Feeds

Microsoft v TomTom: a GPLv3 wake-up call

Free software's alarm bells ringing

Seven Steps to Software Security

Microsoft's brawl with TomTom over FAT patents has been seized on by software-freedom advocates as a wake-up call for people to adopt GPLv3.

Open-source developers can protect themselves, their customers and the cause of software freedom in general by switching code currently under GPLv2 to the updated GPLv3, the Software Freedom Law Center has said.

GPLv3 will close potential gaps in the wording of the GPLv2 that the SFLC believes Microsoft has exploited in order to tie up a patent cross-licensing deal with TomTom.

The organization believes Microsoft's been using this uncertainty to also tie off other deals with a string of open-source users, starting with Novell in 2005.

Under such deals, it seems, Microsoft has accorded to assignees and their customers a commitment not to prosecute for claimed violations of its patents in Linux and open source.

SFLC policy analyst Bradley Kuhn said Thursday Microsoft has managed to convince companies that patent protection covenants are compatible with the GPLv2. "Since most of them are about the kernel named Linux, and the Linux copyright holders are the only ones with power to enforce, Microsoft is winning on this front," Kuhn blogged.

But because the terms of deals and covenants are not made publicly available it's impossible to know whether Microsoft's patents claims are legitimate and have been upheld, or how far the patent protection clause extends to other users of the open-source software.

This helps maintain the state of uncertainty, and allows Microsoft to keep signing off deals potentially boxing in free software in general, and GPL'd code in particular.

"According to Microsoft and TomTom, the agreement gives some sort of 'patent protection' to TomTom customers, and presumably no one else. This means that if someone buys a GNU/Linux-based TomTom product, they have greater protection from Microsoft's patents than if they don't," Khun wrote.

"It creates two unequal classes of users: those who pay TomTom and those who don't. The ones who don't pay TomTom will have to worry if they will be the next ones sued or attacked in some other way by Microsoft over patent infringement."

Moving to GPLv3 removes any ambiguity, and the ability for Microsoft to come knocking, because the patent license you grant in your software is extended to all recipients of that software or recipients of works that are based on that software. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.