Feeds

Microsoft v TomTom: a GPLv3 wake-up call

Free software's alarm bells ringing

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
Yes, Virginia, there IS a W3C HTML5 standard – as of now, that is
You asked for it! You begged for it! Then you gave up! And now it's HERE!
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.