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FSF Positioning To Sue Microsoft Over GPLv3? 369

mjasay writes "Groklaw notes that the Free Software Foundation has decried Microsoft's attempts to distance itself from its obligations to abide by GPL Version 3 (press release here). Citing Microsoft's earlier declaration that they are not bound by GPLv3, the Free Software Foundation declared, 'Microsoft cannot by any act of anticipatory repudiation divest itself of its obligation to respect others' copyrights.' The press release implies that the Free Software Foundation may sue Microsoft over the issue."
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FSF Positioning To Sue Microsoft Over GPLv3?

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  • by I'm Don Giovanni ( 598558 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:39PM (#20387889)
    Can someone explain how MS would be bound by GPL3? They make no GPL software.
    The Novell deal was made prior to GPL3.
    How does GPL3 relate to MS at all?
  • Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU ( 810740 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:41PM (#20387925)
    Wouldn't MS actually be using and distributing software using GPL'd code in order to be bound to it? If this is the case I hope the FSF goes after them, but if MS isn't using any code and says "we dont like it we wont use it" then I dont see the point of the case.
  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:44PM (#20387969) Journal
    IIRC the GPL3 would apply to MS as soon as someone redeems a SUSE voucher that they received from MS. MS would argue that merely giving out the vouchers is not distribution but most people (the FSF included) see it differently.

    I'm not sure if that holds true or not (IANAL, etc.) but it should be interesting to see how this plays out. MS is obviously at least slightly worried or they wouldn't have issued the PR in the first place.
  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:49PM (#20388065) Journal
    The angle MS and Novell are taking is that Microsoft's vouchers apply to Novell's GPL v2 stuff. If Novell just happens to distribute GPL v3 stuff in place of that, then it's Novell distributing it of its own free will and not a procurement via Microsoft.

    I say the FSF has a right to question that tactic. I'm just not sure where the courts will fall on it.
  • Legal Maneuvering (Score:4, Interesting)

    by saterdaies ( 842986 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @02:59PM (#20388205)
    The issue is that Microsoft has given indemnities to customers of companies like Novell. Seeing that, the FSF decided "let's make it so that the GPL v3 means those indemnifications mean that M$ can never sue free software users even if they aren't Novell customers".

    I guess I'm one of those ends don't justify the means people. M$ shouldn't be suing FOSS, but you can't create a new version of a license and retroactively apply it to M$. We'd all be yelling at the top of our lungs if MS retroactively altered their Windows XP license so that it, say, required to be renewed every year for a fee. And there are loopholes - how many agreements say things like "we can change this agreement without notifying users and continued use is considered agreement with the updated terms."

    Let's fight for real progress rather than shady legal maneuvering - because, let's face it, the evil companies will always be better at it!
  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @03:54PM (#20388987)
    Wow, slashdot mods never cease to amaze me. I know the parent post wasn't exactly cerebral, but how do you justify modding that post "redundant" when it is the FIRST POST?!
  • by CDarklock ( 869868 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @05:41PM (#20390563) Homepage Journal
    The GPLv3 is a steaming pile.

    Nobody who writes anything worthwhile likes it.

    The GPL basically means "if you use this body of code, whatever you contribute must be given out freely".

    This is a great deal when what you contribute is of negligible value compared to the original codebase.

    But when you look around and see a vast teeming community of ignorant retards who can't write decent software to save their lives, this deal sucks.

    The internet isn't the elite anymore. It's a vast teeming community of ignorant retards. That may do wonders toward making RMS feel like some sort of deity, but it sure as hell doesn't do much for producing high-quality code. What ought to scare the FSF is not that people are mad about the GPLv3 - if nobody's mad about it, you're probably not accomplishing anything - but that an awful lot of the people who are mad about it are highly competent and productive developers. These are exactly the kind of people you want to keep in your community. If what you're doing is driving them away, you really need to step back and think about whether this crusade against Microsoft is worth it.

    Of course, I work for the enemy, so don't listen to me. But you probably ought to listen to your most competent and productive developers.
  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @06:40PM (#20391199) Homepage

    MS would argue that merely giving out the vouchers is not distribution but most people (the FSF included) see it differently

    There are two problems with this. First, there is no support whatsoever in either copyright statute or case law for the notion that distributing vouchers to a copyrighted work is legally a distribution of that work. (And the very idea is weird. Would the FSF say that if I went to the theater and bought tickets for a movie, and then gave those tickets to someone else, I'm distributing the movie?).

    Second, even if it were distribution, it would not obligate Microsoft to GPL, because it is a ditribution that is allowed by copyright law. Microsoft bought a given number of vouchers from SUSE, and they are redistribution those vouchers. (At least, this is what the early stories about the deal implied...anyone know for sure if this is correct?). Microsoft is not printing new vouchers, or modifying the vouchers--just doing a one-to-one passing on of the vouchers they received from SUSE. That puts them squarely under the first sale doctrine. For those not familiar with first sale, it basically says that if you legally obtain a copy of a copyrighted work, you can pass that on to someone else, via sale, rental, gift, etc., without needing the permission of the copyright holder. Once the copyright holder places a particular copy in the stream of commerce, it is beyond his control.

    First sale is what makes used bookstores legal, for example, and also what makes loaning your books to your friends legal. I suspect that one of the reasons the deal between Microsoft and Novell was structured to use vouchers supplied by Novell was to make sure Microsoft would be covered by first sale when they used the vouchers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @09:20PM (#20392901)

    Regardless of what the delusional fools at FSF believe, they cannot redefine the legal definition of "distribution".

    The FSF nor the GPL do not define how copyright law applies, nor how it does not apply. Copyright law itself defines this. Copyright law is quite strong and far-reaching.

    The FSF are copyright holders in GNU software. Under copyright law, this fact gives the FSF strong rights to control how their software may be copied. Note that the rights pertain to "copying", not just "distributing". This is copyright law, not the GPL.

    OK, copyright law says that in order to give out vouchers for a copyrighted work that enable someone to get a copy of the work, you need to have permission of the copyright holder. This is the law, it is not something invoked by the GPL or by the FSF.

    OK, the FSF do give such permission via the GPL. Anyone abiding by the GPL has permission from the copyright holders to give out vouchers for GNU software. Anyone not abiding by the GPL has no such permission. It is as simple as that.

    The FSF press release is a statement of these facts.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Tuesday August 28, 2007 @10:36PM (#20393511) Homepage Journal

    No, Bruce, there's no room for litigation here.
    This isn't argument, it's just contradiction.

    There is room for litigation concerning whether the terms of the GPL are enforceable, at least in California

    That finding is not relevant to the GPL because JMRI used the Artistic License, which gives away just about all rights until it's like public domain with attribution - and that fact was important to the case. So, this is more relevant to BSD and Apache licenses than to the GPL, which very clearly does not give away all rights.

    The finding did not say the license was unenforcible, but that it had to be enforced as a contract rather than through copyright law. This precludes treble damages and an initial prohibition on distribution before the trial starts, but still gives the copyright holder rights to enforce the license.

    But anyway, this is not of precedent to any other case until it gets by some appeals courts, and IMO it would not get by them - knowledgable commentators believe the judge misread the law.


  • by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:17AM (#20397225)

    The copyright notice is presented to the end user. The GPL version is the end-user's option.

    Nope. The GPL is not a EULA. It's not a "use license", it's a "distribution license". Read up on the law. The GPL version is the distributor's choice. The copyright notice is there for whoever chooses to use the copy rights, not for whoever uses the copyrighted materials.

APL hackers do it in the quad.