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Microsoft States GPL3 Doesn't Apply to Them 509

Posted by Zonk
from the they-is-special-you-understand dept.
pilsner.urquell writes "Microsoft yesterday issued a statement proclaiming that it isn't bound by GPLv3. Groklaw has a very humorous rejoinder to the company's claim. From that article: 'They think they can so declare, like an emperor, and it becomes fiat. It's not so easy. I gather Microsoft's lawyers have begun to discern the GPL pickle they are in. In any case it won't be providing any support or updates or anything at all in connection with those toxic (to them) vouchers it distributed as part of the Novell deal ... These two -- I can't decide if it's an elaborate dance like a tango or more like those games where you place a cloth with numbers on the floor and you have to get into a pretzel with your hands and feet to touch all the right numbers. Whichever it is, Novell and Microsoft keep having to strike the oddest poses to try to get around the GPL. If they think this new announcement has succeeded, I believe they will find they are mistaken. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, GPLv3 worked.'" EWeek has further analysis of this proclamation.
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Microsoft States GPL3 Doesn't Apply to Them

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  • Enlighten me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vigmeister (1112659) on Friday July 06, 2007 @08:55AM (#19766655)
    How can MS be bound by GPL3 if they avoided using GPL3ed code after June 29? Can you write code that is licensed by future versions of GPL? Wouldn't that make it dangerous for someone to use the code in case they do not like the future version? Sorry for the ignorance Cheers!
  • Sounds like (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlueLightSpecial (898144) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:00AM (#19766737) Journal
    Sounds about as useful as the emancipation proclamation and the time of it's creation. to sum up: Lincoln: "All the slaves in Confederated-held (aka not our)territories are free!" and MS: "We declare that we are free from the laws of the government under which we are placed"
  • From the article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by igotmybfg (525391) <slashdot AT danielthompson DOT net> on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:05AM (#19766813) Homepage
    "At this point in time, in order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3."

    How very interesting. The Novell support certificates that Microsoft distributes don't entitle the recipient to get support for GPLv3 code. So why would anyone buy one of these things from them?

  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sam Andreas (894779) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:05AM (#19766815)
    You're right. The article summary is very misleading.

    FTA -

    But, to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft decided not to have those SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) certificates cover support or updates of any code licensed under GPLv3. "We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future," Gutierrez said. Regardless of the Microsoft change to those certificates, Novell will continue to distribute SLES with its full set of functionality and features, including those components that are licensed under GPLv3, said Bruce Lowry, a Novell spokesperson.

    I don't know all the details of this certificate deal with Novell, but it seems that Microsoft is just covering themselves by saying that their certificates don't cover GPL3, just software licensed under previous GPL's, but Novell is going to provide GPL3 software to Microsoft certificate customers anyway.

    I can see issues brewing, but it's nothing like what the summary and headline on this story claim.
  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:06AM (#19766825) Homepage Journal
    What happens if the rules are completely rewritten to say that you are not allowed to distribute GPLvX code at all? I know that's not going to happen, but it's a little strange to indefinitely subscribe to a policy that could change at any time into something you may not agree with?
  • by kripkenstein (913150) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:15AM (#19766945) Homepage

    Has there been any successful court action enforcing any version of the GPL?
    The point is that the GPL is so obviously-enforceable, that there is no need to test it.

    If you want to distribute code, you need a license, or you are in violation of copyright law. So if the GPL is invalid, you don't have a license, since the GPL is the only thing giving you such a license to begin with. This simple logic has kept the GPL out of the courts, since (except for SCO) lawyers and the people that pay for them generally do not like unwinnable cases.

    This current matter with Microsoft and the GPL3 is a completely separate issue, though. Microsoft aren't directly distributing code; they are just handing out vouchers for said code (or will be, if they continue handing out vouchers after Novell starts to distribute GPL3 code - which will be soon). That is Microsoft's defense - they aren't distributing the code themselves. Yet, if a major lawsuit should ensue between Microsoft and a Linux vendor, the issue may arise nonetheless: Even if Microsoft are not distributing the code, they are helping a partner to distribute it. This implies that they are tacitly not contesting certain claims in that code, or that the basic business model implied by that code is not seen as illegitimate by Microsoft. I am sure the lawyers can argue this for a few years.
  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <.akaimbatman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:16AM (#19766969) Homepage Journal
    You do realize that the "GPLv2 or later" clause is a choice that is made by the redistributor at the time of distribution, right? So Microsoft could *choose* to distribute under GPLv2 or v3. If they don't distribute, they're not bound by the license.

    Here's the complete section in question (emphasis added):

    This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
    modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public
    License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either
    version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

    Truth be told, I'm not really following PJ on this one. I know of no legal theory that would cause a license to reach out from a second party and latch onto a third party just because the second and third parties have an agreement. In the case of a contract that binds partners, the responsibility usually falls upon the second party to execute a compatible agreement with the third. Failure to do so would place the second party at fault. i.e. Novell could get in trouble, but Microsoft would be shielded by only having a non-GPL agreement with Novell, not directly with the Linux developers.

    Now a judge might not be happy with the legal games that Microsoft is playing (can you say 'extortion'?), but I can't see him binding Microsoft to a contract they didn't directly accept.
  • by SterlingSylver (1122973) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:21AM (#19767035)
    So let's say that the GPLv3's lawyers are correct and that they find some means by which to bring Microsoft to court over non-distributed code. They'll sue Microsoft over Copywrite violation? Use the GPL as a defense against some future patent violation case (which will likely never come as it is much more useful as a threat)? So a bunch of geeks show up to court to thinking that they've got the big guy by the tail, and Microsoft's big nasty lawyers show up planning set a precident as to what counts as distribution and maybe give the GPL a hugely public defeat.

    This entire saga sounds like the GPL crowd saying, "Aha! We got Microsoft," but I'm unconvinced that the world is turning because of it. IANAL, but I think that Microsoft would LOVE to test this in court.
  • Re:Guess Again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:25AM (#19767085) Homepage Journal
    I don't think it's the Linux Kernel MS has to worry about anytime soon. It's the hundreds of programs in a default SLES installation that are owned by the FSF. They will surely be released as GPLv3 very soon now.

    If Novell wants to update the bulk of the userland programs in SLES they will surely at some point need to embrace GPLv3. It's that or fork the v2 versions and maintain them on their own.
  • Re:Wait a second (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jZnat (793348) * on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:26AM (#19767091) Homepage Journal
    The Linux kernel is probably going to remain GPLv2 for quite a while, but the core of the GNU/Linux operating system is mostly GNU software which is (or will be) GPLv3 or later. Good luck making a Linux distro without GNU tools or anything GPLv3 in general.
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:29AM (#19767135) Homepage Journal
    You think MS will go to court to set a precedent to *shrink* the scope of copyright?
  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by G Morgan (979144) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:33AM (#19767185)

    The way I always understood it, using the "any later version" language is akin to saying "I beleive in free software, the FSF and I'm in it for the long haul".
    No it's just stupid. Lets assume for now that the FSF aren't going to make fundamental changes to the way the GPL works. Tomorrow they could go bankrupt and the arbitrator would sell their IP rights to the highest bidder, potentially MS. At that point MS can make GPLv4 and allow themselves to use all the GPLv2 or later code without respecting freedom.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:34AM (#19767187) Homepage

    Jesus Tapdancing Christ, please read the fine article:

    the only real ruling that has been made in the case is a discovery ruling by Magistrate Judge Paul Komives, permitting DrewTech to take the deposition of a third-party witness.

    The GPL wasn't ruled on. It's never been tested by an actual ruling in the United States. Personally I think that GPL2 is a completely valid and applicable license (i.e. it terminates if it's breached, leaving you violating copyright), but there's no case law to directly support that, and all the wishing in the world won't make it otherwise.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:38AM (#19767243) Homepage
    Microsoft has always viewed the GPL as a virus, and has made all attempts to avoid contact. Their paranoia on this front is legendary, and for good reason when you hear the GPL crowd react to actual or perceived violations of the GPL.

    With the Support certificates, microsoft was deliberately having a competitor actually handle the support and touch the GPL code. Which is all fine and good under GPL2.

    The GPL3 patent covenant is even more toxic, especially to a company like Microsoft which has a lot of patents. So they are simply saying "our certificates will not support anything on GPLv3".

    In many ways, this is Microsoft's paranoid overreaction, as they are not by any means a contributor to the code, even if the certificats were valid for GPLv3, but it is an understandable conservative reaction.

    Since Microsoft has never and WILL NEVER contribute or distribute GPLv3 code, yes, the statement is perfectly correct.
  • Buhuhuhuhu. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:39AM (#19767247) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, that's a great way to look at it. Microsoft released a PR that said "we're not at threat." Surely that means a license which hasn't even been tested in court has "won." By the by, Microsoft is an enormous corporation with many, many lawyers. If you get lazy and start assuming you've won, then you've lost, no matter how strong your current position is.

    Besides, in the long run, the camp which really won was BSD, because most large corporations are sick to death of the hoops they have to jump through for the GPL. I know, I'm going to get modded flamebait (even though I'm not flaming anyone) and troll (even though I'm not trolling) for saying this, since this is GPL love central, but in the long run, the love you get is equal to the love you give.

    And MIT/BSD license gives out a hell of a lot more love than GPL. I know because my company started on the back of BSD code, and that code has more than doubled in size due to my contributions.

    I'm not alone. GPL throws too much away. I believe GPLv3 is GPL's swan song, and I can't be happier that it's going away. It's time for people who write open source to stop closing it. Corporations donate an enormous amount of work to code, and GPL makes many market presences completely impossible. (Yeah yeah, linking, source release, aroo, don't care. I write Nintendo games, and it is literally impossible to use GPL code under the Nintendo license. This is a lot more common than zealots want to believe.)

    Most government agencies can't use GPL. Anyone working on protected API hardware can't use GPL. Anyone working on protected hardware without a dynamic linker can't even use LGPL, which pretends it's supposed to fix these problems (hence the sweeping changes to FLTK's license.) On and on it goes.

    Real men don't give code to just some people.
  • by fermion (181285) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:39AM (#19767255) Homepage Journal
    I think they have discrened that they only need to be concerned with a law if they do not have the money to go through the legal process and influence public officials. Let not forget that they bought the Bush administration to get out of the Monopoly pickle they found themselves in, when they could have simply released APIs like we have asking them to do for 20 years. Let us not forget that they are spending, allegedly, 1 billion dollars to repair the defective Xbox line, instead of going the likley cheaper route of a class action suite. Let us not forget that they are in all likelihood paying off Linux companies to validate the MS IP claims.

    What do all these have in common. It uses current cash to cover up misdeeds and protect future profits. Who in this world has a billion dollars to sue MS for violating the GPL. Do I see any hands? Then it does not apply to them right now. Perhaps in 5 or 10 years, if someone actually finds the money to sue, it will. But then it probably won't make difference.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:40AM (#19767269) Homepage
    A simple "no" would suffice. We can add our own editorial.
  • by WED Fan (911325) <akahigeNO@SPAMtrashmail.net> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:12AM (#19767709) Homepage Journal

    The point is that the GPL is so obviously-enforceable, that there is no need to test it.

    Do you realize how stupid that just sounded:

    • The FACT that God exists is so obvious, there is no need to prove otherwise
    • Global warming is so obviously human caused, there is no further need of science to prove it
    • Linux is so obviously secure, we don't need test it
    • I can ovbiously speel, I don't ned a spelczecher

    Unless a contract, a license, or other document has stood up under court testing, it will remain in question until it has been tested. Until then, your pronouncement should remain a statement of faith and not fact, keeping in mind, dogma != fact.

  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by G Morgan (979144) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:28AM (#19767983)
    That simply isn't true. MS could accept the license and relicense it as GPLv4. Of course so could everyone else but if GPLv4 says 'you be the bitch of MS' then there really is little that could be done. MS will have closed that fork of the code.

    It isn't about what the user can choose but about what abusers can choose. It removes the protection from the code. We'll still have the code but wouldn't have improvements made by MS. That drastically changes the mechanism of the license, suddenly one company will be able to do whatever they want with 50% of Free software. Totally changes what the point is.
  • Re:Buhuhuhuhu. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mw13068 (834804) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:32AM (#19768053)

    "because most large corporations are sick to death of the hoops they have to jump through for the GPL"

    Who do you think was in the bi-weekly meetings with Eben Moglen et al. for the past 18 months working on the GPL drafts?

    I refer you to part of a transcript from a recent speech that Moglen gave at the Scottish society for Computers and Law annual lecture for 2007:

    Every other week for the past 18 months, we've convened a conference call of twenty-one of the largest IT vendors in the world. Those companies, whose names are household familiar in every household and business familiar in every business. Working in teams that varied from one person from some of the companies, to five or six in others. Carefully studying every single word, commenting as though their lives depended upon it - as in some of the businesses they did. On every detail of the license's functioning in the global IT economy. We also convened, every other week, a conversation among twenty-four of the largest users of software in the world. Banks and brokerages, government agencies, and the lawyers who acquire software on their behalf.
    http://ia301337.us.archive.org/1/items/EbenMoglenL ectureEdinburghJune2007text/scl2007_eben_moglen.ht ml [archive.org]
  • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:35AM (#19768085) Homepage Journal

    Point taken, I got sidetracked in my response. But I think that my core point still holds up - here's a different hypothetical: I could imagine that a court would rule that beacause the GPL doesn't specify in all cases how the license transfers that it's unenforcable and then throws it out.

    We just don't know, and won't until it's adjudicated.

    OTOH, as Eben Moglen is fond of pointing out, it's unlikely that there are any lawyers foolish enough to take the GPL to court, so that will probably never happen. Even the fools at SCO aren't dumb enough to try seriously arguing that the GPL is invalid.

    The reason no one wants to try to invalidate it is very simple: If you successfully invalidate the GPL, all you've achieved is to prove yourself guilty of copyright infringement. Doh! What you have to do is to argue that the GPL is valid, so that you actually have permission to distribute the software you don't own, *but* that the rather clear and mild stipulations attached to that permission somehow shouldn't apply to you.

    That's a really hard argument to make. So hard that no one wants to try. Especially when they know that someone of the caliber of Eben Moglen is just waiting to slash through their necessarily tortuous logic.

  • by OmniGeek (72743) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:36AM (#19768127)
    While it's useful to know the exact legal status of the vouchers and GPLv3 implications, let's not lose sight of the more important issue here. This whole MS-Novell agreement was, on MS' part (and, IMHO, that's all that matters here; Novell's motives are very secondary), intended to frighten users away from "wild" versions of Linux through the phantasm of patent litigation, and corral them into using only versions distributed by MS "partners," either in order to extract a Microsoft tax or generally suppress Linux adoption.

    The critical aspect of the vouchers controversy is not whether MS is definitely bound by the GPL to refrain from patent litigation against corporate Linux users;the critical aspect is, How does this affect the perceptions of the potential victims, er, customers? If you consider the potential for the voucher-and-GPLv3 combination to defuse MS' patent threats in any possible litigation, together with the refusal of most Linux distributors to play along with MS, the net FUD effect of MS' patent-threat campaign would seem to be significantly diminished. THAT, I submit, is the critical factor in this whole circus.
  • Re:Question (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:41AM (#19768199)
    You can't apply it at redistribution. The hole point of the GPLv2 and v3 is they are non-retractable. Once you have let someone copy it under v2 they will have that option for evermore.

    Simply saying "latest version of the GPL" should ensure that any new features are covered by the license that was current when they are first downloaded. (Though a system to update all your source files to specify an exact version should be easy to implement and would make proving which version was relevant a lot easier.)

    New users could also be bound to the latest version if they get a copy from you, but they would have the option of finding someone who had downloaded a copy under and old version of the license, and getting a copy under that license from them.
  • Re:Buhuhuhuhu. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:44AM (#19768261) Homepage Journal

    Linux is the fastest growing unix-ish operating system out there.

    If you mean in terms of raw sales, it's OsX, not Linux. If you mean in terms of percentage userbase growth, it's QNX, not Linux. Please stop citing factoids that are actually just guesses. Linux is neither the fastest growing nor the most pervasive unix on the market, and it's unlikely that it ever will be (before OsX put BSD in that seat, it was Solaris.)

    If that operating system was BSD, a company, such as Microsoft, could just take all the code, write a better version, and begin selling it.

    Yep. That's basically what Apple did, and it's been an enormous benefit to the BSD codebase.

    The GPL is important, because it doesn't allow that.

    The GPL is fundamentally broken because it doesn't allow that. I know, you hate corporations blindly. The problem is, GPL advocates don't seem to understand just how much effort they're losing because they shut out most corporations. With all these linux user groups, with all these communities, with all these news sources and events, with all this press, there's still more activity in BSD.

    Why do you think that is? I'll give you a hint: my company only donates to free-as-in-free open source, and we donate tens of thousands of lines of code a month. We're not alone. Your GPL is costing you tremendously.

    You want to use someone else's code without allowing them to see how you used it.

    No I don't. Please don't start accusing me of things you don't know about me. Chances are good I've donated more source to open source than everyone you've ever met in real life put together. I just want stuff I can use legally. I'm not trying to not return my contributions. However, my license with Nintendo forbids me from exposing their API.

    With a BSD project, I just decline to release one object, the one that wraps the API interface. Anyone who wants to use my code on any other platform than the DS would have to replace that object anyway; it's not costing anyone any extra work unless they're also on the DS, and if they're also on the DS they can get the object from the official developer boards where I posted it.

    However, with GPL, it's illegal for me to refuse even to release one line of source. So, even though there's no actual reason for me to release it, even though it doesn't do anyone any good to have the object, I'm stuck: I can't release the object because of my Nintendo NDA, and I can't refuse to release the object because then I'm in violation of the GPL.

    It's not that I'm trying to cheat and get away with stuff. It's that the nonsense in the GPL means I really can't use GPL code. Ever. No matter what. No matter how much I may want to. No matter how open I am to giving away code. The GPL forbids me from even using GPL stuff if I donate the 99.99% of my work that I legally am able to, because it's all or nothing, nevermind that the limitation is pointless in this case, and robbing GPL products of all my donated work.

    There are fourteen algebraic math solvers that I'm aware of under open source licenses. I didn't make my DS calculator for four months because for a long time, every single solver I found was GPL or LGPL, meaning I couldn't use it. Then, eventually I found AXIOM. I now use AXIOM. I've donated significantly to AXIOM. There are better works out there than AXIOM, and many which would be much easier for me to use, more appropriate in context, with a smaller footprint. But I can't use them, because GPL is so ridiculously paranoid.

    Yes, I know, you want to pretend we're all corporate vampires. We aren't, and it's shameful for you to assume that of your fellow man. I've earned my place in open source. Have you?

    here are sources for that, but a large amount of freely available code is licensed such that you can not just gain from the arrangement, but also have to give back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:52AM (#19768417)

    If I go out and buy a gift certificate, give that to you, and you buy a RedHat or SuSE license with it, am I bound by the GPLv3? I don't think so.
    On the other hand, if I give you (or sell you) a "voucher" for cocaine, which you then walk down the block and redeem for real cocaine, am I completely in the clear, legally? After all, I'm not distributing cocaine.

    Yes, it's an exaggerated example. But the point is that while distributing coupons doesn't necessarily mean that you're distributing the product itself, on the other hand the courts cannot allow people to circumvent laws by using indirection tricks like "coupons" and "vouchers."

    A less exaggerated example would be a company that hires some other company to do something illegal (e.g. copyright infringement). The small company gets sued and goes bankrupt. The big company, however, claims that they cannot be sued because they didn't do anything illegal. But surely outsourcing isn't a valid way to side-step the law.

    I think it's unclear how exactly this would end up in court. MS can make the case that they are distributing vouchers and not code. Others can make the case that they are distributing code through an affiliate, namely Novell. (After all, they have very public agreements in place with Novell.)
  • Re:Buhuhuhuhu. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:57AM (#19768483) Homepage Journal

    But the GPL in both v2 and v3 trim isn't going to just go away because you and your company don't like it.
    Don't I know it. If things went away because I disliked them, this would be a very different world in which we both live, and GPL never would have made it to v2 in the first place. (I've been releasing open source since before GPL existed, y'see, which is a big part of why I find it so offensive. GPL people seem to believe that the GPL created open source, but there were several vendors selling OSes built on BSD years before Linux had even been thought up.)

    Nonetheless the GPL (both forms) are also more suitable for some purposes and many of those are business purposes.
    It's funny - people say that, but then they never explain how a business would ever want these restrictions in place. When I ask for an explanation, people usually point out some business they can think up which isn't hurt by these limitations, or point out a GPL company. Well, yay for you. The problem is, in neither of those cases does the GPL actually do good for the company, so that doesn't actually support the claim.

    If and when you can show me a company where GPL is a significant asset over BSD/MIT, great, please fill me in. Until then, I respectfully disagree, as a businessman who's had to deal with these things. Making the statement is easy. Defending it isn't.

    The reality is that GPL code for all intents and purposes isn't available for those of your frame of mind to use; it isn't the end of world and no amount of sour grapes will change the fact that developers with other goals have just as much right to use the GPL as you have to use proprietary and BSD code.
    ... what?

    Dude, when did I ever say anyone didn't have the right to GPL? You're ranting about correcting something I didn't actually say. At no point did I ever imply that people didn't have the right to release their own source under whatever license they wanted. I respect that people have that right, and with all due apologies to Voltaire, "sir, I may disagree with your choice of license, but I shall defend to the death your right to choose it."

    That doesn't mean I can't explain why I disagree with it. Please stop putting words into my mouth. All I said was that the limitations that the GPL imposes have significant costs to projects which use it, and that I find the ramifications thereof sad. At no point did I say any of the things you just attempted to shame me for.

    Why is it that any time I speak on behalf of the BSD, GPL people start arguing with fantasies and blaming me for what their imaginations said?
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <.akaimbatman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:03AM (#19768603) Homepage Journal

    Also, for a license to be binding between two parties, don't the 2 parties have to have agreed to it?

    Yes sir. The GPL is a unilateral contract offer that one side has already agreed to. Thus it goes into effect as soon as the other side agrees. Since Microsoft has not explicitly agreed to the license (or explicitly distributed GPLed code, thus signifying acceptance or violation of copyright law) then Microsoft is not bound. That's my interpretation anyway. Providing a credit offer to pay for someone else's services does not, in any legal theory I've ever heard, bind you to the terms of the transaction between the buyer and the seller. You may accept certain legal responsibilities in that case (generally only as far as assuring that your offer was completed to the full written and intended terms of the contract between you and the buyer), but you have no real relation to the seller.
  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:11AM (#19768703)
    Notice that, in your example, MS cannot change the license on the code it did not write. The very worst that can happen is that people who want to use and/or distribute the code MS added, need to respect the Evil GPLv4 license MS stamped on its own code. Well, that's 100% independent of the GPL and even if the GPL did not exist, people would still have to accept whatever license MS wants to impose if they want to use and/or distribute code that MS wrote.
  • Re:Buhuhuhuhu. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:14AM (#19768753) Homepage Journal
    Heh. Well, of course, I could be wrong. That said, what I'm looking at is a bunch of the people I know personally who used to be GPL advocates changing their minds. Maybe it's temporary, and maybe the people I know are just clustered against chance. Those things do happen. Still, v3 is a big change over v2 in subtle ways, and among those people I know, there is a whole lot of discontent.

    Combine that with that those same people - again, maybe this is chance - finally realizing that corporations aren't just stealing code without donating back, because it's bad business (corporations using community code donate to community code because that encourages other corporations to do so, dramatically lowering their total development and maintenance cost, which basically every manager with any college training knows) - and you start seeing a pretty big shift in behavior.

    Again, maybe I just know a statistically unlikely cluster of people. But, the cluster's pretty big, and that sets my opinions pretty firmly. I could be wrong, but my belief is that the GPL is now in decline, and whereas like DOS it's never actually going away, in my opinion, a massive reduction would be a huge win for everyone.

    It's just what I believe. Time will vet or clown me. We'll see.
  • by williamhb (758070) on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:26AM (#19769009) Journal
    There's a very big false assumption that everybody seems to be making here. I am, of course, not a lawyer (so this is not legal advice).

    MS have not distributed GPL3 code, no matter how much we would like them to have. They have offered a covenant not to sue Novell's customers, and vouchers offering support for Novell's product. This is very different. None of this makes MS a party to the GPL because MS do not need any kind of license or copyright provision just to say "I won't sue Joe Bloggs, and I'll help him with his technical issues". No matter what the FooBarSpecialLicense attached to the product Joe Bloggs happens to own says!

    (And if you think otherwise ask yourself this: what part of copyright law would MS have broken by saying "I'm happy to assist with Joe's problem but I don't agree to your license agreement"? On what grounds could you sue them? Or if they say "Mr Novell, if you sell Joe a copy of product X, I'm happy to talk to him about any problems he has with it; but I don't agree to your license agreement" What would you sue them for? If there is no potential copyright breach, there is no license.)

    What the Novell-MS deal could have impinged on was Novell's right to distribute SUSE at all. If they were unable to offer the equal patent cover required by the GPL (and clearly they are unable to extend Microsoft's offer of patent protection to non-customers without Microsoft's consent), then they would have been unable to meet the terms of the GPL3 and thus unable to legally distribute the software. Except that Eben Moglen kindly gave them a get-out clause at the end of paragraph 11 of the GPL.

    In most countries, as I understand it, even if Novell hadn't been given a get-out clause, the only result would have been the Novell-MS deal being "frustrated". "Frustration" is where an unforseen circumstance prevents a contract from being possible to fulfill. This appears to me to have happened. An unforseen change (the FSF deliberately altering the GPL licensing terms to affect the deal) would have prevented Novell from being able to fulfill its end of the Novell-MS deal. It wouldn't have been able to distribute SUSE under GPL3 because it couldn't extend MS's patent provisions beyond what MS offered in the initial contract without asking MS first. Thus the Novell-MS deal would get terminated, and there might have been a little wrangle about "reasonable recompense for the services provided". (Novell would need to go along to a court to get the contract declared frustrated, however.)

    But with the get-out clause in para 11, even that won't happen.

    All up, Eben Moglen's grand plan doesn't seem to amount to a hill of beans.

    Disclaimer: Once again, this isn't legal advice. It is based on an engineer's shaky memory of engineering law lectures, and has the potential of being utterly wrong.

  • Re:Wait a second (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:48AM (#19769325) Homepage Journal
    Good luck making a Linux distro without GNU tools

    What, they're going to revoke my existing GPL2 installations?
  • by martyros (588782) on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:56AM (#19769449)

    Is there one where Company A releases code under GPL, Company B releases a derived project under a closed license and the case went to court?

    If the GPL has never gone to court in this way, it's for the same reason that continental ballistic missiles have never been used in combat. No one doubts that continental ballistic missiles could blow the face off half the planet, so it never escalates that far.

    The threat of copyright law (because if you don't have the GPL, all you have is someone else's IP and no license to use it) it is substantial enough that anyone who actually consults a lawyer will try to avoid taking it to court.

  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday July 06, 2007 @02:24PM (#19771581) Homepage Journal

    The missing point is until he gets hit by a bus.

    I haven't seen RMS' will, but I'm certain that he's made arrangements for his estate to be passed on to someone else who believes just as strongly in Free Software as he does.

    The man is far from stupid, and he consistently demonstrates amazing foresight.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @12:58PM (#19781311) Journal
    I'm glad you clear some of this up. I was looking and so many people are claiming that MS is using GPLv3 code somehow but I couldn't find out how. Now that I understand it is just the Novell agreements, I'm siding with you in that they never distributed it and aren't covered by the GPLv3 provisions at all.

    Something I would like to add is that with the GPLv3 as I read it, it says that when you receive the code you are giving a license and rights from the copyright owners. then it goes on to describe the patent stuff later. It would appear to me that the License is claiming that only if you place something in there that you would have to guarantee the right for others to use it. So if I distributed some code and made no changs to it, I would only be relaying the implied ability to do so from the GPLv3 license I received with the software. I wouldn't be adding any implications to it so if I found that one of my patents were being violated i wouldn't have lost any of my rights on it. Further, even if I did change or modify the code, as long as I didn't add the offending IP, I couldn't be held to have approved of the license ordeal.

    In other words, I can see that SCO or IBM is distributing some GPLv3 code and sneak their patented process into it and then claim that by their unknowing distribution, it is free, open and fair game now. SCO or IBM would have to have actual knowledge of the items being in there and have some say about them being placed in the code that is covered. It would be like having a yard sale where someone went on your neighbors property, opened their shed door and picked up their WeedEater and said I would give you 5 dollars for this. If you accept the $5 it doesn't negate the fact that the item was stolen or anything surounding it including the receiving stolen property charges.

    So even if Microsoft is bound by the GPLv3, I doubt that they are going to be put out by anything they didn't participate in releasing to the public via the GPLv3. I just don't see how it would be possible.
  • by quarkscat (697644) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:38PM (#19782633)
    Gee willikers, Microsoft: so sorry about that (but you are so bound) !

    Turn about is fair play, as far as I am concerned. I didn't purchare
    Win2K under License 6. Why should I now be subject to your change
    in license only because I needed a Service Pack to fix your crappy
    software?

    If there was truely justice in this world, Microsoft would have been
    broken up into at least 5 different pieces (operating units) at the
    end of the DOJ anti-trust trial. It was GWBush's "free enterprise,
    but only for the really big companies ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H
    contributors" rise to power that saved your "800 pound gorilla".

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