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Microsoft tells GPLv3 to talk to the hand

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We were all wondering what Microsoft would do about GPLv3. Turns out the firm wants nothing to do with it, and has issued a statement outlining exactly how it plans to ignore the new license.

It also rejects any suggestion that the GPLv3 will have any effect on its patent immunity deal with Novell.

In a statement, the firm said: "Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 license and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license."

The agreement between Microsoft and Novell sees Microsoft issue certificates to Novell's customers granting them immunity from prosecution for alleged infringement of Microsoft patents in the Linux source code.

It is controversial because GPL seeks to ensure that all users of licensed code have the same benefits, and so outlaws deals between vendors that grant their users exclusive rights. The Microsoft/Novell deal exploits a loophole in the earlier version of the license, as the agreement is technically between Microsoft and Novell's customers, not between Microsoft and Novell.

The deal has been "grandfathered" in GPLv3, that is, it is recognised, but future arrangements along similar lines are ruled out.

The Beast of Redmond says while some industry watchers might regard its deal with Novell as tacit acceptance of the terms of GPLv3, it does not.

"We do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future," it said, adding that GPLv3 "licensors" have "no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way".

Microsoft acknowledges that the legal situation is still a little murky, for all its own clarity of thought on the matter. So until the legal situation is clarified, it is simply going to limit the scope of the Novell support certificates it provides so they do not entitle support or updates for any GPLv3 licensed code.

"The patent covenants offered by Microsoft and Novell to each other's customers are unchanged, and will continue to apply in the same way they did previously," it said. ®

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