicks in and Novell loses the right to distribute GPLed code in SuSE. Section 7 is the 'liberty or death' clause which says that if you can't distribute GPLed code without some patent(or other) restriction being imposed on your customers, you cannot distribute GPLed code at all. The idea is to prevent code being proprietarised using legal machinery other than copyright - having someone offering GPLed code under a partial patent umbrella that effectively bars, say, commercial distribution, is exactly the sort of thing that section 7 was designed to prevent.

    (My theory is that the main reason Microsoft had to offer patent protection to at least one Linux distributor was to skirt antitrust problems if it starts using patent law to crush competition. )
  • by foobsr (693224) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:46PM (#16709339) Homepage Journal
    The very paranoid might look at the partnering with Novell/Suse as an attempt to poison the environment so that eventually the rest of the OSS people would be guilty of using MS technology without a proper license.

    From Microsoft, Novell Make Peace over Linux [eweek.com]: In addition, Ballmer said Microsoft would not use its patent portfolio against any individual, nonprofit open-source software developer or against any OpenSUSE programmer whose code ended up in SUSE Linux.

    You may well read this along the lines "In addition, Ballmer said Microsoft will use its patent portfolio against any individual, nonprofit open-source software developer or against any LINUX programmer whose code did not end up in SUSE Linux."

    How paranoid am I (given M$s history)?

    CC.
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Friday November 03, 2006 @06:01PM (#16709547) Journal
    How much more do they need to do???

    Make a binding agreement, not limited in time or target, to never use any of their patents against any open source project.
  • by nonmaskable (452595) on Friday November 03, 2006 @06:23PM (#16709879)
    Which Miguel are you asking? The old Miguel been telling people for years that there are no patent issues with Mono. Today's Miguel says there are serious patent issues, and only Novell customers are safe from Microsoft litigation.

    Which one is right? Can you believe either? Wanna bet the future of the Linux desktop on the answer?
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday November 03, 2006 @07:19PM (#16710543)
    The problem is the threat of Microsoft launching patent attacks against ANYONE over anything in SuSE. The public statements say that Microsoft won't launch a patent suit against noncommercial distributors or against Novell - that still leaves commercial distributors open to a patent lawsuit.


    No more than they were prior to the announcement.

    Of course, its already a violation of the GPL to distribute a program under the GPL if it is encumbered by patents that would prevent recipients from redistributing it freely.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday November 03, 2006 @07:24PM (#16710575)
    Novell can make any deal that they want, as long as they don't try to pass any restrictions along with GPL code to their customers.


    Either the agreement with Microsoft on patents is vacuous (because there is nothing violating Microsoft patents in the code Novell is redistributing), or Novell is not free to distribute that code under the GPL in the first place. (Now, its also possible that the patent covenant applies to non-GPL software Novell bundles with its commercial linux systems, in which case it is likely entirely irrelevant to most of the rest of the Linux universe.)

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