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Why the Novell / MS Deal Is Very Bad 367

Posted by kdawson
from the laying-it-out dept.
jamienk writes "PJ from Groklaw has taken the time to really explain the big picture of the Novell/MS deal and how it all fits into the SCO case and the strategy some have employed to attack Free Software. If you thought PJ was becoming too shrill before, or if you haven't understood what the big deal is with Novell's agreement, it's really worth a read." From the article: "This is Groklaw's 2,838th article. We now have 10,545 members, who have worked very hard to disprove SCO's scurrilous claims, and we did. We succeeded, beyond my hopes when we started. But here's the sad part. As victory is in sight, Novell signs a patent agreement with Microsoft..."
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Why the Novell / MS Deal Is Very Bad

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  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:36AM (#17124604) Homepage
    I just popped over to google finance and saw that this had come in today, not mentioned in TFA: http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=2BF 9274C-A4EF-4A3F-8E14-ABFBA2178EF8 [cbronline.com] Can somebody who has been following this a bit closer explain this? It's getting quite hard to tell who is friend or foe any more... And in any case, why bother... their stock is toast, so couldn't IBM just buy a controlling interest for $11.2M and wind it down?
    • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:51AM (#17124714) Homepage
      Better explanation here: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2068769,00.as p [eweek.com]

      Novell also retained the unusual right to require SCO to follow its directions to amend, supplement, modify or waive these licenses and, if SCO does not comply, Novell can do so on SCO's behalf.
    • by burnin1965 (535071) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:07AM (#17124814) Homepage

      And in any case, why bother... their stock is toast, so couldn't IBM just buy a controlling interest for $11.2M and wind it down?


      The short answer, no.

      The SCO Group has dug themselves into a rather large litigation hole that surpasses what it would cost to purchase the entire company. They owe something like $20 million to Novell in royalties, Red Hat has a lawsuit which TSCOG will likely lose now that its become obvious to the court that they had been lying all along, and there is the potential of investor lawsuits due to the run up in the stock price to over $20 dollars a share and the eventual collapse as everyone realized they were lying about their evidence.

      So you see it would be foolish for IBM to purchase TSCOG at this point because of the huge financial risk now hanging over them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JPriest (547211)
        Quite simply, the debt and liabilities are worth more then the company. The only asset they have left is their ownership of the UNIX license, and with Novell's clause it looks like they might not really even own that.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:08AM (#17124818) Journal
      ... why bother... their stock is toast, so couldn't IBM just buy a controlling interest for $11.2M and wind it down?

      Doing so would invite thousands of nuisance suits from people who want to be bought off by being bought out. Suing IBM would become both a neat way to make a few million bucks and an exit strategy for every failing company that could make a vuagely-plausible argument that IBM had something to do with their fall.

      So instead IBM has chosen to counter-attack, sucking all the blood out of SCO and leaving a dessicated corpse hanging on a spike for all to see.

      It's an object lesson on the pitfalls of trying extortion on Big Blue.

      They have had this policy for a while. SCO is just the biggest band of fools-or-crooks to come along in a long time, trying something new with ramifications in one of the biggest-bucks fights in a long time: the war between Microsoft and Open Source. So SCO gets the biggest spotlight.
    • by rm69990 (885744) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @02:18AM (#17125248)
      Novell didn't really sell Unix to SCO. SCO became a Unix licensing agent for Novell, but technically SCO does own the title to the Unix contracts. SCO collects money on these contracts, remits 100% to Novell, and then Novell pays SCO a pittance for its duties (5%). In order to protect its interests, Novell retained the right, "at its sole discretion and direction, to require SCO to amend, supplement, modify or waive any rights under, or assign any rights to, any SVRX licensee". If SCO failed to abide by this direction, Novell retained the right "to take any such action on behalf of SCO". Novell exercized this right in June 2003, August 2003 and Feb 2004, and is now asking the court for Summary Judgment to force SCO to recognize these 2+ year old waivers. Read the motion, it goes into great detail. Hope that helps enough that you don't have to though, that's the general gist of it.
    • by NickFortune (613926) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:54AM (#17126372) Homepage Journal
      Can somebody who has been following this a bit closer explain this? It's getting quite hard to tell who is friend or foe any more

      SCO are trying to assert legal ownership of key IP in the Linux system, and in Linux as a whole. They're sued IBM as a way of establishing this right, and for their pains they are currently being slowly flayed by IBM in the courts.

      Novell bought SUSE, one of the big commercial distros. If SCO succeed in their suit, Novell has to buy a licence from SCO or stop distributing Linux. Additionally, Novell reckon that if there is any proprietary IP in Linux, they've got a better claim to it than SCO, and they can prove it. So in the case of SCO, Novell are on our side.

      At the same time, Novell have entered into a deal with Microsoft. Most of it seems to be smoke and mirrors, but what it appears to boil down to is that in return for Novell paying a royalty to MS, MS will help their competitive position with respect to the other distros by threatening to sue rival distributors, developers... almost anybody really. Even SUSE users aren't safe, since MS can cancel the agreement with anyone, any time and for any reason. So it's pretty much a promise not to sue unless they really feel like it. Reassuring, huh? Novell also agreed not to use their patent arsenal to defend Linux against MS, and in return, they get a big pot of cash.

      In this case, it's rather harder to approve of Novell's actions. The deal may not have any legal implications for linux users anywhere, but the patent agreement is going back on a promise they made earlier to the Linux community. On top of that, it's just not a friendly act towards the rest of the community. Other objections have been raised, such attempting to circumvent the PLL, but I can't see how that works, and neither can Mogen Eblen, so I think the whole thing's a combination marketing-and-barratry-deal.

      There are some reservations still as to what else may have been agreed upon. A lot of people are concerned that Novell may try and inject code that clearly violate MS patents into one or more open source packages. Mono and the new OpenOffice fork are particularly worrying in that regard.

      So to sum up:

      Bad Guys:Microsoft, SCO.
      Self-Serving Opportunists:Novell
      Good Guys:Linux devs, distributors other than Novell and SCO, users
      Caught In The Crossfire:SUSE devs

      Hope that helps. Have a nice day.

    • by darkonc (47285)
      1. It's way more fun to stomp SCO into the ground. and dance around the smoking crater.
      2. Denying the FLOSS community the satisfaction of (1) would alienate people
      3. SCO's stock is likely going down from where it is.
      4. Buying SCO would invite other nuisance suits against IBM
      5. SCO has poison-pill provisions.
      6. Most of the heavy lifting is already done. The rest of the suit could quite possibly cost IBM much less than 10M.
      7. IBM could recover money from their counter-suits (From SCO itself, and possibly also executive
  • by Frogbert (589961) <`frogbert' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:44AM (#17124656)
    Could someone explain to me, in simple terms, how this effects anything I have anything to do with?

    I use Ubuntu, why should this matter to me? If the Ubuntu folks don't like what Novell is doing can't they just ignore whatever Novell is doing?

    Everyone is acting like this is the end of Linux as we know it. Honestly could someone explain why this is?
    • by astrashe (7452) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:54AM (#17124728) Journal
      Ubuntu isn't made soley by volunteers, although volunteers play a big role in it. A lot of companies pay people to work on linux, and they do it because it fits into their business plan.

      MS is probably never going to come after you for license money. But they might go after big companies that support linux -- IBM, RedHat, etc. And they might scare large enterprise customers away from linux.

      If these things happen, your free ubuntu starts to wither and die. All of a sudden there aren't the hardware drivers you need, the fancy new desktop software, etc.

      Linux is an ecosystem, and all of the parts need to be healthy in order for it to continue. While this situation doesn't threaten you personally, it does effect other vital members of our ecosystem, and if they go down, we're all going to be a lot worse off over the long run,
      • by WhatDoIKnow (962719) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:28AM (#17124966)
        Geez, I don't have the hardware drivers NOW.

        :wq
        • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:59AM (#17125164) Homepage Journal
          Linux supports more devices "out of the box" than any other operating system ever has. [kroah.com] Yes, even FreeBSD.

          The other key highlight of this talk was:

          Closed source Linux kernel modules are illegal.
          Closed source Linux kernel modules are unworkable.
          Closed source Linux kernel modules are unethical.

          So who the hell is this guy? He's Greg Kroah-Hartman. Who the hell is that? He's a kernel developer. His name appears 149 times in my kernel sources (Ubuntu patched, 2.6.15). And, perhaps more tellingly it appears at the top of the files:

              drivers/pci/pci-sysfs.c and
              drivers/pci/search.c

          both of which contain many functions which are called from functions in this file:

              NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-8776-pkg1/usr/src/nv/os-inter face.c

          What's that? It's wrapper for the closed source NVIDIA kernel module. What license is that under? The NVIDIA Software License [nvidia.com]. It's basically a proprietary EULA with a redistribution (without modification) exception for distros. It sure aint the GPL, or "as free" as the GPL (which is techically what the GPL requires for derived works).

          So Greg.. why don't you sue them? You've made your position clear, fight them. If you havn't got the money, contact the FSF, assign your copyright to them, get them to fight. Given the choice between opening their source code or not being able to distribute their software at all, NVIDIA will choose to open their source code. How can I be so sure? Cause people buy their chipsets to integrate into things like set top boxes and other devices that run Linux. They need that embedded market, that's why they released the drivers in the first place. The problem is that no-one is making them choose.

          • I'm convinced he's the guy who got the Kororra live cd shut down [kororaa.org]...

            We received an email from a kernel developer insisting that we cease distributing the livecd with these drivers as he claimed they were a violation of the Linux kernel GPL license.
            • by QuantumG (50515) *
              Tis very interesting that. Once again mentions Greg Koah-Hartman's talk. I just think it's a shame he didn't post the email.
          • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:23AM (#17125552) Homepage
            Unfortunately, it wouldn't be a simple case to prosecute.

            You see, Nvidia distributes two works they present as separate. A binary blob, and a 'shim' under the GPL, whose only purpose is to load their blob and link it into the kernel.

            Also, Nvidia doesn't distribute the kernel.

            So, while it's clearly illegal to distribute a working system using this two-part driver as part of the linux kernel, it's not quite clearly illegal to distribute just those two parts without the kernel, which is what Nvidia does.

            They're exploiting a loophole in the GPL, and unfortunately, while I believe a court would probably rule against them in the end, once the entire situation was clearly explained, this would be an incredibly expensive proposition.

            Suing distro makers that bundle the kernel, shim, and blob together in a usable form would be much easier, but you know what? No one really wants to sue a distro maker for trying to make their customers lives easier. That's a last resort, only if and when it becomes clear that simply talking to them won't do the trick. And that's how it should be. We're a community, and we don't and shouldn't jump to sue each other unless and until everything else has been tried and failed.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by QuantumG (50515) *
              The shim is not under the GPL, it's under this license [nvidia.com]. Which permits nothing but redistribution in distros, with optional modification to the wrapper (or shim) but not the binary.
          • by iamacat (583406)
            Why would you want to sue people for writing their own code and releasing it under whatever license they choose? That would be like Microsoft going after people writing GPLed software with Visual Studio - unethical and stupid.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Sam Ritchie (842532)

        If these things happen, your free ubuntu starts to wither and die.

        In my opinion, this attitude is a perversion of the ideals behind the creation of the GPL. The purpose of the license, as I understand it, wasn't to ensure that an army of paid developers were incessently toiling away to provide you with free software, it was to ensure that when said army disappeared, you had the source code and weren't left with unmaintainable binaries. There appears to be this persistent assumption that GPL == evil multina

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by strider44 (650833)
        So tell me, why would companies care about this deal? Is Red Hat going to stop supporting Linux because Novell and Microsoft promised not to sue eachother? I frankly don't see much FUD from Novell, only the critics of this deal. I usually hold PJ up to a relatively high regard, but this article is mostly FUD not antiFUD as it seems to want to be. I don't know where those quotes come from? What does the proceeding article have to do with Novell?

        Noone has given me a single reason why this deal is bad
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LuYu (519260)
          Here is why [slashdot.org].
          1. It divides the Linux community into victims and non-victims of the MS legal assault force.
          2. It might allow Novell to become the only "legitimate" Linux vendor.
          3. It gives MS FUD to use as a weapon to erode Linux's support base.

          Whether you believe it or not, the future quality of Linux is related to -- although not completely dependent upon -- its popularity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Scarblac (122480)

          Microsoft can now spread more FUD about their IP being in Linux, and they can point to this agreement with a major Linux vendor as proof. After all, if these claims were untrue, why would company as knowledgeable as Novell about Linux pay money for indemnification against them?

          That may well turn off some large companies from using Linux. And Novell allows Microsoft to do this, they even agreed to help spreading this FUD themselves too, and all of it without Microsoft having to provide any specifics at all

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:55AM (#17124730) Homepage Journal
      Nah, this deal affects all of us. It basically says Microsoft is going to start suing users of Linux (except Novell's customers). Not that they are, but it makes people who care about this stuff nervous. As for Ubuntu, well, they could be in for some new and different pain soon. They're putting proprietary video card drivers into the default install of the distro. That's clearly illegal. Kernel developers could sue them. Not that they will either, cause they're pussies. You shouldn't want to run that stuff anyways. If you wanna run proprietary software, go run Windows, or buy a Mac.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Frogbert (589961)
        If they are saying they aren't going to start suing Novell with this deal, doesn't that imply that they could sue everyone anyway? And if so then what is the harm of them saying they won't sue Novell. After all if they can sue Linux vendors anyway what does one agreement with one company change?
        • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:12AM (#17124866) Homepage Journal
          No, they havn't promised not to sue Novell, they have promised not to sue Novell's customers. That said, yes, before the deal they could have sued anyone, and after the deal they can't sue certain people but can sue everyone else.. so what? Nothing has changed? Well yeah, except that no-one actually believed Microsoft could sue anyone but now a couple of million dollars on the table says Novell's lawyers think they can (otherwise it's just a bit circlejerk, and hey, that's likely too).
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by EvanED (569694)
            now a couple of million dollars on the table says Novell's lawyers think they can (otherwise it's just a bit circlejerk, and hey, that's likely too).

            Or maybe Novell just wanted a couple hundred million George Washingtons.

            Because one of four things I can think of is going on:

            1. Novell just thought that the partnership would be good (remember, something like $300 mil) completely unrelated to IP issues
            2. Novell's lawyers think there ARE IP issues with Linux, and they plan on dropping distribution of Linux when
          • What they did promise is not to sue their own customers:

            Microsoft reserves the right to update (including discontinue) the foregoing covenant pursuant to the terms of the Patent Cooperation Agreement between Novell and Microsoft that was publicly announced on November 2, 2006; however, the covenant will continue as to specific copies of Covered Products distributed by Microsoft for Revenue before the end of the Term.

            As you can plainly see, at any time it wishes Microsoft is free to "discontinue" the conv

        • by fabioaquotte (902367) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:34AM (#17125002) Homepage
          The problem is that Novell's agreement can be seen as legitimizing Microsoft's claims, which can create fear among companies thinking about adopting GNU/Linux.
      • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:47AM (#17125100) Homepage
        They don't sue Ubuntu because those guys are clearly NOT trying to circumvent the spirit of the license. It's Nvidia and their ilk that are doing that. And as long as they aren't actually distributing code, they can get away with it. Suing Ubuntu wouldn't hurt them directly, and would hurt some good people that are trying to do the right thing, so don't expect to see that happen.

        What I do expect will happen, at some point, is someone with standing to sue will initiate a dialogue with them, and they'll remove the drivers. I don't think anyone is in a huge hurry about that, however, for the reasons outlined above.
        • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @02:34AM (#17125308) Homepage Journal
          They don't sue Ubuntu because those guys are clearly NOT trying to circumvent the spirit of the license.

          Excuse me? They're taking stuff that the relevant kernel developers have clearly said is illegal, unworkable and unethical and they're distributing it. They should be shunning these drivers, not proping them up.

          And as long as they aren't actually distributing code, they can get away with it.

          The only reason they're getting away with it is because the relevant kernel developers are not suing them.

          What I do expect will happen, at some point, is someone with standing to sue will initiate a dialogue with them, and they'll remove the drivers.

          I dont think that's going to happen. I think we're going to learn to live with it. Then the next time some hardware company sees an advantage in making a closed source driver for Linux, they'll point at the NVIDIA drivers and say "well, they're ok, so we'll be ok." And ya know what? They will be. Then everything will fall apart.

          If you don't care about your freedom, you'll lose it.

          I'd love to do something about this. I have some ideas about what I could do about this. Maybe some people would like to help me [mailto], but the people who are in the best position to do something about this are Greg Kroah-Hartman, Martin Mares, avid Mosberger-Tang, Frederic Potter and Drew Eckhardt. They wrote the code that NVIDIA is illegally linking to. They put that code under the GPL. Was there a point to that?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Arker (91948)

            And as long as they aren't actually distributing code, they can get away with it.

            The only reason they're getting away with it is because the relevant kernel developers are not suing them.

            You misinterpreted the word they in that sentence, and I confess I should have written that more clearly and I inadvertently encouraged your confusion. The they above is Nvidia and co, not Ubuntu.

            Look, here's how I see it, and I suspect how the kernel devs may well see it. Nvidia has found a loophole to exploit. Nvid

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by chromatic (9471)
              They do distribute a shim, which is clearly a derived work of the kernel...

              It's clear that a binary compiled against Linux kernel headers is a derivative work of those headers, but it's not clear that the source code itself is a derivative work. Otherwise, I completely agree. Great post.

              • by QuantumG (50515) *
                Gotta disagree. If that were the case I'm sure we'd see a lot more proprietary extensions to GPL programs. Just because they distribute source, does not mean it is free software.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by QuantumG (50515) *

              but they obey their obligations on the shim.

              Ok, I'm gunna have to stop you right there. They don't obey their obligations on the shim. Specifically the shim (which I call, the wrapper) is not under the GPL, and the GPL clearly states that You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License. Game Over.

              The binary blob, as you call it, specifically, nv-kernel.o or "the r

              • by Arker (91948)

                Ok, I'm gunna have to stop you right there. They don't obey their obligations on the shim. Specifically the shim (which I call, the wrapper) is not under the GPL

                I apologise if my information is incorrect. I thought it was.

                Even without such, Ubuntu should not include this stuff, because it takes away your freedom. You might not care about that

                I care very much about that, actually. And I don't think I've said anything from which you could reasonably infer otherwise.

                Of course, in the case of NVIDIA, wh

                • by QuantumG (50515) *

                  I care very much about that, actually. And I don't think I've said anything from which you could reasonably infer otherwise.

                  Sorry, I'll try to keep better track of who I'm replying to.

                  I almost agree with you. Show me a good shot at Nvidia and I'll take it.

                  Are you in a position to do that?

                  But suing them for what they're doing now would, I think, be extremely expensive first off. Because, unlike the cases that have been prosecuted so far, this is not a clear, undeniable violation.

                  Ok, first off, this is the case the FSF has to have. They need to prosecute this and they need to win. Cause if what they are doing is legal, then the GPL is broken a lot more than we thought.

                  Secondly, I don't think it is all that complicated. Even if you wanna debate the whole derived work and not distributing linux thing, some people are distributing linux and this module. Surely we can agree that they are

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by rsidd (6328)

                The binary blob, as you call it, specifically, nv-kernel.o or "the resource manager" as the wrapper calls it, is a derivative work of the wrapper, and is therefore also required to be under the GPL, and so on. This is classic "how do I make proprietary modifications to a GPL program?" nonsense. Anyone who distributes this stuff is guilty of contributory copyright infringement.

                Correct -- and therefore NVidia does not distribute nv-kernel.o. They cause it to be compiled on the user's machine. Few users w

          • by dave562 (969951)
            If you don't care about your freedom, you'll lose it.

            For the sake of argument, consider the other side of the equation. By allowing Nvidia to develop drivers the way that they want to develop drivers, Nvidia will make their hardware available to the Linux community. ATI will follow suit. Before you know it, the next generation of games that would have been limited to Windows are all of a sudden available to various Linux distros because the videocard vendors have written drivers that will render the gra

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by QuantumG (50515) *
              NVIDIA makes these drivers for embedded software developers. The fact that you and I can use it to play games is of little concern to them. They want into the embedded Linux market. They see the desktop as a wasteland. Especially the home desktop.
      • Well, if kernel developers are pussies, than who the hell needs them? We'll just go back to waiting for HURD. After all, their manliness is all that really matters.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well, for one thing, Novell owns a company (now a division) called Ximian. The people behind Ximian are the people who originally developed GNOME. I believe that they are still active in the Gnome project. If I were you, I'd think about switching to Kubuntu.
      • Well, for one thing, Novell owns a company (now a division) called Ximian. The people behind Ximian are the people who originally developed GNOME. I believe that they are still active in the Gnome project. If I were you, I'd think about switching to Kubuntu.

        Perhaps you are referring in part to Miguel de Icaza, who was among the founders of both GNOME (in 1997) and Ximian (in 1999), and is very positive about the Novell-Microsoft deal (which got him a lot of ill-will recently), but naturally other Ximian
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by camperdave (969942)
      Hmm... MSOffice 2007 running natively only on Suse. DRM locked content made available... only on Suse.

      "Linux sucks, but Suse rocks" - Joe Sixpack.
    • by burnin1965 (535071) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:15AM (#17124878) Homepage

      Could someone explain to me, in simple terms, how this effects anything I have anything to do with?

      I use Ubuntu, why should this matter to me? If the Ubuntu folks don't like what Novell is doing can't they just ignore whatever Novell is doing?

      Everyone is acting like this is the end of Linux as we know it. Honestly could someone explain why this is?


      The worst case scenario would be Microsoft using their patent portfolio in an attempt to shutdown any open source projects which infringe their IP. Your Ubuntu is based off many many open source projects and the loss of many of those projects could be detrimental to the capability of your favorite distro.

      Now obviously its much more complicated than that but you asked for some simple terms and how they would effect you so there ya go.
    • essentially what the agreement does is allow Novell programmers to KNOWINGLY put patented stuff for Microsoft compatibility into their products, even the OSS ones and know M$ won't DMCA them. The trouble is that those patches essentially "poison the water hole"... i.e. will be destroying a public resource, even if it's on "private" land... (like out west where cattle herd are allowed to range over many individual's property but are still owned by 1 person) Novell will be allowed to release "open source" th
      • by ClosedSource (238333) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:13AM (#17125492)
        "what the agreement does is allow Novell programmers to KNOWINGLY put patented stuff for Microsoft compatibility into their products, even the OSS ones and know M$ won't DMCA them. "

        It does nothing of the sort. Novell programmers can't legally do this, have no reason to do this, and have absolutely no obligation to do this under the agreement. As I've said before, compatibility can either be achieved without violating patents or it can't. This agreement doesn't change the patent facts (whatever they are). It merely states that the two companies won't sue each other's customers for patent violation, that's all.
      • by acidrain (35064)
        Not to side with Novell, but the GPL won't let them knowingly redistribute patented stuff. Period. This is a big publicity stunt on Microsoft's part, which they paid Novell a lot for, but doesn't change the actual legal landscape meaningfully. So Novell tries to distribute some legally questionable code. So what? It does change the perceived legal position of open source code, but I think everyone needs to stop freaking out. I was so impressed with how calmly everyone wrote off SCO all those years ago
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by molnarcs (675885)
      Well, did you read the FA? Which point you didn't get? Ubuntu is not an isolated venture. If a company works really hard to work around the GPL (that has been responsible for the health of the free software ecosystem in the past decades) - that's bad for everyone who distributes GPL-ed software. And that's what Novell did. Did they ask Eben Moglen or the FSF about the legality of the deal? No, they talk to their lawyers, and Microsoft's lawyers, and found a way not to breach the letter of the GPL, while bre
  • FUD for who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shirai (42309) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @12:58AM (#17124754) Homepage
    I don't know about anybody else but this hasn't induced any fear, uncertainty or doubt in me about Linux.

    However, it has induced REAL fear, REAL uncertainty and REAL doubt in Novell SUSE. Up until this incident started, I had pretty much decided that SUSE would be the distribution we would base all our new web/db/mail servers on owing to its combination of corporate support and ease of use.

    Now I'm back on the fence considering Red Hat or another distro.

    Unfortunately, I think SUSE inadvertently screwed themselves. In this regard, I have to say that Red Hat is doing an awesome job. They have deliberately tried to meet the Linux "community standards" while still being commercial. If only they were more open with their non-Fedora distributions, we would have probably standardized on Red Hat from the start.
    • I had pretty much decided that SUSE would be the distribution we would base all our new web/db/mail servers on owing to its combination of corporate support and ease of use.....

      Now I'm back on the fence considering Red Hat or another distro.


      So how did the corporate support and ease of use change? If you don't feel any FUD, then SUSE should be just as viable as before. Or is this just FUD of a different color?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by quantaman (517394)

        I had pretty much decided that SUSE would be the distribution we would base all our new web/db/mail servers on owing to its combination of corporate support and ease of use.....

        Now I'm back on the fence considering Red Hat or another distro.

        So how did the corporate support and ease of use change? If you don't feel any FUD, then SUSE should be just as viable as before. Or is this just FUD of a different color?

        Actually I don't believe him turning away from SUSE would be FUD. Even if you ignore the fact that

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      They have deliberately tried to meet the Linux "community standards" while still being commercial. If only they were more open with their non-Fedora distributions, we would have probably standardized on Red Hat from the start.

      Hold on there. Redhat has been nothing but open. In fact, nearly all distros can be traced back to redhat (of course, the floppies => yggdrasil => slackware, which all came before redhat).

      Redhat has had only 2 issues that kept them from being the standard. The first and major

  • blah blah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mikesd81 (518581)
    Everything I've read by Novell in responce to the criticism from the OS community tells me that this article means nothing. Had this article came out when the deal first happened it would be different but now that Novell has communicated that they didnt' want the IP clauses in it and they actually want to make MS and Linux easier to work together I don't believe this article. It just fuels the fud factories. Novell wanted to get MS to actually allow the Visual Studios and Office on a Linux platform. Stuff l
    • by truckaxle (883149)
      Imagine a world where MS and Linux worked even 25% together than they do now Microsoft can imagine that and they know it would slash their margins. To Microsoft a Linux gain is a Microsoft loss - it is a zero sum game.
      • Re:blah blah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:33AM (#17124994) Homepage Journal
        Interesting you say that. Most people, this is how they see business. To get more market share you've gotta crush the other guy right? There's a fixed number of customers out there and they are only going to buy one company's product, so it better be ours! Thing is, not everyone thinks like that. Our friends over at Sun ("the biggest contributor to Free Software" - RMS) hold the opinion that the way to increase your market share is to grow the market. i.e., get more customers into that market by offering products and services that previously were not available in that market. I think it's an enlightened philosophy. When your competitors don't have to lose so that you may win, then the customer is the ultimate winner. Take notes Microsoft.

    • Re:blah blah (Score:5, Informative)

      by burnin1965 (535071) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:31AM (#17124990) Homepage
      There was some reassuring PR coming out of Novell, however, when Microsoft asked to include a patent deal the negociations should have ended right there. In one of those open letters it states "Novell will make ongoing payments of at least $40 million over five years to Microsoft, based on percentages of Novell's Open Platform Solutions and Open Enterprise Server revenues".

      So basically anyone who purchases Novell's Open Platform Solutions is also paying a Microsoft tax, as Novell's new partner Steve Balmer noted, "because open-source Linux does not come from a company -- Linux comes from the community -- the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders" and Steve expects to be paid.

      No mitigation of infringement, no proof of infringement, no analysis of the patents to even verify if Microsoft actual has valid IP. Nope, but Novell does us all a favor and bypasses all that boring routine. Thanks but no thanks.


      Imagine a world where MS and Linux worked even 25% together than they do now.

      That is easy to imagine, linux would be where OS/2 is. That's how Microsoft cooperates.

      I look at where linux is today and I don't think it needs anything from Microsoft.
  • by debest (471937) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:05AM (#17124800)
    Has Linus been heard from lately on this whole schomzle? He has resisted changing the kernel from GPL2 to GPL3. RMS and others (like PJ) are saying that GPL3 solves the problem going forward. Does Linus concur? Has he made any statement anywhere (like kernel.org) about how he sees the Novell/MS deal possibly changing his mind?

    Just wondering
    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:25AM (#17124952)
      Linux can't easily go to GPL3... it is expressly GPL2 without the upgrade clause. Some key developers are DEAD.. you'd have to track down an heir and get them to legally sign over the work to GPL3. Not that parts won't be rewritten, but even then somebody could always claim you "stole" their work by rewriting it under the new license... you'd have the same problems as abandonware apps do now. That's why the FSF sponsored projects require the source be signed over to them and placed on their servers... then they can relicense at will. You of course are free to maintain your own version of your work if you wish, but not the official version.
      • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:55AM (#17125150) Homepage
        The kernel coders already replace a large portion of the kernel every year. If Linus wanted to go to GPLv3, he could relicense his own code (a quite small amount, at this point in time, as he's been more of a manager for years) and more importantly encourage everyone else to do the same, and announce that new contributions must be under a compatible license as well of course. After, say, 6 months, he could then identify the code that remains under GPL v2 only (likely a small amount, by this time - remember that much of the code is GPL v2 or later already, and much of what is not is from authors still working and very likely to go along with Linus' wishes) and schedule those parts to be rewritten. At the outside, it might take 2 years to complete the transition.

        It would be somewhat of a pain to change, but if he wanted to do it he could definitely do it.
  • Sometimes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by molnarcs (675885) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .scranlom.> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:07AM (#17124808) Homepage Journal
    PJ sometimes tends to get emotional - which is absolutely fine by me, but she did little to explain her latest comments about Novell forking openoffice. That was a bad article - and people immediately jumped the gun, and a began to talk about he PJ has changed, how Groklaw is no longer a reliable source of information. Because it is so obviously biased. That was the main reason. Which is kinda ironic, because it rests on the assumption that other sources are unbiased, which is naive to say the least. What's more important is this: does groklaw provide accurate information, and good arguments to support their claims? Usually, with PJ, you have lots of enthusiasm, and lots of good arguments. In almost all cases when people criticize her here on ./ it is because her style and "bias" - which usually fails to align with her critics' own bias. The last article (the ooo.o forking one) lacked on the argument side, and this was an error on PJ's side: she had good reason to be upset and even emotional (because she clearly cares about free software), but she failed to provide the argument part. She assumed that everyone knows what she knows, and therefore, everyone will see her point without the need of an explanation. This did a lot of damage, because those who criticize her on ./ and elsewhere, usually do so by completely avoiding to address any of her points by reducing her article to the "emotional" part. Too bad that in the openoffice case, they did have a point.

    As I said, I don't have a problem with enthusiasm - others may feel different, because lots of peeps consider the display of emotions or enthusiasm as weakness, and they invest a lot of emotions in pretending to not care or feel something about these issues. But except for this last case, you will hardly find any criticism of groklaw and PJ that tries to address the issues she raises with logical arguments. I haven't followed the happening on groklaw in the past few years to closely, but since hell broke out about the Novell-MS deal, I have been regularly reading groklaw, and I have to say this: the oo.o fork article was not a trend, but an exception. PJ is still the same PJ I have come to know when the SCO case started: exceptionally thorough and logical in providing arguments to prove her point, but also a bit emotional and enthusiastic (which made some of her writings an easy target for those, who failing provide rational arguments concerning the points she made, dismissed her articles on the note of being "biased".)

  • The deal (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:07AM (#17124816)
    Ok here is the deal as I see it through the eyes of a developer, sysadmin and ultimate decision maker when it comes to our linux environment. I am also the developer of quite a bit of GPL licensed code spread across the globe(not kernel). Novell and MS broke the spirit of the GPL with their little agreement, I don't care if it was legal, bottom line it is not in the community spirit. I will not ever run, recommend others run, help with others issues with any novell distributed software.

    Bottom line I work for pointy haired bosses but they will not under any circumstances question what distro I run in the enterprise...novell put that in your pipe and smoke it. EV1 learned a valuable lesson and Novell should have taken note of what happens when you try to bend the rules.
  • At least Microsoft can't claim they're not involved in this anymore, like back when they were piping money through Baystar to fund this fiasco.

  • by astrashe (7452) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:10AM (#17124840) Journal
    My inclination has always been to think of the freedom guys as a little strident, and a little too extreme. The things Linus says about licensing have always made the most sense to me intuitively, and the other guys have always come across as a little controlling, and a little crusading.

    The one thing I've taken away from the Novell/MS deal, though, is that this stuff is really complicated, and it's really dangerous. I'll be honest -- I don't understand all of the implications of the deal, or why each of the two parties decided to do it. But I feel like something's going on -- like I'm playing 3 card monte on the street or something.

    I don't think that non-specialists (ie., geeks who don't think much about law) are in a good position to know what's best.

    Novell, and the guys that came to Novell when they bought Ximian and SUSE, have done an incredible amount of good for our community. We are, to a certain extent, depending on Novell's patents to protect us in this coming fight. I think they're good guys, doing what they feel they have to do in order to survive.

    But even if this isn't nefarious, it's made us realize that we'd be open to something similar that was nefarious. Those crazy freedom guys weren't so crazy after all.

    So I think we have to trust the people who understand these treacherous waters the best -- I think that's Eban Moglen. He says that GPL3 is necessary to counter this threat, and he says it will be effective, even if the kernel remains under GPL2. The toolchain will be enough to do what we need.

    I don't want to demonize Novell, because they've given me a lot of great code, and because there are people there who are real heroes to our community. I think they're mistaken, and I think Linus is mistaken to stick with GPL2. It just ain't viral enough to keep us safe.

    But instead of attacking people, or getting hysterical, I think the thing to do is to listen to our best legal minds, and back GPL3. So my feeling is that Linus's honor is beyond question, he's obviously a lot smarter than I am, and he might even be smarter than Eban Moglen. But when it comes to law, I'm going to listen to Moglen.

    And I would say that the Ximian guys' honor is beyond question, and that they're a lot smarter than I am as well. But I'm still going to listen to Moglen about the law.

    Again, my feeling is that we shouldn't let this break down cooperation, we shouldn't let it affect the civility of our community, and we shouldn't attribute bad motives to anyone. But we should play it safe, and innoculate with GPL3.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:24AM (#17124948)
      Richard Stallman has proven time and again -for over 20 years now -- that he has long term vision and real brains.

      He played this game for much longer than most of us.

      Is he a wee bit extreme ? Yes.

      But without that single-minded focus he couldn't have pulled it off for the first 10+ years when he was practically alone.

      I would trust him with my life, nevermind GPLv3.
      • by JoshJ (1009085) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:49AM (#17125116) Journal
        It's funny- looking back, people always said Stallman was crazy and the stuff he talked about wouldn't happen- and time and again, it did. History continually repeats - only the proprietary people are getting more and more extreme in their demands. Stallman's been asking for the same thing for the past 20 years, the proprietary makers have been demanding more and more. I refuse to accept their bullshit- I'll use Free Software as much as possible- the only proprietary stuff I have on my computer is stuff that is absolutely necessary to run my hardware- and my next one will have no such need.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I would trust [Richard Stallman] with my life, nevermind GPLv3.
        Noble indeed, but before saying that I'd want to be *really* sure he would never view my life as being in any way non-free.
    • by Sargeant Slaughter (678631) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @02:46AM (#17125354) Homepage
      I don't think that non-specialists (ie., geeks who don't think much about law) are in a good position to know what's best.

      I was a CS major. Now I'm finally graduating with a BA in history and applying to law school. I want to focus on IP law to help in the fight against the proprietary giants.

      I began studying CS in '99 because I like computers and wanted to make a lotta $$. After working in the "industry" full time for a couple of years, and going to college for 6+ years, I've finally decided to do something that makes me feel good. Just thinking about using my talents to further a good cause gives me the chills, in a good way. Hopefully I will be reporting to guys like Moglen in a few years, J.D. in hand. Fuck the money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dch24 (904899)

      But I feel like something's going on -- like I'm playing 3 card monte on the street or something.

      Nice analogy.

      Scenario: Three card monte. (Microsoft / Novell agreement)

      Setting: Dark alley. Famous in Mexico city. (Legal conversations held behind closed doors)

      Players: The dealer. Random passers-by who are "just normal people". Someone acting as a lookout for the police. (Microsoft - has a history of extinguishing "partners." Novell - a contributing member of the open source community. Lookout? I'm su

  • by symbolset (646467) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:16AM (#17124882) Journal
    Novell and Microsoft got together and made a deal to make it safe for me to buy their products.

    But I can't read the terms, because it's a secret. And they don't agree in public on what, exactly, the deal was.

    Boy, am I relieved!

  • He asserts at length that it's bad, but I have no idea from this article what's in the alleged patent agreement, or how it changes anything.

    Imagine that I have a Slackware system. (I do, even.) How is this system affected by any deal Novell signs?

    I don't see how this can be connected, and since TFA doesn't describe in any real detail what the Novell agreement says, or how it has any effect on anyone other than Novell or Microsoft, there's not much point in just asserting that it's bad.
    • Imagine that I have a Slackware system. (I do, even.) How is this system affected by any deal Novell signs?

      Right or wrong, Microsoft own patents which code in Linux voilates. It wasn't knowningly put there, it was written by programmers who didn't know they were doing wrong. This code is in slack as well, and the MS-Novel agreement implies that somebody other than Novell is going to get sued.

  • Well, OK, it says "The Novell deal was really bad, really really bad. It's good for Microsoft. What SCO is doing is good for Microsoft. The Novell deal is like the SCO deal because they are both good for Microsoft. The Novell deal is really stupid and Novell should know better."

    And while I agree, nobody is going to be convinced by that. I would appreciate some deeper level of analysis and explanation. Perhaps something I could use when talking to people about it about why the deal is a bad idea.

  • Poor Novell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @01:56AM (#17125152)
    Novell does not cease to amaze me. I wonder whether they will ever do anything right.

    First, they did not do much to improve Yast2 on speed, bugs and the way it handles dependencies. This alone, made me avoid its Linux products.

    Now comes this Microsoft deal. With this deal, I will not even touch its Linux products even with a 10 foot long pole!

    Sadly, those who predicted that Novell will do nothing good for SuSE after buying it, (just like Word Perfect), are being proven right.

  • When all you have is a conspiracy theory, everything starts looking like a conspiracy.

    Conspiracists believe that all evil is attributable to one cause. Communist Insiders, The Elders of Zion, Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Microsoft. But that's not reality. PJ needs to wake up and realize that SCO is able to be evil all on its own.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aim Here (765712)
      Here's the facts:

      1) At the outset of the lawsuit, Microsoft paid SCO $10 million in "license fees", that were, apparently, illegally kept by SCO rather than passed on to Novell. A few years back Santa Cruz actually had to pay Microsoft for the rights to distribute Unix, now Microsoft has somehow decided it needs to pay SCO for something Unixy.

      2)Microsoft then convinced Baystar, an investment management firm, to invest another $50 million or so, by saying 'if you start to lose money, we'll cover your loss' (
      • by Brandybuck (704397) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:20AM (#17125538) Homepage Journal
        Here's the facts:

        1) SCO is suing IBM because SCO believes SCO copyrighted code is in the Linux kernel.

        2) Microsoft and Novell signed an indemnity agreement regarding patents.

        3) There is no relation between the two. SCO isn't suing IBM over Microsoft patents, and Microsoft isn't indemnifying Novell's customers regarding SCO's copyrights. These are two seperate issues, and trying to conflate them is evidence only that your tinfoil hat is on too tight.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aim Here (765712)
          Oh, you knocked that straw man down nicely, sir.

          For starters, even SCO believes there is hardly any SCO copyrighted code in the Linux kernel (at MOST, we're talking about 326 lines in Linux, here). SCO is suing over IBM copyrighted code in the Linux kernel. Really.

          Secondly, I never said anything at all about the relationship between the Microsoft/Novell deal and the SCO/Linux lawsuit. Your initial post seemed to deny ANY link between Microsoft and SCO, and I felt the need to correct you on that howler.

          In my
  • GPLv3 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @02:32AM (#17125302)

    Regardless of whether this article has any substance or is merely a frothing rant on PJ's part, I think (inadvertently?) she's overestimating the adoption rate of GPLv3.

    Linus has clearly stated that he intends to keep the kernel under v2, and most of the larger projects have yet to make any meaningful statement about it.

    Never mind the scores of smaller projects that don't have the resources or prowess to make an informed descision about which GPL version to use; most of them will stick with v2. I wouldn't be surprised if most projects simply followed Linus' example.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dido (9125)

      The entire GNU toolchain will move to GPLv3, as well as all of the other software owned by the Free Software Foundation. That, you can definitely count on. Other software that depends on this vast base of software, much of which is fundamental to the operation of any GNU/Linux system, will probably be encouraged to switch with time. Uninformed projects probably are also uninformed enough to use the FSF's original statement of the GPLv2, which contains the 'later version' clause that the Linux kernel lack

  • Embrace, Extend, Knife in Back....
  • by BokLM (550487) * <boklm@mars-attacks.org> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:21AM (#17126494) Homepage Journal
    ... patents. We need to get ride of those stupid laws.
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:26AM (#17126520)
    Do I understand this properly?

    MS signs patent agreement with Novel.

    Novel introduce MS patent based technologies (WMV, DRM, interoperability stuff, etc) into their variant of Linux (while also keeping up to date with the kernel release, etc, done by the community).

    People deciding which Linux to use have a choice between the souped-up version from Novel which will do lots of Windows stuff or regular Linux.

    Regular Linux can't take the MS stuff into itself because it's patented. The MS Linux can take all the regular Linux stuff because it's GPL.

    Result? MS start to get significant leverage over Linux by proxy, by trying to dominate the Linux variant market with "their" (e.g. Novell's) variant. MS would do this itself I think, without going through Novell, if they had the linux know-how.

    MS then start putting seriously nice stuff into MS Linux, more and more people start to use it, become dependent on it, MS start making it easy to migrate from MS Linux to Windows, etc, etc - all sorts of strategies are available at that point.

    I can see why a modified GPL is needed now, to exclude patented material from the kernel; this is to protect Linux from MS's embrace/extend/exterminate policy.

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