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Eben Moglen To Scrutinize Novell-Microsoft Deal 102

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the hard-looks dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Novell is providing Eben Moglen's Software Freedom Law Center with confidential access to the legal terms of the Novell-Microsoft partnership, allowing to organization to verify if the deal is compatible with the GPL2 and GPL3 licenses. Moglen in the past has alleged that the patent license between the two companies could be in violation with section 7 of the GPL. Novell on Tuesday published a document on its website, explaining that they circumvented the GPL provisions by providing a patent license to the end user rather than between the two companies."
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Eben Moglen To Scrutinize Novell-Microsoft Deal

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  • by parvenu74 (310712) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:50PM (#16790181)
    What are the odds that Microsoft has language in the contract of the deal which allows them to break/undo/shift blame if Novell can't stay clear of GPL legal issues? Anyone who thinks Microsoft is really interested in helping out Linux is forgetting that MS is a company that has been found guilty -- as a point of law -- of using their monopoly position to hurt other companies. Do you think Balmer had a change of heart or something, or that The Microsoft Memo [wired.com] was real and not make believe? Microsoft cannot be trusted -- end of story.
  • by toby (759) * on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:50PM (#16790185) Homepage Journal
    What exactly is the Professor going to do if he believes it violates GPL v2?

  • Battle lines (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AirLace (86148) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:56PM (#16790233)
    My largest gripe with the agreement (as a contributor to Novell's open source projects) is that it will encourage the adoption of the overbearing GPL3 license. As the battle lines are drawn, open source and free software developers are going to polarise, and I suspect that this deal will only encourage the mass of developers to side with the FSF to get the protection that the new license affords, even if it restricts many fair uses that we've come to accept with GPL2.

    Couldn't we have taken a little more time to work on these new licenses before forcing the issue to come out into the open? If Moglen decides that this is a violation of the GPL, the rules of the game will have changed for good, and it will probably only be a matter of time from there for GPL3 to gain credibility and critical mass for better or for worse.
  • by mrcaseyj (902945) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:57PM (#16790243)
    It seems to me that since Microsoft has given permission to its partner to distribute under the terms of the GPL (the ONLY way Novell can distribute) they can't put the cat back in the bag.
  • Ahhhhh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2006 @08:59PM (#16790257)
    Novell's end user customers receive a covenant not to sue directly from Microsoft for their use of Novell products and services, but these activities are outside the scope of the GPL.
    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.

    So Microsoft aren't distributing but are offering a patent license* to Novell customers, preventing redistribution under the GPL? I'm not convinced a court is going to see it that way given the explicit wording of the preamble!

    * "patent license" === "covenant not to sue".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:09PM (#16790309)
    I'm glad Novell is making this move. It's certainly been a publicity disaster for them among key segments of the Linux community.

    But there are some key things which won't be in the contracts. You can see them from what Microsoft ISN'T saying. To wit:

    - They aren't saying that they want to be a good citizen in the Open Source community.
    - They aren't saying that they are won't abuse the GPL in order to lock people into a Microsoft solution.
    - They aren't saying how Novell is going to end up any different than any other company which has partnered with Microsoft in the past (has there ever been any such company of note which hasn't ended up screwed?).

    Microsoft has displayed a long history of not caring about customers or partners, only Microsoft. Certainly not the Linux community, or even the laws imposed by the general community. Nor have they made even a token effort at making statements indicating anything to the contrary. Indeed, their current statements to date are more of the same old FUD.

    Or, in otherwords, they are up to their same old tricks. The only question is how they are going to abuse the situation in a way which is best for them.

    So read those contracts carefully, Eben. And also keep in mind what isn't being said, and how it will be abused.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:23PM (#16790365)
    Let us examine the various cases:

    Assume first that Linux violates no patents held by Microsoft. Then there are no restrictions on recipients of Novell's distribution. Thus, no violation of Section 7, regardless of any deals for additional protections.

    Assume the opposite. Linux violates patents held by Microsoft. By default, no distributions of Linux, Novell or not, are allowed. Thus, no distribution status changes, regardless of any deals for additional protection.

    So its a non-issue.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:25PM (#16790369) Homepage Journal
    Ok, there's two possibilities here, the GPL licensed software that Novell distributes:

    1. doesn't violate any Microsoft patents; or
    2. does violate some Microsoft patents.

    If it's the first then, great, no problems, this whole deal between Microsoft and Novell (as far as the patents go) is just FUD. But, if it is the second, oh boy, things get bad then. First of all, if Microsoft decides to enforce their patents, no-one has the right to distribute this software. That means we all have to pull together and remove any patented stuff from the software, or bust the patents. But Novell thinks they have a wild card.. this deal they've signed. They think that because Microsoft will be giving Novell's customers a license to use the patents they will be able to keep distributing the software, if Microsoft allows them to. What Eben Moglen is likely to say, however, is that Novell is wrong. If Microsoft has patents that cover GPL licensed software that Novell wants to continue distributing, Novell must secure a license for anyone who receives the software from Novell not only to use the software, but also to redistribute the software. If they don't, they are in violation of the GPL and can therefore not distribute the software. Sure, no-one else will be able to distribute the software either but Novell is not in some privledged position, which they think they are.

  • then what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tpenta (197089) on Thursday November 09, 2006 @09:30PM (#16790395) Homepage

    There has been a lot of folks in here commenting and asking the question about "If he finds it in violation, then what?", how about the converse question? What if Eben finds that it is not in violation?

    Novell has copped an awful lot of crap over all of this. SJVN has also written an interesting perspective pointing out that Novelle is not SCO and a lot of the angst that is being directed asgainst them is quite possibly unwarranted.

    You know somewhow, I can't see everyone who has bagged Novell over it coming out and saying "oops I was wrong".

    So, what if Eben finds that it is compatible with GPL?

    Tp

  • I've been poling around the source and distribution trees for opensuse lately and I have discovered one interesting point: there is GPL'ed software in the "nosrc" directories.

    doesn't this violate section 7 on its face?
  • by TheDark3rd (637523) on Friday November 10, 2006 @12:53AM (#16791244)
    I can obviously understand the commercial distros backing off the mass marketing of their products in retail stores because of cost v. profit issues. I can respect that Novell purchased SuSE despite my deepest belief that it was a possible bad move when it occurred three years ago, however - what really pisses me off is that Novell actually believes that with the base of developers who created the tools assembled under the Novell/SuSE distro umbrella that they are going to let Novell off the hook just so we can watch the damn wmv files - f--k that!! Keep your damn media file formats as far as I care - I can get my machine to do what the hell I want it to do without Microsoft bullshit installed. Linux, and GNU software must remain free, I can respect if a piece of open software has to link to a proprietary file if it means adding functionality (i.e. the firmware files needed for the ACX-100 drivers, or USB scanners, etc.) but you don't throw out the baby with the bath water. These tools must remain free to be used, and freely available for distribution. The GPL does not allow for software under it's protection to be distributed with software that is not free for distribution, if it means that that non-distributable software may infringe on the right of the end user to use, analyze, or redistribute if they should chose to do so. Novell, good move to mainstream SuSE, bad move to believe it was yours to do as you please - watch for software to disappear from this distro as developers call on their software's removal due to GPL violations. I can't wait
  • by Dark Fire (14267) <clasmc.gmail@com> on Friday November 10, 2006 @02:08AM (#16791480)
    Novell paid Microsoft for a license to the end user for the GPLed software that it distributes. From Novell's perspective, it believes that it bought indemnification for it's customers. However, if Microsoft claims that GPLed code infringes it's patents and Novell is distributing the code, then Novell loses it's right to distribute the code. So Microsoft effectively breaks the terms of it's agreement with Novell. If Novell sues for breach of contract, the courts might rule that because Microsoft entered an agreement of this nature and then took steps which legally invalidated the agreement, that Microsoft has effectively bestowed an end user license to all of it's patents to all distributors and users of the affected code. Wouldn't it be ironic if Microsoft's own tactics upheld it's claims concerning the viral nature of the GPL?

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