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Novell Won't Lose Right To Sell Linux

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the fact-straightening dept.

Novell 216

BinnyVA writes "You know the story about Novell losing the right to distribute Linux? Well, the Free Software Foundation has absolutely no control over Novell's distribution of Linux. A zealous Reuters reporter apparently conflated the FSF with the open source community in general, took some quotes out of context, and ended up with a sensational headline that fooled a number of people. The Novell deal is completely within the bounds of the GPL, GPLv3 isn't even done yet, and even when it is the Linux kernel is unlikely to be covered by it." Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.

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Well, duh. (4, Informative)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17906936)

Anyone who read the comments section of that story would know this.

I Told You So In the Earlier Story: +1, Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907740)


Simply read the GNU GPL.

Thanks in advance,
Kilgore Trout.

P.S. Patriots don't let patriots support theworld's most dangerous person [whitehouse.org].

Premise is counterintuitive (4, Insightful)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#17906972)

Isn't the whole point of open-source software free distribution, repackaging, use, modification, etc.? Unless there are non-OSS components that Novell is distrubting, I don't see how the FSF or anyone else would ever have any control over their "distribution rights", unless Novell tried to close the source and violate the license agreements.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907172)

and even then it would probably be unlikely. I mean, aren't their Linux distros with the Intel 3945ABG driver in them? That's not OSS (not completely anyway).

I think the FSF is probably more interested in keep peoples rights from being abused when it comes to existing OSS applications, or large-scale/severe infractions.

I think they aren't an evil organization, they are willing to overlook minor infractions.

GPL is'da bomb (0, Troll)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907822)

and even then it would probably be unlikely. I mean, aren't their Linux distros with the Intel 3945ABG driver in them? That's not OSS (not completely anyway).

Drivers are part of the kernel, which is not under GPL.

I think the FSF is probably more interested in keep peoples rights from being abused when it comes to existing OSS applications, or large-scale/severe infractions. I think they aren't an evil organization, they are willing to overlook minor infractions.

It seems rather foolish for serious business to bet the very legality of their major product on the benevolence of some outside organization. They may not be "evil" today, but there is no telling, what kind of zealot may come to the helm 5 years from now.

I'm sorry to repeat this flame-bait, but GPL is a "bomb". Not a "time bomb" (for the explosion is not certain), but a remotely activated one — whether or not you trust the people, who hold the activator, you'd be comfortable without the bomb entirely.

Novell gained a lot of good publicity and good will by getting entangled with Linux. I hope, they'll never regret it, but I think, they should've picked a BSD-licensed OS instead... Applications (like Evolution or Samba) would've been licensed the same way, of course, but, at least, there would've been no problems with the core.

Re:GPL is'da bomb (2, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908056)

Drivers are part of the kernel, which is not under GPL.

WTF are you talking about? The kernel is GPL, specifically V2 only - as opposed to "V2 or later". Linus doesn't like GPL3, so the kernel will likely remain under V2 for some time to come.

Re:GPL is'da bomb (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908708)

I think what he meant (and he completely botched his attempt to say it) is that seperately distributed drivers are not considered part of the kernel, and hence do not have to be GPL. I am not sure, but I believe that the GPL applied to the Linux kernel has been specifically modified to allow this, either that or the way the driver interface behaves permits for linking in non-GPL kernel modules at runtime.

Either way, non-GPL kernel modules are allowed. They are frowned upon by the kernel developer community, but allowed.

Re:GPL is'da bomb (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17909582)

Umm, no. Non-GPL kernel modules are a violation. It's just that the most egregrious offenders find various ways to skirt (having the user build the module, seperating the module into two parts, etc).

Re:GPL is'da bomb (3, Insightful)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908156)

but GPL is a "bomb". Not a "time bomb" (for the explosion is not certain), but a remotely activated one whether or not you trust the people, who hold the activator, you'd be comfortable without the bomb entirely.

The problem with the above is that it is untrue. Nothing anyone does can prevent me from using & distributing any OSS software, as long as I don't distribute binaries without the source, suitably licensed. So please, tell us what this bomb is? At worst, the software could be abandoned or closed, which is always the risk with any software --- no matter the license. At least, with OSS, you have the source.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (2, Informative)

at2000 (715252) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907292)

GPLv2:

4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. [...]

FSF can allege Novell, on that they distribute the program not as expressly provided under the License. If this is proven in court, they automatically lose the right to distribute the program.

7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. [...]

FSF can also ask for an order from the court to refrain them from distributing any more copies. This order will precede the rights granted by the license.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (5, Informative)

hendersj (720767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907426)

Stallman has said unequivocally that Novell has not violated GPLv2. He's said there should be something in GPLv3 to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but very clearly has said that there is no Section 7 violation.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (2, Informative)

greginnj (891863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908332)

Let's not forget that while Stallman can opine authoritatively on his intent when writing the GPLv2, his intent or his current interpretation thereof is not binding on a civil court. The GPLv2 exists independent of Stallman's interpretation, and anybody who holds copyright on software distributed by Novell would have standing to challenge them in court if that copyright holder feels that Novell infringed. Stallman's opinion would serve as a possible interpretation offered by the defense, nothing more.

Only because no known patent is in FOSS code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908706)

As soon as MS sue someone for code and avow Novell are OK with distribution because of a license, THEN Novell have no right to copy GPL2 code.

IF MS sues for code and sues Novell, then that isn't Novell's problem.

IF MS don't sue anyone, then there is no known issue and nothing can be taken to court.

GPL3 changes is so that this agreement isn't acceptable for GPL licensees, so we don't have the FUD vector we currently have (Ballmer warning about undisclosed liabilities unless you get Novell's distribution).

The story submitter is also dead wrong. There is plenty "right" to deny Novell linux distribution rights. They only come in to effect when Novell include patented stuff that they don't grant (or cannot grant) license to ALL GPL licensees.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908586)

"FSF can allege Novell, on that they distribute the program not as expressly provided under the License. If this is proven in court, they automatically lose the right to distribute the program."

As I understand it violating the GPL means you no longer have the protection of the license and the fall-back position is standard copyright law. So by losing the right to distribute under the GPL the original copyright holders on the code would gain the right to sue the infringer if the so wish. It doesn't mean that such lawsuits are automatically going to happen, though.

Re:Premise is counterintuitive (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908684)

This is why it's important to say GNU/Linux. Sure, they can keep distributing Linux, but Linux is a trivial and completely replaceable part of a Free *NIX system. The FSF is the sole copyright holder of a huge amount of other parts, such as the compiler, the C standard library, the loader, even the shell. Basically, everything above the kernel and below the GUI in the stack, plus a load of userland utilities (command line and GUI). When GPLv3 comes out, every single GNU package will move to 'GPL Version 3 or later,' and this is likely to explicitly ban the kind of deal that Novell have made with Microsoft. If it does, then Novell will still be able to distribute the last v2 versions of all of the GNU utilities, but nothing newer. They could try forking the entire GNU project, but that will be hugely expensive to do.

Linux replaceable? Snicker! (1)

Jon Kay (582672) | more than 7 years ago | (#17910680)

> Linux is a trivial and completely replaceable part of a Free *NIX system.

It is, huh? In fact, the FSF has been trying to develop their own kernel for about two decades. Still no luck. Because of their decision to go microkernel, The Hurd remains an expensive failure, run by maybe 10 people. So, no, Linux ISN'T replaceable.

You could go with BSD, but then you're talking - gasp! - that nasty free BSD license. Can't have that!

They can distribute linux (4, Interesting)

at2000 (715252) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907106)

They can distribute linux, but can they distribute glibc, coreutils, gcc, gdb, bash, tar, gzip, gpg, grep, gettext, readline, troff, ...?

Re:They can distribute linux (4, Informative)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907248)

Anything under a BSD or GPL license, yes, they can distribute (as long as they provide source for the GPL stuff). They didn't violate the GPL, so they don't lose the license. If GPL3 is ugly, they will probably simply keep using the regular GPL version.

Re:They can distribute linux (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907382)

If GPL3 is ugly, they will probably simply keep using the regular GPL version.

Or in other words, we will end up with a Novell-only GPL2 fork of the GNU toolchain, and everyone else will use the GPL3 version? That is quite frankly an utterly untenable position, especially since they wouldn't be able to backport GPL3 code back into their GPL2 programs, meaning that they would have to independently re-engineer every fix or upgrade, or be left in an incompatible state.

Let's think about this from another angle for a second, though; do you really want to do business with a company in bed with Microsoft? Me neither, which is why I also won't give Sun a dime.

Microsoft is the devil (at least in computer-land) and anyone who does business with them is tainted, to say the least, regardless of licensing issues.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907538)

It'd be a mess, but they wouldn't be the only ones refusing to move to GPLv3. All the people refusing to move to 3 could still share each other's GPLv2-only code.

Also, any code that still says GPLv2 or later, or whose author expressly puts it under GPLv2 for Novell and GPLv3 for the FSF they could use.

Likewise, BTW, no contributions that are licensed GPLv2-only can be used in GPLv3 projects.

How many people that would be I don't know. It'd still be worse than everyone sticking with the same GPL. If GPLv3 drives a bunch of people to stick with v2, this is the kind of thing we'll all need to worry about.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907676)

It'd be a mess, but they wouldn't be the only ones refusing to move to GPLv3. All the people refusing to move to 3 could still share each other's GPLv2-only code.

Frankly I think those people will not be around long. It would be a horrible nightmare. And I think that now that the GPLv3 hysteria has died down a bit, I think people are becoming more accepting.

Re:They can distribute linux (2, Interesting)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908268)

And I think that now that the GPLv3 hysteria has died down a bit, I think people are becoming more accepting.

No, I just think they are waiting for the next draft.

Re:They can distribute linux (0, Flamebait)

Mandrake (3939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909356)

The hysteria has died down a bit, but that doesn't mean it's accepted. I won't release any code under GPLv3 - but then I haven't wanted to release code under the GPL since 98, when I actually started listening to what RMS was saying instead of what we all thought RMS was trying to say. The man's a lunatic.

Re:They can distribute linux (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909656)

I haven't wanted to release code under the GPL since 98, when I actually started listening to what RMS was saying instead of what we all thought RMS was trying to say. The man's a lunatic.

Well, I agree that RMS has an image problem. He's a scruffy bearded guy talking about freedom. The former makes you sort of persona non grata in most social circles, because most people care very much about appearances. And let's face it, he would be more effective if he didn't look like he lived under a bridge, or smell like stale cheetos.

But that doesn't make him wrong. Users want freedom. They do not want to be locked in. The only way we can provide freedom to users is to have freedom of software, because software is how users actually use the computers. It's what actually makes you a user, and not just a person sitting in front of a collection of inert boxes.

I don't see what's so crazy about trying to ensure that we can actually use the hardware we paid for.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907686)

Maybe... but a lot of people don't seem to like the nature of GPL v3 as it has been previewed so far, otherwise we wouldn't have seen so much debate on it. I'm not saying it will, but if something like this did happen (a Novell GPLv2 branch), could we see a split in the open source community along GPVv2 versus GPLv3 lines? Just a thought. If someone doesn't like something in a software program, they usually don't use it. Maybe the same could happen with a license. If I recall correctly, Linus Torvalds has said he doesn't agree with GPLv3 and will continue releasing the kernel under GPLv2, so already there is a split. Having Stallman make it even more restrictive might encourage more.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907766)

If I recall correctly, Linus Torvalds has said he doesn't agree with GPLv3 and will continue releasing the kernel under GPLv2, so already there is a split. Having Stallman make it even more restrictive might encourage more.

Nothing in GPLv3 or GPLv2 prohibits the distribution of GPLv3 and GPLv2 packages together, so this in itself does not cause a problem. With the second part, I doubt that GPLv3 will be made more restrictive, although I am open to the possibility. I think that it will either remain equally restrictive, or it will become less restrictive. As an effort to improve software Freedom it will achieve nothing if no one uses it. Then again, Stallman has been unreasonable on occasion. I will attempt to reserve judgement but I think that given the lack of continued enthusiasm for pogroms against the GPLv3, it might as well be a done deal already.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908440)

I think that it will either remain equally restrictive, or it will become less restrictive.

Not if they don't remove that silly DRM clause. The very fact that Stallman et al are willing to use the GPLv3 as a bully pulpit for their political views (with which I happen to agree vis-a-vis DRM, BTW) compromises some of the legitimacy of the license and will make it look to many people like some kind of stand in favor of piracy.

You know it isn't and I know it isn't, but CEOs and lawmakers are not likely to see it that way. And we all know the Microsoft FUD machine is rooting for that clause to be included. IMO, Stallman is marginalizing himself unnecessarily (again), but in this case, there's a danger it will adversely affect the perception of the GPL by a lot of people. Recall the whole point of the article is that a reporter totally misunderstood what the GPL and the FSF are all about.

Re:They can distribute linux (4, Insightful)

F452 (97091) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909168)

And while it sounds like you understand better, this:

Not if they don't remove that silly DRM clause. The very fact that Stallman et al are willing to use the GPLv3 as a bully pulpit for their political views (with which I happen to agree vis-a-vis DRM, BTW) compromises some of the legitimacy of the license and will make it look to many people like some kind of stand in favor of piracy.

suggests you're missing something. Stallman and the FSF are pressing forward with the same vision and agenda as they always have. Now that free software has achieved some mainstream acceptance -- despite being quite radical already -- you seem to be afraid of pushing the original goals of the project for fear of what short-sighted corporations might think. I'd rather see the goal of freedom be preserved, as I think you do also. Let's not worry about popularity contests. Stick with principal, and let the chips fall where they will. The original license was all about politics, as are all our decisions about how to conduct a free (or closed, or somewhere in between) society.

You got it backwards (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907872)


Or in other words, we will end up with a Novell-only GPL2 fork of the GNU toolchain, and everyone else will use the GPL3 version?


Ummm, no.

We will end up with a Debian-only GPL3 fork of the GNU toolchain, and everyone else will use the GPL2 version.

RMS has a gun pointed at the head of open source. Will he pull the trigger?

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908150)

As I replied to others in the thread, it's been done before by other OS's/distros. For example, OpenBSD has forked or re-written a lot of apps that initially started as open, but changed to more restrictive licenses. It can be done. Besides, not everyone is in love with GPL3 and will move to it. Plus others might like to, but can't because they can't track down all the authors to get them to agree to the change. My personal prediction is GPL3 is going to be a bust as far as moving most current GPL stuff over to it. I don't think Novell has that much to worry about. Some things will move to it, but nothing (really desired/necessary) that won't be maintainable as a fork under the old license.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908750)

Everything owned by the FSF (gcc, coreutils, bash, etc) will move over to version 3. How many developers do you think are going to want to fork a GPLv2 version? I would imagine that most of those who are willing to assign copyright to the Free Software Foundation agree with their objectives, and GPLv3 does nothing to contradict those.

Re:They can distribute linux (2, Informative)

omeg (907329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908650)

You're correct. They'd have to start maintaining their own GPLv2 fork of the GNU toolchain, as they wouldn't be able to use any GPLv3 code. Any code that Novell would want in the GPLv3 versions of the software would be rejected. Afterall, it seems that Novell is exempt from patent infringement litigation, which means that there's the possibility of patented code being inserted into GPL programs if they're allowed to edit it, and that would be a serious problem. Because they've made this dodgy deal with Microsoft, I actually wouldn't be very surprised if they tried using this loophole to get Microsoft to be able to sue other major Linux vendors.

Re:They can distribute linux (-1)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908790)

"everyone else will use the GPL3 version"

I don't know about anyone elses, but IMHO GPL3 is as invasive a liscense agreement as the one in Windows Vista. How dare anyone tell me what I can and cannot do with my own hardware. I am looking forward to the GPL2 / GPL3 fork so we can get that nut Richards Stallman out of our business. BTW: Go ahead and mod me troll, I have karma to burn.

Re:They can distribute linux (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908964)

How dare anyone tell me what I can and cannot do with my own hardware. I am looking forward to the GPL2 / GPL3 fork so we can get that nut Richards Stallman out of our business.

Well, I do think you have a point, but the whole point of the free software movement is that the software is Free. I don't see a problem or a disconnect here. Well, okay, I see a problem, largely that those who are in favor of DRM being used to lock down the computer so that you cannot modify it will not be able to use the code in a product which does that. Here is the "objectionable" part of the license:

The Corresponding Source also includes any encryption or authorization keys necessary to install and/or execute modified versions from source code in the recommended or principal context of use, such that they can implement all the same functionality in the same range of circumstances.

So the only form of DRM that the GPLv3 seeks to prohibit (by castration) is that which prevents you from modifying any GPL-licensed code on your device. Let's take a close look at what this actually means. If your box (like a Tivo) is only able to run signed code, then you must give people the means to sign that code. Otherwise, that code cannot be licensed under the GPL.

Well, if you don't believe this, why would you use the GPL anyway? The whole point of the GPL is Software Freedom. It's not about your freedom precisely; as the developer of new software, you already have freedom because you hold the copyright. If you want to license it both under the GPL and to a company under a proprietary license, you have the right to do that provided your licenses do not conflict.

Put another way, people who release code under the GPL want that code to be editable. That's why they use the GPL. Otherwise they could use the BSD license, or just release it into the public domain. But instead, they have chosen the GPL. For their code to wind up in a product where it cannot be modified and run is a serious perversion of their wishes. I think that Tivo was probably the biggest reason that this clause ended up in the GPLv3 draft. I think a lot of people who worked on the Linux kernel were pretty upset when their code was used in such a way that the ability to modify it, the whole reason it's GPL-licensed, was utterly nullified.

Put simply, if you want to be able to use GPL code, you have to be willing to comply with the author's wishes. If you're the type that would follow the letter of their wishes, but not the spirit, then frankly, we don't need you in the Free Software community anyway.

Re:They can distribute linux (3, Informative)

CoughDropAddict (40792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909274)

I don't know about anyone elses, but IMHO GPL3 is as invasive a liscense agreement as the one in Windows Vista. How dare anyone tell me what I can and cannot do with my own hardware.

Huh? How does GPLv3 tell you what you can and cannot do with your own hardware?

Or is your real beef that you cannot tell your customers what they can and cannot do with their own hardware after they buy it?

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

Greg_D (138979) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909068)

More likely that any business that gives a damn about its own bottom line will toss the GPL 3 toolchain out the window like a hot grenade and continue to collaborate along with the rest of the community on a fork of the software licensed under GPL 2, which will continue to be the standard.

Novell is by no means alone here. If the FSF "attacks" them with unreasonable terms, they won't be the only company to pull the rug out from under the FSF and its relevance in terms of the marketplace.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

kleinerfreak (1060646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907384)

But doesn't that mean that they just can't update their distribution when all these projects change their license to the new GPL?

Re:They can distribute linux (4, Insightful)

at2000 (715252) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907386)

For sure we are talking about new version of the said programs/libraries.

The parent article said:

If the foundation decides to take action, the ban would apply to new versions of Linux covered under a licensing agreement due to take effect in March.

Replace "Linux" with any program in the list, and this is what they can do.

If everyone else is using the GPL3 version, sooner or later what distributed by Novell will be obsolete.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908074)

Not if Novell forks the current GPL versions of the apps and continue to develop them. It's been done before. Lots.

Re:They can distribute linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17910238)

Linux (which is the Kernel not the OS) will remain forever Version2. Torvalds doesn't grant the ability for others to move derivative works to future versions of the license (like most people do), so no one change it to version3 unless Torvalds and all the other Kernel developers decide to make the switch. Torvalds, however, is rather vocal about his wish not to move to the next version of the GPL.

Your logic does work for the GNU tools because to be an offical GNU project all copyright are signed over to the FSF, and thus stallman can release them as GPL v3.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

nadamsieee (708934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907992)

If GPL3 is ugly, they will probably simply keep using the regular GPL version.

If the FSF decides to only distribute future versions of its software under the GPLv3+, then Novell may be stuck with 2007 versions of GNU. That won't sit well with customers.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908030)

There is nothing that says Novell can't fork off the 2007 version and keep making it better. OpenBSD has done it with lots of apps that changed to unfriendly licenses.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908782)

Much as I like OpenBSD, how many of those forked apps are actually better, in the marketing check-box sense of the word? If you did a feature comparison of OpenBSD's Apache 1 fork against Apache 2 (for example), which would have more features? The OpenBSD version has two things going for it; it's more stable, and more secure. Having seen some of the code that's come out of Novell recently, I don't think they can claim even that...

Re:They can distribute linux (2, Interesting)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908066)

Anything under a BSD or GPL license, yes, they can distribute (as long as they provide source for the GPL stuff). They didn't violate the GPL, so they don't lose the license. If GPL3 is ugly, they will probably simply keep using the regular GPL version.

That may or may not be exactly true. I believe the Microsoft/Novell deal covers the cross licensing of various patented technologies. If Novell implements one of Microsoft's patents in a piece of software, and then tries to distribute it as GPL'd software covered by version 2, they would still be in violation.

From the GPL [gnu.org]:

Preamble

...
Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.

Terms and Conditions

7. ... If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

The only way for Novell to actually benefit from this deal would be for them to implement Microsoft's patents in new pieces of software that they (Novell) owns outright and distributes under a license other than the GPL. This software would also have to be sufficiently untangled from other GPL software. They could not take a current project covered by the GPL and implement one of Microsoft's patents in it. Or the deal between Microsoft and Novell would have to be such that every patent implemented by Novell, and distributed as part of a software package covered by the GPL, would have to be transferable to (or at least free to use for) every person who receives a copy of said software package.

What's more likely is that Novell is just using this as a marketing technique where they can say, "Other Linux distributions are probably infringing on lots of Microsoft's patents, we have the only distribution safe from a lawsuit from Microsoft." Either way, I don't like the way Novell is heading, but Stallman was smart enough to foresee this possibility when he wrote the GPL and I think he should get more credit than he does.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908292)

What's more likely is that Novell is just using this as a marketing technique where they can say, "Other Linux distributions are probably infringing on lots of Microsoft's patents, we have the only distribution safe from a lawsuit from Microsoft."

I think this is exactly what is going on, and your other argument isn't what is happening at all. This is a typical 'don't use your patents against us, and we won't use ours against you' business deal. It's very common. You can give Stallman all the credit you want. Personally I like the BSD license instead.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

growse (928427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17910288)

The only way for Novell to actually benefit from this deal would be for them to implement Microsoft's patents in new pieces of software that they (Novell) owns outright and distributes under a license other than the GPL. This software would also have to be sufficiently untangled from other GPL software. They could not take a current project covered by the GPL and implement one of Microsoft's patents in it. Or the deal between Microsoft and Novell would have to be such that every patent implemented by Novell, and distributed as part of a software package covered by the GPL, would have to be transferable to (or at least free to use for) every person who receives a copy of said software package.

This is exactly what they're doing. Think about where Novell are coming from - they want to sell to big business. Currently, big business uses solaris, windows, AIUX, HP-UX, allsorts. If Novell want to sell these people support contracts for SLES, they need a way to make their product as attractive as possible. One of the big attractions to corporations is if your software you're trying to sell them can interact seamlessly with whatever they already have. Novell are building commercial tools that allow interoperability with platforms like windows, and their deal with microsoft allows them to build those tools. They know they may infringe on MS's patents somewhere, just as MS knows that they probably infringe on parts of Netware somewhere along the line. Novell aren't stupid. They know what the GPL means - they know they can't roll proprietary code with GPL code and distribute it. They'll either take guidance on microsoft on how to code interoperability with windows to write GPL code that sits inside, say, openoffice, or they'll use MS ideas to write their own proprietary tools from scratch and then sell them. The non-sue part of the Novell/MS agreement is that they won't sue their respective customers, not that they won't sue each other. This means if you obtain GPL code with a MS patent in it from Novell, MS won't sue you. Twisted, a bit, I think.

Re:They can distribute linux (1)

Greyzone (851410) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908766)

If subsequent versions of GNU code move to GPL V3, then Novell cannot use those versions. Nor can they just backport changes from GPLV3 packages into GPLV2 code forks without permission of the original authors. Further, if GPLV3 versions undergo significant rewrites, then the problem of backporting becomes even larger. Nor can you just take the V3 code and fork it under a V2 license. That would be like taking V2 code and forking it under a BSD license - not legal at all. This means that Novell would have to hire hundreds of programmers (or find their entire own open source support community) to replicate the FSF work to date and then to maintain it ever after. If FSF code moves to GPL V3, then Novell is done, end of story, unless they can get Microsoft levels of funding to support their own fork to the OS. I do not believe that Novell can get that sort of funding. Do you? Where will those maintenance dollars come from, pray tell?

Way to shoot F/OSS in the foot (3, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907934)

Well, now that would be a great way for OSS to shoot itself in the foot. "Here, we'll give you some ideological crusade disguised as a license, and we can revoke it at any time for as little as making a deal with a corporation we don't like, or having more patents than we like, or also distributing some closed source programs we don't like, or simply because we've had a bad day and don't like you any more." Dunno about Novell, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of companies would drop Linux like a hot potato. Heck, I would, and I'm writing this in Linux.

The thing is, the whole thing doesn't even have a moral high ground any more if it tries to rule with an iron fist over anything else you might do, including business relations, deals, IP, God-knows-what-else. I mean, wth, if MS even hinted at including a "we can revoke your license if you make deals with companies we don't personally approve of" clause in their EULA, everyone would be screaming bloody murder. Yet here we are talking about, basically, "let's change the GPL so we can punish Novel for making a deal with MS", as if it was some righteous thing to do. WTF?

The very idea of sneaking in some sort of "thou shalt not make deals with MS" or generally "though shalt toe the party line" in the name of "freedom of speech" rethoric is... bizarre, to say the least. If ESR and RMS have freedom so dear (and you'd think so given all the rants about how the GPL is all about your freedom), then the advice that comes to mind is to actually respect it, and I don't mean just for code. Freedom means just that: being free to do whatever the heck you like. Including dealing with MS, writing/installing/distributing a binary-only module, or whatever. As long as I'm _not_ in fact suppressing your coding freedoms, have the decency to not try to suppress my (other) freedoms either.

Honestly, the whole idea is reminiscent of some of the worst crops of banana-republic dictatorships. Start by fighting some colonial/imperialist/whatever oppressor, and end up with less freedoms than you had under the old colonial oppressors.

Re:Way to shoot F/OSS in the foot (3, Insightful)

cparker15 (779546) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909506)

Well, now that would be a great way for OSS to shoot itself in the foot. "Here, we'll give you some ideological crusade disguised as a license, and we can revoke it at any time for as little as making a deal with a corporation we don't like, or having more patents than we like, or also distributing some closed source programs we don't like, or simply because we've had a bad day and don't like you any more." Dunno about Novell, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of companies would drop Linux like a hot potato. Heck, I would, and I'm writing this in Linux.

No, you wrote your tirade in a Web browser, which displays with the aid of a graphics toolkit, which runs on top of your window manager, which runs on top of X, which runs on top of the kernel called "Linux". You can't write things "in Linux". People need to understand the distinction between a kernel and some programs run on top of an operating system, which runs on top of a kernel.

This "idealogical crusade", as you put it, is what gave developers the freedoms necessary for creating Linux and all of the other free components of your operating system.

There's also a fundamental difference between free/proprietary and open source/closed source. They may look similar on the outside, but in actuality, they are very different. Generally, a person who uses free software shuns proprietary software because they understand the dangers that come coupled with it. Conversely, a person who uses open source software typically doesn't have a problem with using closed source software and often uses both in parallel without making an effort to replace the closed source software with an open source software alternative.

Free is a matter of principals and ethics. Open source is a matter of convenience and cost.

If you want to abandon the freedoms that free software affords you and lock yourself into a proprietary system where its creators have complete control over what you can and cannot do with your computer, by all means, go right on ahead. But don't come crying back to the community when Microsoft or Apple have implemented a feature in their operating system that prevents you from being able to run your open source software in conjunction with their closed source software*, because you've been warned well in advance.

* See also Trusted Computing [wikipedia.org].

Re:Way to shoot F/OSS in the foot (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17910528)

The thing is, the whole thing doesn't even have a moral high ground any more if it tries to rule with an iron fist over anything else you might do, including business relations, deals, IP, God-knows-what-else. I mean, wth, if MS even hinted at including a "we can revoke your license if you make deals with companies we don't personally approve of" clause in their EULA, everyone would be screaming bloody murder. Yet here we are talking about, basically, "let's change the GPL so we can punish Novel for making a deal with MS", as if it was some righteous thing to do. WTF?

Before you make it sound like a vandetta against Novell, RMS has been in favor of putting some patent clauses into GPLv3 long before the Novell deal was announced. Nobody can revoke any GPL licensed code as long as you comply with the license. If you don't comply, your license may be (or is automatically) terminated. That's standard legalese in every EULA. And changing the license for new versions of your software is hardly unheard of...

Freedom means just that: being free to do whatever the heck you like.

No, that's anarchy. Nobody is forcing you to use GPL code. RMS may stuipulate that you must wear a pink bunny suit when distributing GPLv3 code, and those would be the terms. Now, I hardly agree with everything they say, but they believe patents and DRM are going to cut your freedoms off at the knees. If you want a good example of freedoms locked up, look at fair use locked in a DMCA cage. You can easily have code that you can modify - except it will be a patent violation, DMCA violation, won't function anymore or it might not even run. Then some people go "well, I can always run it on a PC". And when the PC is a TCPA sandbox, and your modified code doesn't function there either, then what?

If you'd read up just a little bit on freedom, you'd see that granting freedoms means placing restrictions on someone else - the "Bill of rights" is nothing but a list of restrictions on the government. Protecting the "coding freedoms" means placing restrictions on companies ability to lock up or otherwise incapacitate your own modifications. BSD code is free, but it fails to preserve any of your coding freedoms. You release it, they take it, kthxbye. The GPLv2 at least ensures that the code is available. The GPLv3 aims to protect that the code is available and usable. Yes, that is at the expense of those who would make it unusable. Somehow I'm not too sad about that.

Not Linux, no... (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907112)

Linux, as in referring to the Linux kernel? Not likely, of course, for reasons TFA states.

But to new versions of the GNU toolchain (gcc, gdb, gas, automake etc.)? To new versions of binutils? To new versions of coreutils? Maybe, yes, if GPLV3 looks anything like the current drafts.

Re:Not Linux, no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907398)


But to new versions of the GNU toolchain (gcc, gdb, gas, automake etc.)? To new versions of binutils? To new versions of coreutils? Maybe, yes, if GPLV3 looks anything like the current drafts.


If this is true (and from my understanding, it is) the application of GPL v3 will be known in the future as "The Great Fork" which will set Open Source back 5 years.

Re:Not Linux, no... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907442)

That was my first thought, as well. "Linux" as people know it is not just the kernel. It is the toolchain, the desktop environment, and the applications as well, much of which could easily be released under GPLv3. And GPLv3 could easily contain provisions prohibiting this kind of deal. That's more than likely many years down the road, but it could have an impact. My question is, would it only impact SLES and SLED, or would the restrictions apply to OpenSUSE as well? We use all three where I work...

Gnu tools (4, Interesting)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907468)

But the current versions of those tools are all licensed under GPLv2. If the FSF wants to play hardball, and releases future versions under GPLv3, Novell, or anyone else for that matter, can fork the GPLv2 version and continue developments from that base. The FSF would have to count on the community adopting the v3 versions, rather than the v2 versions. Since the number of FSF developers is small, relative to the number of other contributors, it's a fight the FSF may not want to start.

Oh, they'll start it alright. (1)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908000)

If there is one thing I have learned about rms, it is that he cares far more about ideology than popularity or practicality. To him and the FSF, "freeing" software from the evils of DRM, etc. MUST be done even if it sets FLOSS back 5-10 years (which it almost certainly will). I wonder if the BSD toolset will now be ported to Linux?

Re:Oh, they'll start it alright. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908202)

Available options:

1. Attack DRM. Consequences for FOSS? Slithe says it'll set it back 5-10 years (probably hyperbole. What is the basis of the logic? I've yet to see any.)
2. Don't attack DRM. Consequences for FOSS? Effectively made impractical. Sets it back permanently.

Here's the thing: most people don't realise that the practical option is usually the one that protects the ideology. Linus "learned" (actually, he didn't, he acts like a whining two year old about it to this day) this lesson with the BitKeeper fiasco. Most of us have learned this at some point in our lives. But there are still people, yourself included, who use the word "practical" as if it contradicts "ideological", as if the ideology has no basis in reason to begin with.

You can't make more free software by making it less free.

Re:Oh, they'll start it alright. (1)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909576)

1. Attack DRM. Consequences for FOSS? Slithe says it'll set it back 5-10 years (probably hyperbole. What is the basis of the logic? I've yet to see any.)
The reason the switch is a problem is that the GPL is now a victim of its own success. There is quite a bit of code out there that has been licensed under the GPLv2. Since the GPLv3 adds additional restrictions, GPLv2 code is incompatible with GPLv3 code. If the GNU project licenses future versions of the GNU tool-chain under the GPLv3, and several major projects remain under the GPLv2, this could either seriously hamper adoption of GPLv3 or it could cause a lot of chaos as distros have to maintain two different versions of the programs. Major companies (such as RedHat) like to remain in strict compliance with contracts/licenses/etc., and if the licenses of several major projects are incompatible with the (L)GPLv3, but several other major projects license their work under the GPLv3, it will be hell to maintain who links to what, etc. If there is enough desire to remain with the GPLv2, all GNU code will be forked, and the bargaining power of the FSF will be greatly reduced (which is bad for Free Software). If some distros use GPLv3 code, and some do not, then it could be hell writing an application that would work across Linux distros (if the libraries are incompatible). Also, all this infighting between various factions of the FLOSS world tarnishes the reputation of FLOSS, and interested parties could be dissuaded from using it, which destroys the momentum of the movement. Linux and open-source in general have built up a lot of momentum, and if that momentum is destroyed now, I do not know when (if ever) it will be built up again. If this happens, FLOSS will almost certainly be "made impractical" for the next generation of digital activities.

Linus "learned" this lesson with the BitKeeper fiasco.
Did he? I think he began using BitKeeper because it was the code-management software that best fitted his needs, and it had a free-to-use version. When the free-to-use version was pulled, because the creator was an overbearing, whiny bitch, Linus sucked it up and wrote a code-management program that suited his needs as well as Bitkeeper did (bringing with him years of experience managing an EXTREMELY complex software project). I am not sure if he had that experience when he first began using BitKeeper. To summarize, Linus first used a tool that both existed and worked for him; when it stopped working, he could not find a suitable replacement, so he created one. To me, that does not sound like a criticism of proprietary.

Most of us have learned this at some point in our lives. But there are still people, yourself included, who use the word "practical" as if it contradicts "ideological", as if the ideology has no basis in reason to begin with.
I thought OSS already had a good antidote against DRM: open disclosure. Most DRM tactics I have seen rely on obfuscation of deciphering information, and requiring source code effectively nullifies that problem. If you are talking about TCPA, then I guess that some people fear that one day, OMG, M$ wi11 0wn j00r b0xor!!!1!!!1!!! All j00r ba$3 ar3 b310ng 70 Micr0$047!!!111!! Color me unimpressed, but I don't think that is a serious threat. Some of us have learned that it is stupid to restrict a certain form of use based on a boogey-man threat of TCPA. But there are still people, yourself included, who use the word "DRM" as if it meant the end of OSS as we know it.

You can't make more free software by making it less free.
I agree wholeheartedly. THAT is why I oppose the GPLv3.

Re:Gnu tools (2, Insightful)

clacke (214199) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908920)

This is exactly the fight they want to start. And the draft process is open exactly because they don't want people to jump ship once they switch. I highly doubt that any Debian developers will do that, and I don't think that any of the commercial entities will fork it for Novell's sake.

Maybe the number of FSF developers is small, but managing your own fork would still force you to remove resources from maintenance and development on other projects, so unless you have a strong motivation to cut of your upstream, you won't. The community will take what GNU gives them.

Re:Gnu tools (2, Insightful)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909768)

...not to mention that the developers who are most involved with GNU projects wouldn't want to work on Novell's forked projects A) because many share RMS's ideology and B) because they have no incentive to jump ship on the project they've been working on for Novell's version (in fact, the corporate oversight is a turn-off).

Does anyone really believe that Novell will update/develop/maintain the GPLv2 versions of ALL of the packages in SuSE that will likely be GPLv3'ed? Recreating GNOME as NOME-vell isn't gonna be easy, even if you can port BSD-licensed replacements for some of the core utilities.

...I didn't mean to leave out KDE but I couldn't do the "clever" wordplay.

Re:Gnu tools (1)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17910488)

They might not fork it for Novell's sake, but how about their own? How many gcc contributors are gplv3 zealots, and how many are compiler zealots? I bet more of the latter. I imagine the pragmatists winning out more often that not.

Once the fsf lays down the gauntlet, how many foss developers are going to do a doubletake, and get really nervous about getting tied up in a mess.

Re:Not Linux, no... (0, Flamebait)

idontgno (624372) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907898)

And that's a damn good point. The FSF is not copyright holder (and therefore doesn't have any practical leverage) over the Linux kernel. However, the toolchain, the libraries, and most of the command line utilities are from our friends at GNU. So there's a hook. I just don't know if it practically matters.

Assume the following:

  • The kernel continues to be GPL2.
  • Everything from the FSF gets licensed under the most aggressive form of GPL3
  • ???

Can Novell profit? Can the FSF assert some prohibition that guts Novell's distro?

I don't know. IANAL. If Novell distributes the FSF goodies verbatim, and doesn't tailor them at all to accomodate the distro... the only thing I hook I can see is linking to FSF libraries in software which incorporates protected IP that Novell gains access to via this Novell/Microsoft deal. That, I could imagine. Other than that... What's Novell's risk?

The whole point of GPL v3 ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907156)

is to make sure people cannot distribute FOSS in an 'encumbered' manner.

In other words, if you distribute GPL v3 code, you wouldn't be able to attach conditions, like patent licenses for instance. Free means free and any attempt to circumvent this goes counter to the spirit of the GPL.

Re:The whole point of GPL v3 ... (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907690)

> In other words, if you distribute GPL v3 code, you wouldn't be able to attach conditions, like patent licenses for instance.

I fail to see how they can keep Novell from distributing gcc, binutils, and so forth if they don't even modify them. Or is the "mere aggregation" clause completely out now. Libraries might have some leverage, but the only one that links to more or less everything is glibc, which is under the LGPL. I sure wouldn't mind concerted efforts to kill glibc, but for purely technical reasons only.

Re:The whole point of GPL v3 ... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908858)

I fail to see how they can keep Novell from distributing gcc, binutils, and so forth if they don't even modify them.
All of these packages are copyrighted. The copyright is owned by the FSF. You may not distribute copyright works unless you have the permission of the copyright holder. The copyright holder (the FSF) grants a non-discriminatoy licence for free to anyone who is willing to abide by a set of conditions preventing them from limiting the freedoms of other software users (the GPL). If Novell do not act in accordance with the GPL (version 3, at some hypothetical point in the future) then they are not going to be able to distribute any of the code.

Try removing glibc some time (4, Informative)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907268)

try this on a debian/ubuntu system:

apt-get remove libc6

Re:Try removing glibc some time (2, Interesting)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907634)

I remember I nearly fell out out of my chair when I found out Ubuntu Dapper didn't come with gcc by default. The idea that Linux would (nay, could) be shipped without gcc was quite shocking. IMHO, where usability is concerned, it's a huge a step in the right direction (by not requiring the end user to compile his own code) but it was shocking nonetheless.

Re:Try removing glibc some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908430)

Why is the above a troll? It's true. Ubuntu *doesn't* come with GCC pre-installed and it *was* a surprise to many people that you'd have to go through the extra effort of apt-getting "build-essentials" to get a decent GCC environment.

As he stated, it *was* a huge step in the right direction since it forced Ubuntu developers to find alternative ways to do things that were pretty common place via compiliation (e.g. most distros at the time encouraged you to compile the kernel). This became a boon for neophyte users since they were no longer forced to learn the "geeky details", but it was unsettling for the old guard (at least until we got used to the idea).

What about GNU projects moving to GPL 3? (4, Informative)

the_womble (580291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907392)

Its true that the FSF does not have the power to move the Linux Kernel to GPL version 3.

However, the FSF is the principal sponsor of the GNU project, and run by the same people.

So, we can expect most GNU stuff to move to GPL 3. If GPL 3 mucks up the Novel deal, I do not see that Novel is going to find it very useful to be able to distribute the Linux kernel without all the GNU stuff.

Re:What about GNU projects moving to GPL 3? (2, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907494)

Except for all the GPL2 software that's already out there.

Re:What about GNU projects moving to GPL 3? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908860)

And in the case of that software, the question will be, while GNU owns the copyright, they don't necessarily own the developers, and they essentially can't "revoke" the GPL2 license for existing software, they can only "upgrade" future releases to the GPLv3 as I understand it.

Nothing is preventing the last v2 codebase from being forked. Once that happens, the question will be how many of the developers are loyal to the FSF/GPLv3, and how many would rather stick with GPLv2? The answer to that question will determine just how badly the fork hurts the open-source community. There's a pretty good chance it would wind up like Xorg, with the majority of the developers moving to the fork and the community as a whole benefiting significantly in the long run.

Re:What about GNU projects moving to GPL 3? (1)

sago007 (857444) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909172)

Of course all changes to the GPLv2 programs can be moved to GPLv3 but not the other way.

The GPLv2 version will soon be outdated and Suse would look old if they don't move to GPLv3.

But lets see if it is actually going to be a problem. Nothing is illegal until the court way so.

Why I read Slashdot (5, Funny)

flynt (248848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907440)

A zealous Reuters reporter apparently conflated the FSF with the open source community in general, took some quotes out of context, and ended up with a sensational headline that fooled a number of people.

This just reinforces why I read Slashdot instead of other news, there's no chance of something like this happening here.

Re:Why I read Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907944)

>This just reinforces why I read Slashdot instead of other news, there's no chance of something like this happening here.

In addition the /. mod system is perfect.

How did this get modded insightful? Parent was obviously joking!

Not That Simple (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907466)

> Well, the Free Software Foundation has absolutely no control over Novell's
> distribution of Linux.

The FSF owns significant copyrights in the Linux kernel as well as in many utilities and applications.

> The Novell deal is completely within the bounds of the GPL...

While I agree that this is probably true, it is a legal opinion. I am not a lawyer. Are you?

> GPLv3 isn't even done yet, and even when it is the Linux kernel is unlikely
> to be covered by it.

True, but irrelevant.

I agree that the Reuters reporter is an ignorant doofus, but this is no reason to follow him off the deep end.

Re:Not That Simple (1)

AlienCZAR (1012393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907894)

>> The Novell deal is completely within the bounds of the GPL...

> While I agree that this is probably true, it is a legal opinion. I am not a lawyer. Are you?

Richard Stallman has publicly stated that the deal is within the bounds of the GPL [linux-watch.com], so I think it is fair and reasonable to state it as a fact and not an opinion.

Re:Not That Simple (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908260)

> Richard Stallman has publicly stated that the deal is within the bounds of the
> GPL [linux-watch.com], so I think it is fair and reasonable to state it as a
> fact and not an opinion.

Richard Stallman is also not a lawyer (nor a judge) and neither he nor his organization own most of the copyrights in question. While his opinion carries a lot of weight I give it a great deal of respect, it remains an opinion.

To repeat (this _is_ Slashdot), In my opinion Novell is in full compliance with the GPL. However, one of the thousands of copyright owners could sue and surprise us all.

Re:Not That Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908126)

While I agree that this is probably true, it is a legal opinion. I am not a lawyer. Are you?
I am not sure how a lawyer would be sure to clear this up. It seems that I have heard of cases where lawyers have actually been known to have different opinions and even *gasp* get into disagreements and arguments with each other. In fact, I am told there have even been cases of these disputes being so contentious that only a judge in a court of law could resolve it.

furthermore... (1)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907492)

even with the GPLv3, the way it looks now, there is no reason that Novell would have to stop distributing the code. The GPLv3 mainly just takes away the incentive for such deals.

It could become expensive for Novell long term (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907516)

All the GNU utilities look likely to be relicensed under the GPL v3, which could make it very difficult for Novell to construct an operating system from only GPL v2 components. They may have to fork and maintain gcc, binutils, coreutils etc. This could become very expensive for Novell if no one else decided to follow suit. While what they are doing is technically not a violation of the license, it is certainly against the spirit and original intention of it, and will only be detrimental to their own success as a Linux packager, distributor, and provider of support contracts (which are actually very good in my experience). Maybe GPL 3 will not stop distribution of a product that consists of both GPL 2 and 3 components, and Novell's dubious 'agreement' with Microsoft can remain for the GPL2 components. Personally, I hope that the GPL v3 does forbid distribution with any product that is subject to dubious 'agreements' of this type, as it is the only way that we can assure long term that greedy commercial interests will not hijack the hard work of others. I don't want my software plagued by vehicles of commercial profit, and unnecessary restrictions. If you can accept anti-user technologies like DRM, there are commercial alternatives, and you can have to choice to go and use them. Open Source should guarantee our freedom not to have to endure restrictions imposed any greedy criminal mafioso.

Re:It could become expensive for Novell long term (1)

JohnnyDoh (1057238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908630)

"Personally, I hope that the GPL v3 does forbid distribution with any product that is subject to dubious 'agreements' of this type, as it is the only way that we can assure long term that greedy commercial interests will not hijack the hard work of others."

"I don't want my software plagued by vehicles of commercial profit, and unnecessary restrictions."

Then patent it! Jeez, all this hand wringing and moaning and wailing about a company making a profit from a Linux Distro. Honestly, I've read just as many posts that seemingly decry the fact that Novell is making money than ones that criticize the actual MS deal itself. Sometimes I wonder if the whole FOSS movement should be considered a new religion. There's enough uber-zealot honks out there to qualify as one. The only question left is Church of emacs or Cult of vi?

Can't be (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907590)

A reporter misunderstanding and taking statements out of context? Never happen.

Next thing ya know, they'll be making things up and calling them fake but accurate.

Re:Can't be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908506)

This type of stuff just pisses my off. In just about every occupation, people are responsible for thier actions, yet reporters can irresponsibly overstate the facts and be legally covered under the umbrella of the 1st amendment. Statements like this can cause sometimes irreversible damage to any company if the readers don't exercise diligence to find the facts for themselves.

FSF creating EULA for lawyers' benefit only (0, Flamebait)

Carlaann (979557) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907734)

I'm not sure who to believe here. And that doesn't really matter. What I do feel, however, is that for the working schlep like myself, who makes a living in hetero environments, the FSF is starting to push my patience. The DRM aspect, the patent tightening, the Novell Deal-Killer clause (which I understand only "Committee B" has seen) in GPL3 - this stuff seems to me to be straying from the 4 freedoms, looking more like a EULA that needs lawyers to interpret it. It certainly doesn't free me up any when I go outside with a distro.

The big winner will be Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17907856)

Because once GPL 3 is out, chances are pretty good they will go whole hog everything they can to GPL3 and Solaris and variants will pick up huge mindshare and a lot more people using it. I know I would switch to the better license and product, and probably so would millions of people who really understand what this whole open and free software deal is all about for the long term. We already have a "major fork" between linux land and BSD land, and surprise, the GPL side has a lot larger usage base. The same thing will and can happen again with a better quality GPL license, which version 3 promises to be.

People who don't like it, or even the notion of it-why are you even bothering with an open sourced anything, any version? Just go closed source completely, patent the crap out of every one of your keystrokes, and be done with it, go sell it or whatever else you want to do with it.

Half assed efforts never work in the long run. Either go completely totally closed, or go open, one or the other. GPL3 is needed to help insure no more "workarounds" like Novell and MS are bragging on. And they *did* brag about it, it *was* a sleazy work around, it technically doesn't volate anything yet but you can sure see they wanted to.

    If Sun picks up the flag and goes forward, good on them!

Novell isn't in the clear yet (1)

noldrin (635339) | more than 7 years ago | (#17907908)

it's premature to say. GPLv3 could affect Novell's ability redistribute a bunch of code in Linux. But right now it's all in the air. No story here yet.

Fp 4o8o (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17908218)

you to j0in the Th3 goodwill

counting noses (1)

stites (993570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17908940)

Each Open Source project leader will determine whether or not his project will be released under GPL3. The FSF has said that their projects will move to GPL3. Linus Torvalds and Miguel de Icaza have said that their projects will not move to GPL3. Almost all of the other project leaders have either said nothing or indicated that they would move to GPL3 conditional on waiting to see the final form of GPL3.

The Microsoft-Novell agreement was met with widespread anger within the Open Source community. Many people look at the Microsoft-Novell agreement as a patent attack by Microsoft on Open Source. Part of the Open Source members' reaction was a renewed committment to using GPL3 to break the agreement. So it would be reasonable to predict that if the final wording of GPL3 is satisfactory that a large number of GPL project leaders will move to their projects to GPL3.

Novell and Microsoft can react to GPL3 by changing the Microsoft-Novell agreement to conform to GPL3. Or Novell can try to work around GPL3 by forking all GPL3 projects from a GPL2 base. The cost of doing so could be prohibitive depending on how many projects move to GPL3. Another problem is that some customers may be reluctant to buy a forked distribution.

Everybody seems to agree that whether or not Linus Torvalds moves Linux to GPL3 is extremely important to how strong the Open Source reaction to Microsoft's patent attack will be. Linus Torvalds is on record as disliking GPL3. But he has not said anything about GPL3 and/or the Microsoft-Novell agreement since the agreement was announced. Whether the Microsoft patent attack on Linux changed Linus Torvalds' thinking about GPL3 is unknown.

----------------------
Steve Stites

Re:counting noses (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909906)

Thank you, thank you for summarizing the situation in an accurate way. You'd think more people on /. would have an understanding of what's going on (starting with NOT confusing a kernel with an operating system).

...btw I'm not sure how Novell could circumvent GPLv3, but I sure as hell hope they don't find a way.

can license be revoked? (1)

fair use (948368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909344)

Some entity owns the copyright to the linux kernel and associated utilities, and in the absence of a license, anyone who distributed or even installed the software would be violating the copyright. The copyright owners can, of course, GPL to allow widespread use. After granting the license to the whole world, could the owners, however, revoke Novell's license? I don't see why not. Licenses do get revoked. I don't believe that the GPL is irrevocable, although revoking the license is arguably counter to the spirit of the license. See http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html [fsf.org].

Talk about irresponsible reporting! (1)

jgoemat (565882) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909444)

1. The FSF has absolutely no control over Novell's distribution of Linux. None at all. Zero.

The first part is unconditionally, unequivocally untrue. As the copyright holders in part of the Linux kernel, Novell has the right to distribute it ONLY because the FSF (and other copyright holders) have licensed them to do so via the GPL. Therefore the FSF does in fact have a great deal of control over Novell's distribution of Linux. Novell must distribute under the GPL, or they must secure a separate license from all the copyright holders of Linux contributors. If he is saying that the FSF cannot stop Novell from distributing Linux as long as they abide by the GPL, that is true.

It doesn't matter a whit how much Stallman hates the Microsoft/Novell deal. It's legal. It's legit. It's in full compliance with the GPL.

That is the case, for now. As soon as Microsoft alleges patent infringement in Linux GPL code and sues someone, that ceases to be the case. The GPL specifically states that patents must be licensed for free use by everyone or not licensed at all. By sublicensing Microsoft's patents for their customers, Novell is violating that clause and risks having their rights under the GPL terminated. It is specifically because Novell is licensing those patents for their customers' use that is a problem, if the patents were licensed for Novell's internal use that wouldn't be an issue since USE of software covered by the GPL is unrestricted. And don't be fooled by the deal not being drawn up as a 'license'. A license is indeed what it is. License is a legal term for rights being given to another, calling it a 'covenant not to sue' does not change what it is.

Re:Talk about irresponsible reporting! (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909646)

The GPL specifically states that patents must be licensed for free use by everyone or not licensed at all. By sublicensing Microsoft's patents for their customers, Novell is violating that clause and risks having their rights under the GPL terminated.

And yet, Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen seem to agree that you are mistaken. [linux-watch.com]

Tempest in a teapot. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909584)

Jesus Christ on a bicycle, folks, Microsoft themselves has been distributing an operating system and other packages containing all kinds of open source code, including GCC, for years. If people aren't up in arms about BSD code in NT and GPL code in Interix then why the hell should they be upset about a company that's just made an agreement with Microsoft?

Re:Tempest in a teapot. (1)

Salsaman (141471) | more than 7 years ago | (#17910412)

There is no problem with anybody distributing GPL code, provided they abide by the law and the spirit of the GPL.

The Novell deal, while legal, goes against the spirit of the GPL, because they have negotiated a patent deal with a third party, but only for only their own customers.

The GPL 3 will fix this problem by ensuring that any patent deals must be applied to anyone who receives the code (customers or not).

Give me a break (1)

inaneframe (971456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17909828)

You all are speaking as though GNU tools will be the only projects placed under the new GPLv3 licensing.

I think that it is safe to assume that the GNU Desktop, Gnome, will be placed under the new licensing. GPLv3 is also designed to be compatible with Apache, can we expect Apache to be ported to GPLv3? Possibly but not likely. We know that Apache, in the very near future will be using GPLv3 libraries since many of these projects currently under the GPLv2 that are already being used by Apache will want to be compatible with the Apache licensing. Novel can do what they want with MONO, keep it GPLv2, but in the end, in order for them to use a GPLv3 Gnome or a GPLv3 library within Apache they must kill their agreement with Microsoft, create a new one that does not infringe, fork off a myriad of various Free Software applications, or risk being taken to court. Once in court, they will not last very long.

Regarding a Debian only GPLv3, whoever said this is a moron. It would be more expensive than maintaining a GPLv2 only SuSe distro and there is no need to make a GPLv3 only distro since GPLv3 is compatible with GPLv2.

Before I get flamed, let me say that, yes, I hate Novel and Microsoft, I hate NetWare and Windows and I love Free Software but that does not devoid these facts
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