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Novell Microsoft Software Linux

Novell May be Banned from Distributing Linux 553

Hymer writes "Reuters is reporting that Novell may be banned from selling Linux. In the wake of the (much maligned) Novell/Microsoft deal, the Free Software Foundation is reviewing Novell's right to sell the operating system at all. The foundation controls the rights to key parts of the operating system, and council for the organization said that 'the community wants to interfere any way it can' with the Novell business arrangement. No decision has yet been reached, but one should be made in the next two weeks." Is this a measured response, or an over-reaction to the Novell/Microsoft arrangement?
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Novell May be Banned from Distributing Linux

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  • Poor Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:33AM (#17871870) Homepage
    The article is poorly written. For example, the GPL3 is referred to ("If the foundation decides to take action, the ban would apply to new versions of Linux covered under a licensing agreement due to take effect in March."), but the writer doesn't explain that 'Linux' won't be under this license - only parts of it.

    However, the point is somewhat (perhaps) valid - if most of SUSE goes GPL3, and if the GPL3 is indeed in conflict with the Novell-Microsoft agreement, then there may be an issue (both qualifications seem likely, at present, but time will tell). The issue may be easily solvable, however, depending on the details of the Novell-Microsoft deal - which we do not know (Eben Moglen, however, supposedly does, or so we have been told).
  • Re:Poor Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:48AM (#17871932) Journal
    , but the writer doesn't explain that 'Linux' won't be under this license - only parts of it.
    Well, from what I know, it would be really difficult to migrate the Linux Kernel from GPL2 to GPL3, even /if/ Linus liked to do so as each contribution is copyright of the contributor.

    But from this:
    The foundation controls intellectual property rights to key parts of the open-source Linux operating system.

    I assume they are talking about the GNU toolchain (remember kids, its GNU/Linux, not just Linux). I guess the FSF *will* use the GPL 3 for the new GNU tools version, if they prevent Novell from *distributing* the GNU tools, then I guess things will get difficult for Novell.

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:51AM (#17871952)
    It's bad because the GPL says (section 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.
    ... and that allthough Novell hasn't itself (officially) payed any patent license to Microsoft, they have implicitly acknowledged that the users of the software they sell need a promise from Microsoft not to sue. If there's any reason to do that, then the Novell customers have not gotten the right to re-distribute. Section 2.b og the GPL:
    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.
    .. and therefore Novell would properly fall under section 4 of the GPL (at least in spirit):
    Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:58AM (#17871982)
    As part of the deal, Novell stopped funding an open source program to compete with Microsoft's Outlook []. So, the public face of this agreement compared to the actual back-room details leave much to be desired.

    Put a little differently, would you be upset if your friend was helping you and the neighborhood bully showed up and paid your friend not to help you anymore? You might be upset at your friend if he accepted the neighborhood bully's money and stopped helping you.
  • Article is FUD. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aim Here ( 765712 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @08:37AM (#17872226)
    An eweek article [] clarifies the situation. Eben Moglen was quoted out of context; he was talking about writing GPLv3

    "According to a recent Reuters report, the FSF's (Free Software Foundation) board was going to be looking into Novell Inc.'s rights to continue selling its version of the Linux operating system. That's not actually what's will be happening.

    Eben Moglen, the Software Freedom Law Center executive director and FSF board member, explained: "This is a story being hyped by the Reuters guy who wrote it."

    The Reuters quote was: "The community of people wants to do anything they can to interfere with this deal and all deals like it. They have every reason to be deeply concerned that this is the beginning of a significant patent aggression by Microsoft."

    "What he actually asked me," said Moglen in an e-mail interview, "was 'Is it true that some members of the community want GPLv3 to keep Novell from distributing future versions of GPL'd software?' I said, 'Yes, the Free Software Foundation is opposed to the deal, and is thinking about what to do; there will be a new draft soon [of the GPLv3 (Gnu General Public License Version 3).]"

    See Special Report: Novell's Linux Facelift

    Therefore, "The actual quote he prints is entirely accurate, but his lede destroys the context and is making unnecessary waves."

    The FSF, which governs the GPL (GNU General Public License), has long been concerned about Novell recent patent deal with Microsoft Corp. The Samba Group has stated that it wants Novell to abandon the deal. Open-source figure Bruce Perens started a petition that accused Novell of betraying the free software community. And, one group of free software supporters launched a Web site with a self-explanatory name, Boycott Novell. "
  • Re:Poor Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @08:52AM (#17872314) Homepage
    I may be wrong, but all I have read points in the other direction. Basically, various people contributed to the Linux kernel, and they wrote their own licensing texts. Some said "2 only", some "2", and some "2 or above". See Wikipedia [] for the following quote:

    "[...]the terms of the GPL state that if no version is specified, then any version may be used, and Alan Cox pointed out that very few other Linux contributors [other than Linus] have specified a particular version of the GPL."

    So OpenSolaris would be able to use most Linux code, it seems.
  • WRONG! (Score:2, Informative)

    by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @08:58AM (#17872356) Homepage
    "Therefor, Novell can now (continue to?) develop software that violates Microsoft's "Intellectual Property".

    You mean, therefor Novell CUSTOMERS can now develop software that violates Microsoft's "Intellectual Property.
    Quite Honestly it makes little difference what these customers develop in the first place because their are not redistributing this software.
    Now when a customer using Windows and Linux needs to copy a feature used by MS to get proprietary application X to run on Linux they have an agreement that MS will not sue them for it.
    All code being distributed by Novell was and still is bound by the terms of the GPL.

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Informative)

    by a_n_d_e_r_s ( 136412 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @09:09AM (#17872414) Homepage Journal
    As much as there is the *potential* for problems let's be very frank about this and realize that Microsoft has not been the company doing the suing.

    Actually thats not true. Cases Like VirtualDub and SCO - Microsoft suing by proxy - are examples that Microsoft can do a fair share of suing - when needed.

    Since Microsoft has been crusing opponents in other ways they do not need to use the courts to stop them. But be well aware that even the hint from Microsoft that they will sue can force a company to rethink its strategy. Noone wants to be on the other side of a lawsuit brought upon them from Microsoft.
  • Spreading FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by lRem ( 914073 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @09:44AM (#17872690) Homepage
    Ahhh, another AC spreading FUD...
    The whole Reuters article is FUD. Novell has not crossed any license, nor anybody at FSF thinks they can ban Novell from anything. What they are thinking about, is including something in GPLv3 to forbid wording that may suggest OSS breaking patents in those public deals. They even already posted a clarification! []
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Informative)

    by drawfour ( 791912 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @10:32AM (#17872982)

    Finally, a question for the lawyers, if there are any here: if Novell does distribute such conflicting changes and if MS chooses not to sue Novell over this, can they (MS) go after anybody else? Don't they lose the rights they choose not to defend?
    IANAL, but I know the answer to this. Trademark is the only thing required by the law to be actively defended or you lose it. Selectively enforcing patents or copyright violations is perfectly legal.
  • You are confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @10:37AM (#17873016) Homepage Journal

    Again I agree Microsoft might not be the best company on the block but I think we need to move beyond "Microsoft is evil" emotion.

    Yes, yes, indeed []!

    If people push Novell too hard I predict Novell will move to FreeBSD and that would be a shame...

    No, that would, actually, be a great thing — they should've started with a better OS to begin with (ha-ha). But it would not help the problem, which is largely with applications — Evolution, Samba, et al. are licensed the same way, independently of the underlying OS' license.

  • Re:Poor Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Deorus ( 811828 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @11:16AM (#17873284)
    That is not true for a simple reason: a contributor doesn't have to agree with anything besides the compatibility of their code with the GPLv2 in order to submit code. Therefore, without an agreenment, there's no reassignment of rights, and the effective license at the end of the day is the kernel's (since that's the licence with which the mainstream-blessed code is distributed): GPLv2.

    Don't take my word for it, let me dispell your beliefs with this thread [] on the LKML, or if you're not feeling like reading a flame, a clarification message [] from Patrick McLean, or if that's not enough, another clarification message [] from Linus himself.

  • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @12:10PM (#17873634) Homepage

    The people that recieved it can not comply with the GPL by providing endemnification and therefore cannot redistribute it. Thus defeating the entire purpose of the GPL.

    As long as the entirety of what was distributed is created only by Novell, then this is so. However, if any part of what Novell distributes consists of GPL components from others, then this is a violation by Novell because Novell does not have the rights to limit or restrict distribution of anything containing such parts. The entirety of the GPL must apply in whole to the whole thing being distributed (e.g. a Linux kernel ... and other components like glibc) and that requires the distributor (Novell at that point) to grant all the rights of the GPL (which means anyone who gets it from Novell also has to have royalty-free patent rights, too).

    Basically, Novell is losing its right to distribute the components it does not create that are covered by GPL because it is attaching something that cannot be redistributed. It's similar to linking in some piece of code they write and saying "You can distribute the rest of Linux but not this little part we wrote". The GPL does not allow that.

    Novell could go write their own OS entirely themselves and distribute that under any terms they choose. But they can't distribute the pieces of Linux (as part of the whole) they did not develop unless they grant to the entire thing all the rights they have in it. If they add patent indemnification to it, they have to grant full free and infinite redistribution of those rights for the whole thing to be able to legally distribute that which contains the other parts (other parts being parts of Linux they did not distribute).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:54PM (#17874962)
    Have you guys even looked at Solaris? I have (having worked at Sun), and most of the Linux kernel wouldn't be of interest. The main thing would be in the device driver area. Solaris x86 sucks badly in terms of supported hardware. It truly blows.

    But it's not a simple issue of taking Linux drivers and dropping them in. Solaris has a specific well documented and adhered-to API for drivers - the DDI and DKI. So, all drivers of interest would have to be ported over to support this. It's straightforward, but non-trivial.

    Anyway, the point here is that if work is going to be needed on the drivers, if the author withholds the relicensing it's not that big of a deal. Sure, it will save you some time. But it's not a show-stopper by any means. It's just a slight inconvenience. BFD.

    In terms of the rest of the kernel, Sun has (for the most part) been ahead of Linux. It's only been recently that Linux has started getting closer, but the Linux kernel is still at least a few years behind Sun in the majority of things.

    So, yes, Sun will have an advantage of a one-way street. They also have a lot of other advantages. Once they get the device driver support in, they will become a very serious contender for wide-spread O.S. adoption.
  • Re:Spreading FUD (Score:2, Informative)

    by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @04:13PM (#17875690)
    If you have granted a license you cannot arbitrarily revoke it since the license is a binding contract between you and the licensee. If you don't want the licensee to have those rights, well, shouldn't have granted them a license in first place. Once they have a license you can only take it away under the conditions outlined in the license.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:52PM (#17877322)
    Therefore, Novell must end the SCO way.

    SCO looks like they may pretty much end when their assets are frozen due to a preliminary injunction filed by... Novell. It's all so confusing.
  • by LocalH ( 28506 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @08:49PM (#17877650) Homepage
    The chance of the kernel going GPLv3 is still 0% - it never included the "newer version" provision that some use with the GPLv2. It can't go GPLv3 unless you contact each and every single contributor with code that is currently in the kernel.
  • Re:Spreading FUD (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @12:47AM (#17878850) Homepage Journal

    Novell's problem is that the FSF controls the development of large pieces of software that are critical to the SuSE Linux distribution. Sure, The FSF can't retroactively change the license of existing versions of these software packages, but Novell is going to find itself in serious trouble if it is unable to distribute future versions of this software which will be release under the redesigned GPLv3. Even worse, there are plenty of people outside of the FSF in organizations like the Samba developers that have equally strong feelings about the Novell/Microsoft deal. Like it or not, new versions of a significant portion of the SuSE distribution are going to be released under the GPLv3. If Novell has to take on the added expense of maintaining its own GPLv2 forks of all of this software then it may as well go back to hawking Netware because its aspirations of becoming a powerhouse in the Free Software world will be finished. Novell is having a hard enough time simply competing with Red Hat. There is no way that it can compete with Red Hat and the entire Free Software community while trying to maintain SuSE, all of the software that switched to the GPLv3, and Netware to boot.

    Unfortunately for Novell it also needs the money that Microsoft provided as part of the deal.

    So Novell is going to pretend that everything is hunky dory and hope that somehow the FSF is bluffing about the GPLv3. Of course, RMS is the kind of guy that decided to write his own operating system rather than live in a proprietary software world. I think that the chances of him being persuaded by Novell is essentially nil.

  • FUD, indeed. (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @07:38PM (#17884100) Homepage

    The FSF foundation is: "reviewing Novell Inc.'s right to sell new versions of Linux operating system software".
    The foundation is not.

    Go to [], read the current event / news / etc... The words "Novel" "Stop" and "SuSE Linux" never occur in the same sentence. There are the BadVista campaign, events around the GPLv3, rants about iPhone, TiVo and other non-open platforms, news about openness in EU. Nothing about SuSE or Novell.

    Jump to []. There are news about SuSE Linux 10.2, development of version future 10.3, announcements about FOSDEM. No "FSF is illegitimately calling us 'GPL traitors' without knowing the whole story".

    You can even look on various websites which are usually well informed about background stories in the open-source world, like LinuxJournal, LinuxWorld, etc...

    In short : the Reuters news isn't mentioned by any primary source. It's probably the wild guess and approximative interpretation of someone who isn't very well informed about the whole deal, who tries to make crazy guess about the new section of version 3 of GPL, and pull out of his ass some interpretation about the implication on the Microsoft-Novell deal.
    In fact, the second half of the article is about various movement of Novell's shares, the amount of money in the deal and other similar information. Could almost be considered as stock dumping spam.

    Conclusion : it's just some trader who pulls interpretations about GPLv3 and Novell out of his ass.

    Don't trust me ?
    You can just fucking google the quote [].
    You'll mostly find aggregators that just repeat Reuter's article.

    Still not sure ?
    Read the explanation from the one who said it himself [] : he was saying that the project is to make a GPLv3 that avoids patent trolls and patent deals similar to the Novell one. He was never talking about stoping Novell from selling SuSE right now. His words were put out of context to make the news sound more terrifying.

    In the future, Novell could either sell it under GPLv2 (probably until 10.4 - until GPLv3 code appears in non-alpha code that is used in actual distribution), or renegotiate the deal with Microsoft (and loose all the money that MS has given in exchange) or prove that Novell doesn't violate GPLv3.

    AND ABOVE ALL, it's not in FSF's and the open source world's interest to shut novell out from linux : Suse and Novell have been active in the development of a lot of different projects (I could cite ReiserFS and KDE for Suse and Evolution and Mono for Ximian branches of Novell). They should mostly try to be certain that open source code stay free for everyone to use and modify regardless of patents. The current fear is, although the code it-self is free, it couldn't be freely used by someone who hasn't signed a patent deal with MS like Novell did. That's something that GPLv3 wants to tackle. (And that's something that still has to be proven by MS - i'm still thinking that their whole point wasn't to sue everybody else apart Novell for patent infringement - which won't be efficient because their patents could be rejected because prior art, obvious, or clean-room RE, and because open-source community has proven to be incredibly fast at replacing patent-mined code -, but to create chaos in the open-source community between Novell and others - As Julius Caius Caesar put it : divide and conquer).

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.