Microsoft's GPL v3 Statement Contradicts Itself, Novell

Kachina Shaw

For those who expected a bit more drama around the release of the GPL v3 a week ago and were disappointed, the wait is over, thanks to Redmond. In a statement widely seen as, well, confusing, Microsoft attempted to draw its line in the sand, or at least make a few scratch marks.


The "Microsoft Statement About GPLv3" (subtitle: A Microsoft Statement About GPLv3. Got that?), I imagine, was written by lawyers, but not in lawyer-speak. It cites no case law, nor uses any "wherefores" or "hereunders." The confusion springs simply from the contradictions.


In four paragraphs, Microsoft states that it is "not a party to the GPLv3 license," that it needs no GPL license to "carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell," that "GPLv3 licensors have no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way," and that it "remains committed to working with the open source software community to help improve interoperability for customers working in mixed source environments and deliver IP assurance." I sure didn't see that conclusion coming.


And then there's this: " order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3."


Clearly, there will be no avoidance of doubt or legal debate, and Microsoft darned well knows it's poking its proprietary finger in the eyes of everyone connected to GPLv3, including Novell.


For its part, Microsoft's partner states, in direct response to Microsoft's outlined position, that it will make no changes to its distribution of SuSE Linux: "...we would like to make clear our commitment to our customers that Novell will continue to distribute SuSE Linux Enterprise Server with its full set of functinality and features, including those components that are licensed under GPL v3." Nobody knows yet which components those might be, but this statement is clear.


There are many parties and many fights here that will be worth following over the next months as Microsoft fends off "GPL contamination" -- perhaps with a small army of equally resistant software vendors following along in its wake. Confusing as it may be, this statement from Microsoft obviously was written by a group of attorneys confident in their position regarding the Novell-Microsoft agreement and Microsoft's continued stance as a non-distributor of GPLv3 code.

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