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OpenSUSE's EULAs vs. Free Software Ideals 59

Posted by timothy
from the naughty-naughty-lawyers dept.
Anonymous Coward Maximus writes with some interesting (and disheartening) bits found in recent EULAs from SUSE: "Apparently the Beta came/comes with an interesting EULA discussed in this Planète Béranger article that just makes me think where is this whole Novell/Microsoft ridiculousness going to end? One quote from the EULA to whet your appetite: 'The Software may contain an automatic disabling mechanism that prevents its use after a certain period of time, so You should back up Your system and take other measures to prevent any loss of files or data.' Hmmm... Here is the full Beta 3 EULA for you to dissect. Note that the final release has a different EULA that doesn't look that scary, but still mentions things like 'You acquire only a license to use the Software' and such." Personally, I find the "Benchmark Testing" section (under GENERAL TERMS in the final release's EULA) to be pretty irksome.
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OpenSUSE's EULAs vs. Free Software Ideals

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  • At least... (Score:4, Informative)

    by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:16PM (#23862507) Journal

    ... we have been warned.

    I know I will never recommend S.u.S.E. again.

    BTW I think it's to whet one's appetite.

    • Indeed it is whet as in whetstone. see http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/whet%20your%20appetite.html [phrases.org.uk]
    • by SplatMan_DK (1035528) * on Friday June 20, 2008 @06:59AM (#23870931) Homepage Journal

      ... we have been warned.

      I know I will never recommend S.u.S.E. again.
      You are being totally unfair. The article is on a deliberate rampage against Novell and uses out-of-context examples in a deliberate attempt to deliver FUD about SuSE.

      Let us please return to a FACT BASED discussion here.

      The time-bombing mechanism clause is in the EULA in order to warn users that the commercial distro can be used on a trial-basis, which will disable itself after some time. That is no different than the way a billion other shareware software products have been distributed for the last 3 decades. Ok, so Novell were stupid enough to actually write that in their license. Red Hat has an identical term in their Red Hat Enterprise for Mainframe / System Z distro. See for yourself. [redhat.com] It has a 180 day limitation.

      Is Red Hat now evil as well? Or could we PLEASE agree on the fact that this is a totally typical and normal way of letting users try c a commercial software distribution for a limited period of time?

      I am not a Novell stockholder, so frankly I couldn't care less about their company value or the market share they own. But i WOULD like to see actual FACTS finding a place in this debate. Not small snippets of text taken out of context and abused for spreading a message which is very different from reality.

      Taking small paragraphs and using them totally out of context is about the oldest FUD strategy in existence. And it is normally something we only see large corporations and monopolistic companies practice. It is very sad indeed to see that a community normally in opposition of FUD is turning to such methods.

      Novell may be evil. Fine. But if you want to call them bad names, could we at least get some actual facts, which live up to the same standards you would normally require in other issues - for example similar to the decent standard we see in the more scientific articles?

      Fact and actual information is king. FUD is FUD, no matter who wrote it and for what purpose.

      Personally I am beginning to get the impression that all discussions on Novell/SuSE end up similar to this little scene. [youtube.com] What more can I say? Buuuuuuuuurnnn! The logic in the discussion seems to be on the same level anyway...

      ;-)

      - Jesper

      • by cp.tar (871488)

        OK, thank you.
        I stand corrected.

      • by cp.tar (871488)

        OK, thank you.
        I stand corrected.

        Also, at first I dim-wittedly replied to myself, instead of you.
        So you can see how I managed the first lapse of judgement. I hope.

      • by pavon (30274)

        I doubt anyone will read this, but because it hasn't been said yet:

        The time-bombing mechanism clause is in the EULA in order to warn users that the commercial distro can be used on a trial-basis, which will disable itself after some time.

        It is actually even more innocuous then that. The time-bomb clause only applies to the beta release. This isn't something that they put in and then took out of the final release after second thought. It was intentionally in the beta release and only the beta release because they didn't want people to continue using the beta after the final version had been released. This is an extremely common clause to have in commercial pre-release softwa

    • I know I will never recommend S.u.S.E. again.

      Why, what changed? Are you basing this entirely on a slashdot article? Because I remember reading Suse's EULA in 2005 before any of this Microsoft nonsense and it still looked ridiculous for a project based on open source work. I didn't rtfa, but if that benchmark line refers to the prohibition against publishing benchmarks of the distro, along with a grant of automatic permission to reciprocate against any company that violates this clause, then this is very old

  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:16PM (#23862515) Homepage
    Novell doesn't really seem interested in the openSUSE community beyond using them as free testers anyway. Build Service notwithstanding, openSUSE is built by Novell and not by its community. Bugs on the bugzilla can link via dependency to closed internal bugs and then it's just "sorry, that's internal, we'll fix it now sit quietly please".

    I think there's some people with hearts in the right place even inside Novell (I'm not just talking about the Czech and German teams) but as an aggregate they don't show much sign on "getting it" where the community model is concerned.

    • It sure is a good thing that there are other distros out there. Novell can go fall into a hole so far as I'm concerned.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Grishnakh (216268)
        Exactly. It's not like we have a shortage of distros.

        I used to be a big SUSE fan; I started using it back in 1999 IIRC. I even got a free box copy of 10.0 sent to me because I helped in some bug-fixing. But then the MS patent deal happened, and my next OS upgrade was not to another version of SUSE, but to Kubuntu instead. I've been using Kubuntu ever since (just upgraded to 8.04 this weekend), and am very happy with it. The package management is so far ahead of the RPM mess that SUSE still uses, I'm an
        • by h4rm0ny (722443)

          SuSE was my first Linux install, way, way back. Since there agreement with Microsoft I haven't touched it and have, in fact, been responsible for dropping its use in our department. I don't trust Novell.
        • by ckaminski (82854)
          Same here. I loved YaST, at the time (2005) it was the best system admin tool available (could still be, but I've gone mostly headless on Linux now). 10.1 was my last OpenSuSE download. I switched wholly to CentOS and have been experimenting with gentoo-based netboot images lately.

          I got burned by not upgrading a hosted server from FC2 to FC4 then FC6 than FC8 and can no longer get security updates - I finally got p0wned by something fixed in FC8 :(

          And when my hosted servers run for YEARS without much mai
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Personally, I don't mind the Linux "upgrade treadmill", but then again, I'm not running headless servers, only a desktop, so I like having the latest and greatest (as long as it's not too unstable). The nice thing about the Linux upgrade treadmill, as opposed to certain companies' upgrade treadmills, is that it doesn't cost you anything except time to upgrade your Linux system. Forced upgrading really sucks when you have to pay for the upgrade.

            While I do understand the reluctance to change something that

            • by ckaminski (82854)
              Gentoo is kind of attractive in that fashion, because an update simply pulls updated packages. But the compilation stage is something I don't want to deal with. Can't have both I suppose. But I agree with you, the backporting is a Pain In The Ass.

      • Ah, but what other distro can you get preinstalled and supported (for a very reasonable price) on a new ThinkPad?

        *shakes fist at Lenovo*

        I lived through some of the years growing pains of Linux on the desktop and am not willing to go through it again with a laptop. A bunch of people have posted how-tos recording how they "succussfully" installed Linux (notably Ubuntu) on their T61s, but when you read the details, you find out that none of them really got it working right. They're just enthusiasts who are w
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Elektroschock (659467)
      Just kick the ximian guys out, the Microsoft fraud and return to KDE. Ah, and make a Debian installer based distribution. YaST is great.
  • I don't know if an EULA is even enforceable but we'll see how this EULA holds up against the GPL since almost all packages on their system are licensed under the GPL. Too bad it'll probably take another lawsuit to test this flying heap of poo.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I doubt we will.

      SUSE would most likely have to sue. You don't need to sue for the right to use the software. If you have the right to and the ability to, you just use it. Adding extra unenforcible terms would be equivalent to me saying "you may not respond to this post". Would that stop you? If I genuinely thought I had the right to demand such a condition I could sue you if you did but it would be laughed out of court
    • by DrYak (748999) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:54PM (#23864385) Homepage

      I don't know if an EULA is even enforceable but we'll see how this EULA holds up against the GPL since almost all packages on their system are licensed under the GPL.
      In fact, if you read the whole EULA instead of the /. summary, you may notice that :
      - novell acknowledges that this is as collection of software, most of which come with various OSS license
      - the EULA re-states copyleft software themselves may be freely copied
      - novell on claims the work of putting them together

      The beta EULA, given the context, may also be a poorly written "Warning : unstable and may crash randomly". The context of this sentence doesn't sound as "We have put a DRM and the distribution will self-destruct on purpose". /. should try to obtain an interview with some guys at Novell, so we can get to ask them what this is really all about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thedarknite (1031380)
      The EULA specifically states that licensing for individual components overrides this. Additionally, it seems to be more of a "Don't build on top of this and use our trademarks" more than anything else
  • by Simon (S2) (600188) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:18PM (#23862555) Homepage
    Is this not like re-licensing the code they ship? I guess most of the software they package is GPL, so is applying an EULA on GPLed code even allowed? Novell should be free to put EULAs on the code *they* write (of course), but OpenSUSE is a distro, and I guess most of the code is not their own.
    • by cp.tar (871488)

      Then again, the EULA is for the distribution as a whole.

      This shows why it is important to avoid deals such as the Microsoft-Novell one.

      Will the market punish this behaviour, or will it stick?
      Find out next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel...

    • FTFL (Score:4, Informative)

      by pavon (30274) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:22PM (#23865869)
      To expand on what cp.tar already said, from the second paragraph of the license:

      The Software is a modular operating system comprised of numerous components that may be accompanied by separate license terms. The Software is a collective work of Novell; although Novell does not own the copyright to every component of the Software, Novell owns the collective work copyright for the Software. Most of the components are open source packages, and most of the components are neither developed nor owned by Novell. Your license rights with respect to individual components accompanied by separate license terms are defined by those terms; nothing in this agreement shall restrict, limit, or otherwise affect any rights or obligations You may have, or conditions to which You may be subject, under such license terms; however, if You distribute copies of any component independent of the Software, You must remove all Novell trademarks, trade dress, and logos from each copy.
      Because the (L)GPL prohibits distributors from placing any additional restrictions on the software, none of the rest of the license applies to (L)GPLed portions of the distribution.

      I'm not sure if these restrictions would apply to BSD software. For sure Novell is not required by the BSD license to release the software under a BSD license, but they do - a copy of the license is included with all the BSD software. I'm pretty sure the BSD license would override the terms of distribution spelled out in the EULA, but I don't know about the benchmarking section.

      It gets especially confusing to me if you were say benchmarking the LAMP stack on SUSE 11 vs other distributions, since that starts to fall under the software as a collection rather than as individual packages.
    • by Albanach (527650)

      They explicitly don't do that, but the submitter ignored that for the sake of creating drama.

      As others have said, the EULA basically says Novell claim copyright over the package of all these apps. You can go ahead and distribute the whole package, or modified versions of any OSS software included. If you modify anything, you need to remove Novell's branding. Just like CentOS has to remove all the RH branding from their distro.

      As for the benchmarking clause. It applies only to software companies and their ag

  • Earth to Novell... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:21PM (#23862615) Homepage Journal

    You know, the world's not exactly beating a path to Linux distros. It might not be the best idea to piss off a huge percentage of your intended audience, especially given that it's much more freedom-loving than most.

    • You know, the world's not exactly beating a path to Linux distros. It might not be the best idea to piss off a huge percentage of your intended audience, especially given that it's much more freedom-loving than most.

      Some of these guys are anti-GPL as well. e.g.:

      "The current license for Linux requires you give back any changes you make to the open source community, but there's no way anyone can require those assurances and there's no way we'd know," Marcus Rex, CTO at the Linux Foundation said.

      Here are the

  • Creeping Evil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:36PM (#23862911) Homepage Journal
    That's sad, as I used to like SUSE back around 2000. I guess we can expect the same thing to happen to Google someday...the older a company gets, the more it gets taken over by lawyers and abandons any early ideals.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      I don't think it's based on age, I think it's based on size. The bigger companies get, the more bureaucratic and inefficient they become. I think it'd be better if most companies just never allowed themselves to get very big. Another big problem is public ownership vs. private ownership. Private companies can do whatever their owners want, instead of worrying about the quarterly financials and "shareholder value". Companies that go from private to public always seem to go downhill. Of course, small pr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:40PM (#23862975)
    The beta is from openSUSE (the non-oss version) ( http://lwn.net/Articles/283566/ [lwn.net] )
    The actual follow-on one is from the non-oss version of openSUSE ( http://ftp.nluug.nl/os/Linux/distr/opensuse/distribution/11.0/repo/non-oss/EULA.txt [nluug.nl] )
    The one referenced is for the oss version for openSUSE ( http://ftp.nluug.nl/os/Linux/distr/opensuse/distribution/11.0/repo/oss/EULA.txt [nluug.nl] )

    I will leave it as an exercise for the read to determine if it is actually an evil conspiracy or not.

  • by sidnelson13 (1309391) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:57PM (#23863323)

    It just looks like they are using the same parts of the EULA for all of their products, search/replace name of the product. Just look at the part of LIMITED WARRANTY. It makes no sense to an OpenSUSE user!

    I love OpenSUSE as a distribution, I am a constant user and I cheer for them , but I don't see myself as being the "You" they refer on the EULA. Actually, I don't see any OpenSUSE user being it.

    About the "Benchmark Testing", now I see why we never see OpenSUSE under benchmark testings on , say, Phoronix [phoronix.com] for example.

  • Yall are rabid! (Score:5, Informative)

    by croftj (2359) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @03:58PM (#23863331) Homepage
    Lets see, Novell has Novell/SuSE graphics and branding on the distribution. So you want to be able to take it, repackage it to fit your needs/desires/rabid tastes then still leave all the branding on it so it looks like it's the real Novell product. get a life!

    As for the benchmarking. That is a GOOD THING. It implies that if MS benchmarks Novell/SuSE and published the results, Novell then has the right to Benchmark MS's OS in spite of what the Way more draconion EULA states.

      They don't stop you from distributing the code, nor benchmarking. They just ask that you respect their branding and if you can benchmark theirs, they can benchmark yours.
  • I don't like it but that's what I like about F/LOSS projects: there's variety. I can always use another distro that can offer a (similar|completely different) experience.

    On the other hand, if I was using Windows...
  • Boycott Novell (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yfrwlf (998822) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#23864061)
    No problem, I'm not supporting Novell anymore anyway. Yes, they are an open source company, so they have helped out the community greatly in many other regards, however, if they wanted to continue helping, then they shouldn't have signed that patent deal.

    If Novell was serious about helping Linux and FOSS, they should have rejected getting on the patent train. Not only does it help legitimize software patents which shouldn't exist, but it's also a slap in the face to anyone not running their distro as you are only "protected" from Microsoft's patent racket if you use SLED/SLES and possibly Suse.

    I'm for businesses which stand up against the concept of software patents and stand up against big companies which try to trample on something good. The GPL can only do so much against software patents, so it's up to us to voice our discontent with them, and it's up to companies to do the same.

    Not to mention, I dislike how ridiculous all the things are which are granted software patents. Ooh, you changed your menu layout slightly? Congratu-fucking-lations, here's your patent.
  • Pure slashfud (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:40PM (#23864069)
    This submission is complete bullshit and I'm disappointed that it even is on the front page. This is a clear case of someone who doesn't understand the EULA misinterpreting its contents for dramatic effect. The section on benchmarking isn't at all insidious. Let's quote it verbatim:

    Benchmark Testing.
    This benchmark testing restriction applies to You if You
    are a software vendor or if You are performing testing on the Software at
    the direction of or on behalf of a software vendor. You may not, without
    Novell's prior written consent not to be unreasonably withheld, publish or
    disclose to any third party the results of any benchmark test of the
    Software. If You are a vendor of products that are functionally similar to
    or compete with the Software ("Similar Products"), or are acting on behalf
    of such a vendor, and You publish or disclose benchmark information on the
    Software in violation of this restriction, then notwithstanding anything to
    the contrary in the Similar Product's end user license agreement, and in
    addition to any other remedies Novell may have, Novell shall have the right
    to perform enchmark testing on Similar Products and to disclose and publish
    that benchmark information and You hereby represent that You have authority
    to grant such right to Novell.

    Anyone who can actually be bothered to read this sees that all Novell is doing is ensuring that they have the right to make their own benchmarks if some software vendor decides to benchmark Novells products against their own. This isn't diabolical at all.

    Also, as for the 'You acquire only a license to use the Software' quote, let's look at that in context:

    OWNERSHIP RIGHTS
    No title to or ownership of the Software is transferred to You. Novell and/or its licensors owns and retains all title and ownership of all
    intellectual property rights in the Software, including any adaptations or
    copies. You acquire only a license to use the Software.

    If you read that statement in context, instead of quoting it out of context for dramatic effect, you see that it makes perfect sense. Novell is saying that you don't own openSUSE or any of the other branded software they're giving you. They are using legal language to protect their ownership of their brand. This is not unusual and is just common sense. I can already hear some of you saying that this language must mean that Novell is violating the GPL and by not allowing redistribution. Anyone thinking of engaging in such a rant needs to read this before they make a fool of themselves:

    The Software is a modular operating system comprised of numerous components that may be accompanied by separate license terms. The Software is a collective work of Novell; although Novell does not own the copyright to every component of the Software, Novell owns the collective work copyright for the Software. Most of the components are open source packages, and most of the components are neither developed nor owned by Novell. Your license rights with respect to individual components accompanied by separate license terms are defined by those terms; nothing in this agreement shall restrict, limit, or otherwise affect any rights or obligations You may have, or conditions to which You may be subject, under such license terms; however, if You distribute copies of any component independent of the Software, You must remove all Novell trademarks, trade dress, and logos from each copy.

    You may make and use unlimited copies of the Software within your
    Organization. With respect to any version containing the letters "OSS" in
    the product name, whereby the product name is
    defined in first line of this Agreement, You
    may make and distribute unlimited copies of the Software outside Your
    organization. You may make and distribute unlimited modified copies outside
    Your organization provided You remove all Novell trademarks, trade dress,
    and logos from each modified copy of the Software. The term "Orga

    • you didn't.. ... ... rtfa? .. ... ... did you?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I certainly did. That's why I was so readily able to pronounce it to be fud. The author of the article clearly doesn't understand the SUSE EULA and is simply quoting parts of it out of context and offering his completely inappropriate 'analysis' of those cherry picked phrases. The article is bullshit and if you could be bothered to read my post along with the SUSE EULA you'd see that too.
    • You may not, without Novell's prior written consent not to be unreasonably withheld, publish or disclose to any third party the results of any benchmark test of the Software.

      If you release the results of a benchmark, you are in breach of the terms of the EULA, as such your license to the use the software is revoked, and you must uninstall the software (or at least strip out all the non OSS parts, and Novel Trademarks, at which point you might as well just install a different distro):

      Term. This Agreement becomes effective on the date You legally acquire the Software and will automatically terminate if You breach any of its terms. Upon termination of this Agreement, You must destroy the original and all copies of the Software or return them to Novell and delete the Software from Your systems.

      I like the reciprocal benchmarking rights spelled out in the second half of that paragraph, but the first half is a legitimate problem.

      • Yes, quite (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you release the results of a benchmark, you are in breach of the terms of the EULA, as such your license to the use the software is revoked, and you must uninstall the software (or at least strip out all the non OSS parts, and Novel Trademarks, at which point you might as well just install a different distro):

        No you don't. Read the section of the EULA again where Novell specifies what it may do if you violate that part of the EULA:

        If You are a vendor of products that are functionally similar to
        or compete with the Software ("Similar Products"), or are acting on behalf
        of such a vendor, and You publish or disclose benchmark information on the
        Software in violation of this restriction, then notwithstanding anything to
        the contrary in the Similar Product's end user license agreement, and in
        addition to any other remedies Novell may have, Novell shall have the right
        to perform benchmark testing on Similar Products and to disclose and publish that benchmark information and You hereby represent that You have authority to grant such right to Novell.

        You're not required to uninstall anything. Novell simply states that if you do a benchmark on their products that they can do one on yours. That's it. Don't be confused by the legal text where they reserve all of their additional rights - "and in addition to any other remedies Novell may have" - that's not some kind of trap. That language just protects their rights and lets you know

        • by amorsen (7485)

          Don't be confused by the legal text where they reserve all of their additional rights - "and in addition to any other remedies Novell may have" - that's not some kind of trap.
          Those spikes hanging from the ceiling are just decoration too, I'm sure. I won't worry about the
        • by pavon (30274)

          You still aren't reading/understanding that first half. In summary:

          BY INSTALLING OR OTHERWISE USING THE SOFTWARE (INCLUDING ITS COMPONENTS), YOU AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT.

          Term. This Agreement becomes effective on the date You legally acquire the Software and will automatically terminate if You breach any of its terms. Upon termination of this Agreement, You must destroy the original and all copies of the Software or return them to Novell and delete the Software from Your systems.

          You may not, without Novell's prior written consent not to be unreasonably withheld, publish or disclose to any third party the results of any benchmark test of the Software.

          So by using the software you agree to follow the terms of the license, in particular you agree that you do not have permission to distribute benchmark results. If you do so, then you are in breach of the agreement, and your license to use the software is revoked.

          That second half of the paragraph does not remove or nullify the consequences of violating the terms of the license - it just adds an additional consequence. Namely, that you h

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SirCowMan (1309199)

      The fedora project does the same thing: https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal/Licenses/LicenseAgreement9 [fedoraproject.org]
      Those dirty scoundrels, they're all the same! Seriously though, thanks for running the EULA for us. :)
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:36PM (#23866045) Homepage
    If you took part in Firefox Download Day, did you notice the unpleasant EULA that the Firefox installer pops up? Pretty much the same as any proprietary application. Looks like another case of taking free software and slapping a restrictive EULA on it for no reason other than the legal department think it's a good idea. I don't think what OpenSUSE does is right, and I'm glad I use Fedora, but it is certainly becoming more common.

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