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Red Hat Rejects Microsoft Patent Deal Overtures 201

Posted by jamie
Geekgal writes "Red Hat has slammed the door shut on any possibility of entering into a patent protection deal similar to the one Microsoft recently announced with Novell, eWeek is reporting. While Microsoft has repeatedly said it wants to work with Red Hat and would like to structure a relationship where its customers can be assured of the same thing as Novell's customers now are, Mark Webbink, Red Hat's deputy general counsel, says 'we do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft-Novell announcement.' Interestingly enough, Microsoft also says that it has not ruled out going it alone and providing some sort of indemnification for its customers who also use Red Hat Linux." Meanwhile, Eben Moglen, the FSF general counsel, promises that GPLv3 will explicitly outlaw deals like this. (Of course everyone's on v2, so calling the Novell deal "DOA" would be premature.)
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Red Hat Rejects Microsoft Patent Deal Overtures

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  • Easy to do. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:37AM (#16869088)
    Hilf, who has been touring Europe since the announcement, admitted that there's been a lot of negativity about the deal in the open-source community. "Our intention with this deal was not to create a problem, but rather to solve one," he said.

    As such, Hilf is trying to be more clear about the company's true intentions and trying to translate all the legalese around the deal into something that a layman can understand.

    That's easy to do.

    Simply explain to them why Ford would pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Chevrolet for an agreement not to sue Mom (who drives a Chevy) for violating Ford's patents.

    There, that shouldn't be so difficult, right?
  • by Rhett's Dad (870139) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:38AM (#16869100) Homepage

    Good for them! I admit I've been one of the complacent ones over the last several years, feeling like Red Hat was the Linux business big dog, and that I was a hipper hacker for spreading my use/support around to other distros. No more...

    The big company I left this year was one of those whose IT bureacracy monsters that would not sanction open source, so informed and competent programmers had to use it in the dark. My new company is a Red Hat user, and I'm more proud of that today than I was yesterday. Shame on me for yesterday...

    I'd like to teach the world to sing "Red Hat Is The Way"...

  • Re:WHY!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muellerr1 (868578) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:42AM (#16869162) Homepage
    I think what they mean to do is sell the indemnification directly to Red Hat users. Maybe the RIAA should think about doing that, too. That wuld just make it easier to know who to sue--anyone whose indemnification 'subscription' expired.

    Though the government used to call behavior like that 'racketeering' and 'extortion'.
  • by div_2n (525075) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:43AM (#16869172)
    I'll bet you a cookie. Do you really think Microsoft reps are going to promote another company's products let alone a Linux product? Think again.

    I'll throw you a cross bet--this is just one more link in the FUD chain for Microsoft to suggest Linux has "intellectual property" problems and, more specifically, it has patent issues.

    Microsoft shops that want to deploy Linux must have something very specific in mind. I'd wager they'll use whatever they think is best. It may very well be Suse, but that will probably be for reasons that have nothing to do with Novell and Microsoft forging some sort of strange and obscure patent deal.
  • by pugdk (697845) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:45AM (#16869192) Homepage
    Eh? I don't get it. So Micro$oft want us to pay them for Winblows even if we don't use it, so we don't get sued? Sounds like Micro$oft wants people who use Linux in their business to obtain a Micro$oft license to do so.

    In other words, Micro$oft want us to pay a Micro$oft tax for using something that has nothing to do with them. I got two word for you Bill Gates: Piss off.
  • As Novell becomes THE Linux for companies with a Linux-Windows infrastructure, Red Hat will look back on this day as when they lost warp field containment and got stuck in Redmond tractor beam in search of revenue.

    I think you swapped "Novell" and "Red Hat" in that sentence.

    Rich.

  • Re:WHY!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rhett's Dad (870139) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:47AM (#16869234) Homepage

    As has been said in many posts in many venues since the Novell announcement, the fact that these companies felt the need to declare that such indemnification is necessary for the protection of Linux-using companies, so then Microsoft will feel the need to extend such indemnification to Linux customers of companies that don't sign agreements with it. It is by declaring such a blanket indemnification that they imply to the world that such indemnification is needed, and that without it the Linux-using companies are in violation of Intellectual Prostitution ^H^H^H^H^H Property protections.

    Their 2007 State of the Monopoly address will be titled "All Your Earth Are Belong to Our Patent, But Litigate We Not... Maybe"...

  • by Sr. Zezinho (16813) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:49AM (#16869250) Homepage Journal
    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they provide indemnification."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:51AM (#16869296)
    Over the past few years as the number of people involved with open source software like Linux has grown tremendously. However, as many of those people came from the Microsoft/Windows world, and probably having known nothing else ever in their lives, brought a dangerous "Microsoft ain't so bad" mentality that was allowed to take hold. It was a sign of just what a reasonable person you were if you used Linux but were open to Microsoft tech regardless of the patent issues. Think back to how many +5 Insightful posts from people lecturing others about how "Microsoft isn't ALWAYS evil, you know" and "put your tinfoil hats away about this patent silliness".

    It's time for anyone with any illusions left about Microsoft's intentions to wield patents as their primary weapon against Linux and the entire open source world to wake up. Microsoft is now in open war with Linux. This is no half-hearted FUD games with SCO. This is serious shit that could very well do tremendous damage things you have worked hard for either in development or use and participation.

    Spend some time on groklaw. Get up to speed on patents and copyright law. Do your part of at least being an informed member of the community - if you aren't already of course.

  • by Ice.Saoshyant (993846) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @09:59AM (#16869368) Homepage
    Even if in the long run, it might be your demise, you have not sold out yourself and your users to Microsoft. For that, you have our gratitude—mine and of those who'll see in the future that in spite of all odds, you made the right choice.
  • Re:WHY!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by molnarcs (675885) <molnarcsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:05AM (#16869456) Homepage Journal
    WHY!? Why on Earth would Microsoft feel the need to offer indemnification to someone's customers in the first place?

    Wrong question - because it is not what they are doing, actually. Let me translate Microsoft's offer: there are patent problems with linux. That's what Microsoft's offer means, no more, no less. A subtle, distressing and unfair FUD machine. Your question is understandable, because they offer doesn't make sense at all, unless you examine not what it says, but the message it conveys. That message is clear: linux might be encumbered with patents belonging to MS.

    It is such a pity that Novell has become a partner to this for perceived short term gains. No wonder that the free software community is up in arms (ranging from groklaw through Perens to the Samba team) - MS simply tries to single out commercial linux companies to support its own FUD propaganda. They offer these distributions a new tool to compete with: patents. So far, commercial linux distributions competed on two fronts: technical excellence and quality of support and services. Even Oracle. Novell, by accepting Microsoft's offer, introduced a new tool: patents. This is against the spirit - if not the letter - of the GPL, which tries to enforce a level playing field, and was successful until the Novell-MS deal it was successful. (That's the main gripe of the Samba team [samba.org] with Novell. Microsoft is fishing for others now.

  • Thank you, RedHat. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lethyos (408045) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:07AM (#16869486) Journal

    Accepting any deal of the sort from Microsoft is tantamount to giving legitimacy to a corrupt system and buying into blackmail.

  • Re:WHY!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ookaze (227977) <ookazeNO@SPAMmail.ookaze.fr> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:17AM (#16869642) Homepage
    Then, having given all the big enterprise Linux users a reason to switch over to those distros, Microsoft starts publishing software for those distros specifically, keeping it all closed of course

    Where is the problem exactly ?
    Especially since you can install these binaries in any Linux distros, just by creating a custom package. Just like some distros did for firefox binaries.
    This doesn't make the OS closed at all.

    Finally, after a few years, Linux has become a platform for proprietary products...and is no longer a threat to Microsoft

    Why is it not a threat anymore ? It runs lots of proprietary products and all the FOSS products, and yet, you magically believe that it would no longer be a threat ?
    It would be a far greater threat on the contrary : that's exactly what some company deny us now, and what people are asking for.

    By ensuring that only major Linux vendors are in on it, Microsoft helps sideline other FOSS projects, killing the culture of openness and freedom and limiting choice

    Which is BS. I fail to see how what you say ensure anything.
    Oracle was available on RH only, it didn't sideline any FOSS database project at all, Oracle even had to buy some afterwards !!
    It didn't kill culture of openness and freedom either. That's complete wishful thinking on your part, that goes contrary to factual evidence.

    Notice that no overtures have been made for non-commercial distros or distros that are popular among home users: Microsoft is not threatened by them. It's about the server market, and about Microsoft's continuing inability to maintain more than a 30% market share

    But MS has no valuable patent on the server side where it matters for Linux OS. So what you're saying seems like nonsense to me.
  • Re:WHY!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by novus ordo (843883) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:20AM (#16869694) Journal
    I think it's more of Microsoft looking for another player to embrace. In about 6 months it will be time for the last stage of this disease. But unlike you I don't believe that Linux will ever be a platform for proprietary products. The RTFM culture with proprietary make it easy software? HA!

    What Linux has and Microsoft is drooling over is developers, developers, devel... Who else would waste their time learning Linux? It's a case of the eagle hunting the fly. I actually think that Microsoft will pull a fast one and try to ride atop Linux like Apple rides OpenBSD. If you think about it, Microsoft has very little to offer Linux; the other way you can already see the dollar signs. Also fits very well with Microsoft's history of innovation. I guess they are just building their "IP bridge" Ballboy kept mentioning in the Novell press conference.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:23AM (#16869742) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is SOOOOO stupid in that matter.

    It is evident that due to their corporate heritage/understanding, they still think that they can manipulate the whole world by dealing with a number of big corporations.

    So, novell, red hat and similar will succumb to their schemes, and we, millions of developers, system admins, it managers will oblige by them ? duh ?

    am i missing something here ? we 'the people' in the field were the ones to make linux come to where it is today, not the single handed effort of any company. zillions of our contribs made linux come to this point.

    not only that, but we as a whole are the bulk of the community that will advise our top brass, decision-makers, bugdet planners, policy-makers in our corporations and workplaces as to what should be the best course to take.

    we did not oblige by microsoft crap then, and you can easily deduct that we will never do. and you can guess that our advice/move on that matter would be to avoid more microsoft crap.

    we will just scratch anybody who deals with microsoft to that kind of harmful extent, and build on something new. im not putting a prophecy here - im talking about the social dynamics and previous experience - new distros can be done, new platforms can be put together, even now-obscure operation systems/platforms may rise to prominence.

    this is the power of people. microsoft has rowed against the river before, got carried away with it, STILL trying to do as such. do not make the same mistake again. and as for novell, we are already wary about you.

    do not take these as the babblings of a fanatic - this is being spoken from bitter experience with these stuff and a great deal of practical concerns.

    red hat has the go for now.
  • by mythz (857024) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:26AM (#16869768)
    This fiasco clearly shows the ideals of these two 'opensource' companies. Redhat is driven by both the idealism of open source and basis its revenue model on the value proposition and technical superiority of its products.

    Novell on the other hand is a stagnated giant, it only turned to Linux in a bid to generate some revenue to comabat the decline in its directory sales. Novell is clearly driven by profit as is demonstrated by this deal with MS. With this deal Novell is no longer just competing on the strength and value proposition of its products, it has created an artificial barrier (FUD / illusion customer protection) where they are now hoping customers will consider their products of greater value as it has this 'added' protection. If Novell really believed in open source and not as just a way to make profit it would have open sourced NDS a long time ago simarily to what redhat had done with its acquisition and opensourcing of Netscape directory services.

    Now I have to ask what is with the 3 year exclusive deal with MS? Surely this is not a restriction MS has imposed on itself? This must've been a directive from Novell, which makes me think that Novell is more than a puppet in this MS sponsored charade.
  • GPLv3 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:27AM (#16869782) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile, Eben Moglen, the FSF general counsel, promises that GPLv3 will explicitly outlaw deals like this. (Of course everyone's on v2, so calling the Novell deal "DOA" would be premature.)

    Yeah, Novell might decide to fork the entire GCC toolchain, the standard C libraries, the file utilities, the shell, the bootloader, and go it alone maintaining the entire system without the benefit of the Linux community. Yeah, that'll work well for them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:28AM (#16869794)
    Someone please tell me what patents Microsoft has over Linux ! Don't they have the cart before the horse here, ala SCO ? "We won't sue you" Great. How are they going to sue us now ? Don't we have to infringe on something not to be sued ?

    And even if Microsoft does have a patent or two buried in Linux, don't they have to give fair warning and wouldn't the OS Community just rewrite around it ?

    I totally don't understand any of Microsoft's involvement with Linux. It seems to me like they are trying to scare people into getting an "indemnification license" to run Linux ! They can't control the OS itself, so they can't license that, but somehow they can extort a patent license from it ?

    Doesn't make sense to me.
  • scaredy cats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @10:32AM (#16869862)
    Microsoft are scared, really scared. If they can't get some leverage in the linux world, then they lose their monopoly. Can you list how many products Microsoft have released outside of a monopoly position that have made money?

    Offering indemnification regarding other peoples products is crazy, unless they need to in order to hold their position as market leader. They can only be hoping to stir up more doubt.
  • Re:WHY!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:34AM (#16870772) Homepage Journal
    Because Microsoft wants to turn Linux into a platform for its products
    Between multi-core CPU chips and virtualization, Windows is looking like a big loser in the enterprise. Why not shrink the server "farm" to a "garden", run Linux, and stick it to the man?
    Linx on the desktop and OpenOffice remain tomorrow's threat, but the fact that XP is Vista's chief competition is undeniable. And what about the costs of developing Vista? It would be interesting to see how much the profit margin has really shrunk for the OS.
    MS Office remains the cash cow for Redmond. Now that Mono is mature enough that Gnome desktop applications are cropping up, e.g. F-Spot [linuxjournal.com](which hasn't really been touted for Windows, but should run readily, right?) look for Redmond to start pushing MS Office assemblies that "just happen to work real fine" on SuSE.
  • Re:WHY!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:55AM (#16871138)
    Why not just, y'know, not sue them without making some big announcement?

    They've been not suing people for years, Sparky. What rock have you been hiding under?

    Seriously, this is just another example of the way that MS can't win with the FOSS community. They have been making assurances for years that they would not use their patents in a punitive manner and that the patents are mainly for their own protection. And the FOSS community always complains that those assurances are not good enough because MS is an evil corporation whose word can't be trusted and so on.

    Now they are trying to offer the big Linux companies some kind of legally binding agreement to that effect - probably in response to those kinds of complaints - and what is your reaction? That MS is evil and can't be trusted and we shouldn't need a binding agreement because MS should just, you know, not sue people.

    Riiight. Because that has obviously worked out so well for them. I have an idea. Why don't you and all the FOSS zealots here just admit that nothing MS can ever do will be good enough. Then all of us reasonable people will know that we can safely ignore you.

    I'm not an MS fanboy by any means but I don't hate them. And I am really, really, really goddamned fed up with this attitude that MS is always to be criticized no matter what they do. It represents a rigid close-mindedness that I feel is no different than those who always say that FOSS is not ready for the mainstream because it still doesn't implement feature X, regardless of the impressive progress made over the years at implementing A-W.

    I say grow up and learn how to take a balanced view toward MS. Criticize them only when they deserve it, which they certainly often do, and not just because you need to get your daily dose of MS hate.

  • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:01PM (#16871266) Homepage Journal
    If you are server tomorrow with a lawsuit from MS to stop using Linux, you have to ask you the following:

    -Do I have the poclets fto fight them?
    -Do I have the time to fight them?
    -Do I have the energy to fight them?

    note that the validity of any possible patents is completely immaterial, in a litigation systems in which money talks, the threat of being sued is enough to do whatever you are told to do if you don;t have the resources to defend yourself.

    And of course MS will not go after the big players first (banks, oil companies, software producers, Hollywood studios), no, that would be an even battle.

    They will go after the little guy, the one they can crush. That creates a climate of uncertainity in which Linux will be questioned instead of prised because the bully would be out to get you.

    If MS had any decent intentions they would have launched an interoperability panel with the mantainers of the 5 or 6 most important Linux distributions and teams working on Samba, Mono, Cedega, OpenOffice.org and other parties interested in making interoperability work. They would have alos announce that no patents would have been used against any Linux software.

    There was no need of this nonsense, but the only kind of relationship that MS understands is the one in which they are the abusive party.

    I wish I could say lets give them the benefit of the doubt, but the way I see things is pretty obvious they are positioning themselves for a legal battle. They must be careful, they may be bitting more than what they can chew.
  • Re:WHY!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ewhac (5844) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:13PM (#16871446) Homepage Journal
    Where is the problem exactly ?
    Especially since you can install these binaries in any Linux distros, just by creating a custom package. Just like some distros did for firefox binaries. This doesn't make the OS closed at all.

    Try installing ClearCase [ibm.com] on anything other than RedHat or SUSE. Things may have improved in the last few months, but SUSE only received official support just over a year ago. Prior to that, it was RedHat only. If you were/are a Debian user, you were essentially SOL.

    Linux distros can, in fact, be marginalized by precisely the kind of half-baked support Microsoft plans.

    Schwab

  • by Rob Y. (110975) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @01:50PM (#16873068)
    Microsoft doesn't want to release proprietary software for anybody's Linux distro.

    What they want is to make Linux non-free. They want to scare IT managers into only using commercial distros that don't cost much less than Windows. You see, they know that their whole TCO argument is bogus. Windows is probably not cheaper TCO-wise in many situations today, and in the future, the argument will become less and less valid, not more so.

    But if they can make sure that businesses (think they) have to buy Linux to use it, then they know how to compete with it.

    If they have to release some proprietary stuff on Novell's distro in order to keep the FUD alive, they they may do just that. But there's nothing in their announcement that suggests that they feel the need to do that. They're gonna 'help' Novell interoperate with Windows, but that just means "if you feel you must use Linux, we'll make sure it can be made to work with Active Directory". That just kills 2 birds with one stone. Preventing any migration to NDS, which is cross-platform, and removing the Linux price advantage. I think they even get some royalty payment.

    All of which is targeted at one ultimate goal... elimination of the Linux threat.
  • by KWTm (808824) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @03:23PM (#16874864) Journal
    Perhaps naively , but it:
    I agree with your "naively" there.

            1) appeared MS gave Novell money now, for Novell making payments later;
            2) MS will help sell [Suse] Linux -- that means MS is distributing and bound by GPL2 code;
            3) MS promised no patent attacks on Linux software used by Novell. This means the _SOFTWARE_ is free -- the promise wasn't protecting Novell users, per se, but the Linux software. Any other distro that uses the same software will find most of their software is covered by the MS-Novell deal.

    What you fail to explain is why Microsoft specifically refers to Novell. If the software is free, as you say, then why not simply say that Microsoft won't sue anyone? You may answer that perhaps Microsoft simply happened to deal with Novell, and when they said "We won't sue Novell's customers", they really meant that they wouldn't be suing any customers. But that's patently false, since Steve Ballmer specifically said that the protection afforded Novell('s clients) is something that other distros wouldn't have. They even went out of their way to offer the same deal to Red Hat, so clearly Red Hat didn't have the same indemnity that you were suggesting would have applied to any user of the software.

    You may say that that's a minor detail, with the important thing being that Microsoft is actually working with a Linux vendor! But keep in mind: Microsoft is not a technology company. Microsoft is a marketing company. As such, the perception of the marketplace is their lifeline and focus. You must admit that the outcome of the Microsoft-Novell pact is the perception of legitimacy in the vague threats about patents and intellectual property, similar to the SCO case.

    Whether this is the deliberate intent of a conniving scheme, or simply a byproduct of Microsoft's genuine desire to support and promote Linux, is a matter of opinion. Given the past history of Microsoft with respect to software freedom, working with corporate partners, and throwing money around, I would side with the Slashdotters who are taking Microsoft's altruistic pronouncements with more than a grain of salt.

    In the meantime, yes, some other nice things have resulted: Microsoft acknowledging the importance of Linux, the $380M to Novell, etc. Doesn't mean we stand by while the FUD is being spread about Software Freedom.
  • by ray-auch (454705) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @06:34PM (#16877840)
    And I refuted your non-answers.

    Now you seem to be even more confused - "Novell is distributing software developed by MS" - huh ? This is about patents, not copyright. It matters not at all who developed the software - patent liability doesn't care. And what MS software is Novell shipping ???

    Note that I have never claimed that the deals are exactly the same - they clearly aren't - but what I am interested in is what is the difference that makes one deal ok by the GPL and the other an (alleged) violation.

    The GPL argument, as I understand it, is that any patent licence you have that covers GPL code has to be freely distributable (to everyone downstream) - or you cannot distribute the code. Liberty or death. Note that this is about licences you have to 3rd party patents - your patents are automatically licenced by distribution under GPL, so how many patents Novel & Sun have is not relevant - it's the ones they licence from elsewhere (MS) that are important for the liberty-or-death clause.

    Agreed or not ?

    Now the deals:

    Both deals involve paying royalties to MS in respect of MS patents in return for some sort of covenant-not-to-sue (which is frequently argued to be identical to a patent licence).

    In both cases, the licenced MS patents may or may not cover the GPL code and may or may not be valid etc. etc. - but we don't know. Although, in fact Novell says that there are no patent issues with the code they ship, which may cover them wrt. GPL. Ballmer says the MS patents do cover Linux, but then he's been saying that for years and he's full of it - why should we believe him ? Sun, on the other hand, hasn't said that Java is clean - probably because they'd be lying if they did, as Java is known to violate third party patents.

    But, leaving the above aside because we don't know which patents / code (if any) is at issue in either case (so, no difference there), the argument frequently made against Novell is that the covenant/licence itself is the issue, because why would they need it, why would they pay royalties (back) to MS, if there was no violation ? Now, I'm not entirely convinced by that argument, but assuming it applies, then it also applies to Sun, since they are paying MS for a patent licence/covenant too.

    So, at this point we conclude that either by the GPL liberty-or-death argument, the patent covenant/licences must be freely distributable downstream to meet the GPL. [Novell-MS's is not, Sun's might be, I don't have a copy of it to tell].

    Or they don't have to be distributable because in some way they don't cover the GPL code.

    Either way it must be the same for both cases, since the evidence of a patent licence exisitng and covering GPL code is the same in each case (Novell & MS statements on applicability appear to disagree, so discount both, Sun has no statement).

    [I'm assuming here that we see through Novell-MS's wierd "party pays the royalties, party's customers get the licence" scheme as being really just a traditional cross licence like the GPL was designed to account for].

    And finally, you still haven't responded on the issue of the other non-MS patents that Sun licences for Java - are those patent licences GPL-compatible (ie. freely redistributable to everyone) or not ?

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