GPL to undermine Microsoft's Novell deal?
Back at ya
Microsoft will apparently nullify its patent protection agreement with Novell, under the terms of the forthcoming GPL 3 license.
That seems to be the conclusion to be drawn from remarks by Software Freedom Law Centre founding director and general counsel to the Free Software Foundation, Eben Moglen, made yesterday during a discussion on the GPL.
According to the comments, reproduced by the Seattle PI, it seems the act of purchasing Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) using certificates that have been distributed by Microsoft will trigger protection for the community from potential prosecution by Microsoft over alleged violations of its IP in Linux and open source.
In other words, Microsoft will be helping undermine its own agreement not to sue customers of Novell, signed last November.
In an added twist, the GPL 3 will feature a clause discouraging other Linux companies from following the example of Novell and entering into protection agreements.
Moglen said: "If you make deals with a party having patents, to pay tribute to that party, in return for protecting some but not all of your customers... you are violating the license, and you must stop distributing altogether."
The comments seem to back up plans outlined by Moglen last November to use GPL 3 to undermine Microsoft's deal with Novell.
Moglen's remarks, made during an OpenLogic web cast on the impact of GPL 3 in the enterprise, follow Microsoft's explosive claims this week that free and open source software violates 235 of its patents. The company is seeking restitution from customers through licensing, according to the original Forbes interview.
Since that article appeared, Microsoft has tried to calm the outcry both over its claims and the resulting concerns that Microsoft will seek legal satisfaction. Bill Hilf, general manager of platform strategy, gave a qualified commitment to IDG that Microsoft has no plans to litigate over claimed use of its IP. However, he did imply a problem exists by saying Microsoft's "preferred" strategy on this subject is to license its IP.
While Hilf claimed Microsoft's strategy on licensing has not changed, and there's complete unity down the line from chief executive Steve Ballmer, the fact remains Hilf and Microsoft's tools teams have been going out of their way to court the open source community for some time now.
Statements by the vesuvian Ballmer and articles such those in Forbes undermine that work, setting Microsoft back in the eyes of community members slowly coming round to accepting the company. ®
This story isn't finished yet
Eben Moglen is saying that the SUSE vouchers Microsoft is distributing have no expiration date.
When GPLv3 comes out and someone redeems a voucher. MS becomes a linux distributor and the picture will be different. Probably the best place to read legal details on that is www.groklaw.net
I love the way this is going... can't wait for the next episode.
The GPL V2 on already released code absolutely CANNOT be revoked.
Where people/organisations have lost their right to distribute under the GPL, it has been because they breached it's terms, thus invoking the clause that strips them of all rights granted under the license. It absolutely cannot be done on the author's whim.
The wording in GPL V2 regarding later versions is "or any later version" not "the most recent version". Ie, you can choose to stick with GPL V2 if you want. Of course, if all the developer begin releasing newer versions under GPL V3, you will be forced to fork or stagnate.
It seems clear to me that GPL3 is going to wind up looking more like an EULA written by Microsoft than it will GPL2. It isn't bad enough that we have to worry about fending off government from turning into a Nanny State but now we are going to have Nanny Licences too. They could rename it NPL which has the advantage of a highly suitable pronunciation.
"Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"