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Novell Software Linux

Novell Won't Lose Right To Sell Linux 216

Posted by Zonk
from the fact-straightening dept.
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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Novell Won't Lose Right To Sell Linux

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  • by at2000 (715252) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:38PM (#17907106)
    They can distribute linux, but can they distribute glibc, coreutils, gcc, gdb, bash, tar, gzip, gpg, grep, gettext, readline, troff, ...?
  • Gnu tools (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flaming-opus (8186) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @01:56PM (#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.
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @02:05PM (#17907634) Homepage
    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.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @02:25PM (#17907934) Journal
    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.
  • by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @02:33PM (#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.

  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @02:45PM (#17908268) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:01PM (#17909656) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:44PM (#17911546) Homepage

    Nobody's arguing that software shouldn't be "free" as in OSS, or even "free as in beer".

    Where Stallman and the FSF fanatics go wrong is in presenting themselves as "the Messiah" in "saving the world" from ANY violation of their notions of "the way things MUST be done."

    This whole bru-ha-ha over Novell is an example. Nothing Novell did was particularly damaging to OSS. Even if Microsoft TRIES to make the deal useful to them in some future patent court case, they aren't going to win it on the basis of the Novell deal.

    But the FSF fanatics make every minor incident sound like "the sky is falling."

    Nobody likes morally self-righteous assholes.

    And morally self-righteous assholes are rarely right to boot.

    It may be reasonable to produce a GPLv3 that prevents any future company from doing what Novell has explicitly denied doing, which is admit patent violations of GPL software, but it has little to do with the Novell deal and will have little or no effect on the future success of OSS in any event.

    OSS software cannot be restrained by legal decisions - if for no other reason than that it can be developed in countries where such laws do not apply. As long as people need OSS software - and they do - OSS software cannot be derailed by Microsoft or any other company by legal means.

    Look, ultimately, the goal of all this copyright/patent crap is that the state wants to make EVERYONE a criminal OR extort money from everyone who is too scared to be a criminal. That is the DEFINITION of the state. The only result is that everybody eventually BECOMES a "criminal" and eventually the state is overthrown by said "criminals".

    So bring it on!

    People need to stop panicking over every little thing.

    Chimpanzees.

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