Free Software Foundation Attorney Says Microsoft-Novell Deal Won't Last

Lora Bentley

The controversy over Novell's partnership with Redmond is nowhere near over, but the Free Software Foundation's general counsel, Eben Moglen, says the patent provision of the companies' agreements will be "dead" before April.


As reported on CNNMoney.com this morning, Moglen told a Legal Pad blogger that the Free Software Foundation is working to change version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPL v3) so that patent pacts like the one in question will violate the license. When the new version becomes effective mid-March of next year, the legal effect will be to render the patent provisions between Novell and Microsoft useless, the piece indicates.


In response, Novell says it "remains committed" to the agreements and that the patent provision was drafted to comply with the current version of the GPL. According to the company's statement -- which is reproduced in full in the blog piece -- GPL v3 should not take a new direction or include additional provisions specifically to "undo" one agreement.


We agree with that last statement, at least. If the FSF uses the license to get "revenge" -- against Microsoft, or any other company -- what does that accomplish except to increase the risk for those who want to use proprietary and open source software together?

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Nov 16, 2006 10:09 AM joe thomas joe thomas  says:
This partnership assured people that it would not be attacked by microsoft, and i thought the deal brought innovation into the process. Reply
Nov 16, 2006 12:00 PM Tim burns. Tim burns.  says:
Wow, the FSF is opening up a can of worms here.  They are playing into Microsoft’s hands.  Microsoft opened its doors with the Novell deal, and what does the FSF do in return. They say the deal will be invalid in April 2007.   Microsoft can still sue every company that does not partner with them, and now they have a good reason to file.  If the FSF changes the License to hurt Novell and Microsoft they will regret their decision.  Microsoft partnership with Novell is a step in the right direction.  Microsoft the Dominate Player acknowledged Open Source as the future. What the Open Source community should have done is welcome Microsoft, although they are the enemy.  Plus most of the Open Source community is using property that Microsoft holds the patents on.  I think a backlash against Microsoft is stupid.  They could tangle up companies in lawsuits for decades.   Reply
Nov 17, 2006 9:30 AM Chris Moore Chris Moore  says:
The patent language that is being written into the GPL v3 has been in the works for over a year now.  The FSF is not changing the GPL License just to "get revenge" at Microsoft or Novell, but just continuing the final revisions of GPL 3. Novell made this deal with Microsoft knowing full well the changes that were being drafted into the license revision. Novell, distibutes the majority of its code under the GPL, and when the license changes takes into effect next year they will be unable to distribute GPL'd code while maintaining there patent agreements with Redmond. They knew full well the possible implications of making patent agreements on GPL'd products and I don't feel sorry for them when the consequences kick in.   As a side note one of the biggest reasons the GPL was being revised in the first place was because of the threat that patents bring to free software, and this agreement does threaten those freedoms.  Just look at the reasons stated above.  Reply
Nov 17, 2006 3:26 PM Timothy Timothy  says:
The FSF never ceases to amaze me in how they can care so deeply about something that really, in principle, doesn't help their cause at all.  Okay, so you Stallman types hate the word "patent" and all that it stands for.  Get over it!  Microsoft is starting to embrace the idea that OpenSource has its place.  Will we ever see an OpenSource Windows kernel?  Probably not.  But we will start seeing them contributing "community code" which is really the best part of OpenSource.  I could give a rat's ass if I'm allowed to change the source code on every program I use (seriously, Stallman, get a life), but "giving back" and building on other's work so you don't constantly have to reinvent the wheel WHILE ALSO being able to protect your proprietary intellectual property so you can actually make money -- that's a good thing!  That's what the non-zealot types (like myself) hope for!  I don't want to hack the kernel, but I like having free APIs to build better applications quicker! Reply
Nov 17, 2006 6:14 PM Drazen Gemic Drazen Gemic  says:
Microsoft has quite a few patents to fight with. Linux community may have to pay dearly for moving against Novell-Microsoft deal. My opinion is that Microsoft avoids using patents because of monopoly claims, but if being cornered they will do what has to be done. GPL v2 projects may be forked to stay under GPL v2, and not everybody will upgrade to GPL v3 for their projects.In the end, Mr. Moglen is a professor and FSF has limited funds. Can they fight corporate lawyers in the real courtroom ? I don't think so. DG  Reply
Nov 17, 2006 6:44 PM Peragrin Peragrin  says:
EVERY Company that has EVER partnered with MSFT has been stabbed in the back BY MSFT.  If your a software company that relies on Windows MSFT will duplicate your software poorly and force you out of business with anti-trust style tatitics.  The List of companies who have died that way is long.   So why would anyone work with MSFT to begin with?  Also note that MSFT paid Novell for the patent truce.  Novell didn't pay MSFT.      Reply
Nov 17, 2006 7:03 PM ig ig  says:
FSF is doing the right thing here.  If the deal is allowed to stand, the monopolists at Ximian (who call themselves "Novell" these days) will insert Microsoft-patented code into Linux and other open source projects.  Then when these "submarine patents" are unveiled, they will have an effective monopoly on open source platform software.  This has been their goal all along. Reply
Nov 19, 2006 11:52 AM Chris Chris  says:
Go FSF, Microsoft have had years to looks at open software including the code. Yet they continue with there FUD campain. It's slander if they can't prove it. I can fully understand FSF  geting there back up. They just make accuations.   Reply
Nov 20, 2006 1:25 PM Dave Dave  says:
@Drazen GemicI think the reason MS doesn't use its patents against anyone is because they have loads and loads of patented technologies in their own products that they don't own. As soon as they tried to assert them against anyone, it would unleash a nuclear patent war on them the likes of which has never been seen. IBM alone could tie them up in court until the next century.@Timothy"I don't want to hack the kernel, but I like having free APIs to build better applications quicker!"So, you like having free APIs, but without having to give back. So...you want all software to be free of cost? I'm sure Microsoft would not agree with you, and neither would the people who wrote the "free APIs" you want. Nothing is free in this world, guy, and Open Source software is no different.     Reply
Nov 22, 2006 3:35 PM Nick Nick  says:
I wouldn't be surprisd to see an Open Source kernel from MS - eventually. The system/desktop business is probably the least profitable part of the empire. It certainly is the slowest growing at 4% compared to 17% in server & tools and 70% in entertainment. But of course there's still cash to be got from that cow, $3B/qtr, so they'll keep flogging it till its dry. What then? Spin it off? Who would want it? How could they slash their development costs but still make money from distributing it? I wonder... Reply
Dec 4, 2006 2:16 PM hitmanWilly hitmanWilly  says:
The only reason M$of's desktop market isn't growing is they already own 90% of it. Go to best buy or circuit city some time and see how many pcs come preinstalled w/ windows. M$oft will NEVER embrace true OSS. Since they can't just buy linux outright, they're trying to insert their proprietary code, hoping it will spread like a disease. Once that happens, linux as we know it will be dead. Novell has sold their soul to the evil empire. I only hope RMS and the FSF can beat this thing back before its too late. Reply
Jan 17, 2007 9:32 AM jstile07 jstile07  says:
I found this in download.com and thought of sharing with you.I think this is really cool technology that transforms your iPod or USB Hard Drive or Flash drive into a portable and private PC. It works for all office applications.It’s FREE for 30 days.http://www.download.com/Mojopac/3000-2094_4-10618350.html?tag=lst-0-1 Good luck Jennifer. Reply
Sep 2, 2007 6:16 PM Buck Smith Buck Smith  says:
It is rumored that the FSF met with the Joomla core team, and convinced them to discourage commercial extensions, shut down open exchange in the joomla forum (one of the largest projects on the 'Net), and suggest that sanctions will be enforced at the whim of the core group. Developers are backlashing with boycotts and petitions against the anti-3rd party developer positions that replaced policies inviting commercial developers. Bottom line, the FSF is against BOTH commercial and Open Source software distribution. Their philosophy ignores the massive success of the Joomla/Mambo/Drupal economies, which are giving consumers the right to stick to 100% Open Source, or purchase products that are reasonably priced and sometimes encrypted. The FSF seems to object, in principal to protection of software. They also oppose commercial and Open Source distribution. The core group has cut off all conversation with journalist, and have attacked top template distributors (such as Joomlashack) on their censored forums like a group of immature teens with a new hacker tool. Anything proposed by FSF and GNU 3 is dangerous and restrictive. BSD doesn't come under the GNU or GPL handcuffs, and people should start talking about a version of Linux that is liberated from the dangerous, anti-commercial (I'm being kind here) agenda of the FSF and their backers. Moglen and Vacile have an agenda. People who value Open Source and the very positive partnership between Open Source and Commercial should study the feasability and praticality of frameworks that assert ownership of 3rd party extensions (check the joomla forums). GNU/GPL is unfit for a free and un-Big Brothered software industry. Reply

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