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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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  • I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Control Group (105494) * on Friday November 03, 2006 @04:49PM (#16708471) Homepage
    I R'd the FA, and I don't have the first clue what this perceived threat is. How does signing this deal threaten commercial use of OSS? Don't the existing OSS licensing terms still hold? Why should it matter that MS can now show there's an MS-licensed path?

    Is this threat a software patent one? If so, how does this deal change the threat - if the patents already exist, couldn't they be used just as easily without the deal as with it?

    I'm no lawyer, I don't swim in corporate mega-deal circles, and I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so it's possible (probable, even) that there's something obvious here that I'm missing. Can someone who knows more about it elaborate for me? Because as it stands, I don't see how MS controlling one licensing path for OSS can suddenly mean that all other methods of acquiring OSS become illegal.
  • Seriously, as the article said Microsoft needs a new deterrent for all the players in the free software movement. SCO is history, now they need a new partner, someone who's not as big (or will be) as Microsoft is today. A major linux vendor is the perfect way to achieve that. Microsoft will keep continuing to push only that much technology that they would like to - I doubt whether we'll see MAPI being opened up, whether the doc format will, whether we'll see a pam_ad etc ... All Microsoft wants is to look good in the press, give a cozy feeling to its customers and more importantly have a position to draw lines in the free software movement. Patents and litigation will be seen as a major drawback by all the majors looking at deploying free software solutions. I am not talking about the average bearded nerd here in /., but the multi-millionaire CEOs who don't know jargon from garbage.

    As for me, I am in India, I can keep laughing whenever talk about software patents happen.
  • I'll take a stab ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday November 03, 2006 @05:19PM (#16708931) Homepage
    I R'd the FA, and I don't have the first clue what this perceived threat is. How does signing this deal threaten commercial use of OSS? Don't the existing OSS licensing terms still hold? Why should it matter that MS can now show there's an MS-licensed path?

    I'll take a stab at this one, but I might miss a few points.

    1. Microsoft announces agreement with Novell for Suse, and says they won't pursue any patent claims against them (and quite possibly, only them).

    2. Suse feeds back technologies to the rest of the Linux community like they are supposed to.

    3. Microsoft cries foul and says they only promised not to litigate Novell/Suse for any potential patent violations.

    4. OSS community is forced to either not use any of the Suse extensions (now Microsoft proprietary and licenced) or to say that Suse is required to share with the crowd.

    5. Microsoft sues all other Linux distributions who are using code contributed by Suse, and claims that those people are violating MS patents, gets an injunction preventing distribution of Linux.

    6. Linux is fuxored.

    Basically, the fear is that they will do what they do on standards comittees -- play along very nicely, patent the technology they've been holding in open discussions (without telling anyone), and the say nobody is allowed to play except by their rules. Then they get to claim that only people who bought a license (and nobody who is doing pure OSS can buy one) can use the technology.

    Think submarine patents, but more like submarine licensing. Only the goal is to make sure that by having someone who is a licensee, all others who aren't licensees must be violating the law. Kinda like what SCO thought they could do.

    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.

    At least, that seems to be the gist of the argument.

    Cheers

FORTRAN rots the brain. -- John McQuillin

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