Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Software Linux

Microsoft States GPL3 Doesn't Apply to Them 509

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft States GPL3 Doesn't Apply to Them

Comments Filter:
  • by WED Fan ( 911325 ) <> on Friday July 06, 2007 @09:58AM (#19766705) Homepage Journal

    Serious question here:

    Has there been any successful court action enforcing any version of the GPL?

    Not settlements. I'm talking about an instance where a court in the U.S. has upheld GPL against a violator.

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

    by vigmeister ( 1112659 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:07AM (#19766835)
    So basically, when you use GPLed code, you have to agree to anything that gets put in there or risk losing the right to use that code? What if the code is deeply integrated into your system and then a new version of GPL comes along with stipulations you do not agree to? Are you pretty much screwed? If so, given the sentiments of the OSS community, MS should never have agreed to being bound by future versions of GPL. I mean, what if GPLv4 says you ought to reveal the context in which the GPLed code is being used?
    Seems like a bad decision by MS and now they're complaining when caught with their hands stuck in the ooze in the OSS jar (I like that analogy, however inaccurate it may be)

  • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:07AM (#19766843)
    Microsoft used to warn anyone who would listen about the GPL being viral. Touching it might give you free software cooties, and worse, infect your own intellectual property. But apparently Microsoft has found the solution to that, and is embracing the new, non-viral GPLv3!
  • What did we get?.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:10AM (#19766873) Homepage Journal

    GPLv3 worked.

    It will have worked, when a piece of Microsoft's code is opened for all to see. Wake me up then...

  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 660144 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:13AM (#19766915) Homepage
    Actually I think they are asking if you could release code as "GPLv3 only" before the GPLv3 was published.

    "GPLv2, or later" allows anybody, MS included, to chose "GPLv2" and ignore anything written in the GPLv3 license.

    IANAL, but my guess is releasing your code as GPLv4 only would be the same thing as not releasing it till the GPLv4 was published.

    The current conversation is based on the (highly likely) premise that Novel will put GPLv3 code in SUSE before MS shifts all their licenses. This is speculation but it is almost guaranteed given the amount of SUSE userland owned by the FSF.
  • When you buy Vista (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:18AM (#19766991)
    the EULA says you cannot copy (even to another computer you own) you cannot look at, benchmark or otherwise disinter the internal workings. You agree that MS can come in and change stuff adding programs and removing others as they feel fit. You also allow them to audit your machine.

    Oh, and they can change the terms as they wish just by posting to their webpage.
  • by The Cisco Kid ( 31490 ) * on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:28AM (#19767127)
    Opening up MS code is not the goal of GPLv3. Preventing code whose authors chose to license it under GPL3 is the goal of GPL3, nothing more. And it will do that.

    And saying 'GPL3 doesnt apply to us' is disingenious, becuase it may, or may not. It applies, if they accept some GPL3 code from someone or somewhere, that they dont have any other license to use (incorporate into their own code and/or modify, and distribute - not just 'run it'), then it does in fact apply to their use thereof.

    Presumably, MS' lawyers are smart enough to recognize that, but even more so, they are smart enough to use GPL3 for as much FUD as they can, to try and scare people (who dont already understand what the GPL is really abouyt) away from GPL3 (or even 2) software.
  • by LO0G ( 606364 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:40AM (#19767265)
    Boy, I can tell you're not a lawyer. Unless it's been ajudicated in a court of law, it doesn't count.

    Every IP lawyer I know (and I know several) advises their clients to stay away from writing or contributing to GPL projects, especially if the client sells closed source products as well. If their client's business model revolves around selling services based on those GPL projects, it's probably ok, but if the any part of the client's business model involves selling licenses to software products, it's not clear how wide the GPL can spread.

    Let me give you a hypothetical example. Consider an open source product that has a plugin model (could be Gimp, could be Firefox, whatever). In order to write a plugin for that product, I need to include a GPLed header that describes the plugin interface. By including that header, does it mean that I'm required to open source my plugin?

    The answer is that nobody knows, because it's never been adjudicated. Lawyers have opinions about it, but until a judge has ruled on it, they're just opinions[1].

    Given that nobody knows, if there's important intellectual property behind that plugin (maybe it's a 3d rendering algorithm, some nifty DSP for audio, whatever), any competent lawyer would advise their client to stay away from authoring that plugin - it's safer to stick with products that have non viral licenses, otherwise you run the risk of being forced to open source your entire product just because you included a public header.

    [1]To a lawer, an "opinion" is a statement of their understanding of the law (whereas an "opinion" to a lay person is a statement of belief).
  • Re:GPL is a license (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:41AM (#19767277) Homepage Journal

    The GPL is a License, not a contract.

    A license is a form of contract and lays its foundations on contract law. Which means that all the standard issues (e.g. consideration, acceptance, etc.) still apply. While consideration is usually built-in by the fact that the license provides you with rights to use something you wouldn't otherwise have, other standard contract issues still apply.

    Also, the coupons had no expiry date and were for SLES updates, so it very well should apply to them since FSF, MS, and Novell are ALL parties to this agreement.

    You are confused. Microsoft provided vouchers for someone else's service. Microsoft's agreement only goes as far as paying for those products on your behalf. The licensing of those products is irrelevant as Microsoft is not distributing them. They are only providing a credit toward purchases.

    It's a bit like saying that because I won a car on Wheel of Fortune, CBS is now responsible for the warranty. Which is nonsense, the manufacturer is still responsible for the warranty.

    What, did you sign anything to get MS's special non-commercial "hobbyist" patent covenant, or MS's special "customer of Novell" patent license? No!

    That doesn't even make sense. You purchase products from Novell, and Microsoft foots the bill. You and you alone are responsible for the license agreement between you and Novell unless the use of the Microsoft vouchers contained contract terms that implicitly made Microsoft a party to the agreement. And I can't think of any reason why Microsoft would do that.
  • Re:Enlighten me... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cching ( 179312 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @10:41AM (#19767287)
    I have to ask this to make sure we all completely understand, but so what if MS distributes a Linux distro under the GPL? I mean, what do they care? The argument has gone on so long that I'm forgetting why it's so funny that MS has done this. Is this all related to MS claiming the GPL isn't valid? Or is there something else going on? I think it would be good for someone to put this back in perspective again, I mean, I know it's funny that MS might be caught redistributing GPL software, but there's more to it than just that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:10AM (#19767697)
    "but what they have right now is GPL2 and GPL2 it shall stay."

    This is a flawed assumption. Microsoft has inadvertently relinquished all say in WHICH version is distributed in their name, that lies in the domain of Novell who have jumped on this and said (likely to ingratiate themselves back into the open source community) that they will only distribute the most up to date version of SUSE regardless of whether it has GPL3 OR GPL2 code. This is what Microsoft is dreading and can do nothing about since they never stipulated in the patent covenant agreement which code they were giving covenant protection for, only that it was Suse enterprise linux. This is why Microsoft has turned pale and are trying to turn themselves inside out to vainly free themselves of this hideous situation they have gotten themselves into, and hideous indeed it is. Novell is not playing the puppet on this one and aren't doing what they are told (nor do they need to either since it isn't in their agreement).

    Novell will provide versions of SUSE with GPL3 code to any person that shows a voucher branded with microsoft's consent to "distribute" a copy, the covenant protections of the microsoft/novell agreement AND the gpl3 terms of distribution will flow to the reciever, and then to any other person that the copy of SUSE is distributed to. Microsoft can do NOTHING about this, they've already done the hard work and passed out the vouchers, thousands and thousands of them, they have "distributed" SUSE linux to the masses essentially (with no expiry date I might add) which is stipulated in their agreement (in other words they MUST pass out all the vouchers according to their agreement with Novell), now all one has to do is wait for the Novell to integrate new GPL3 licensed code, which they have said they will do, show your shiny voucher, smile, pick up you shiny new novell cds/dvd and load the distro onto bittorrent, then laugh evilly as all of microsoft's carefully calculated effort goes up in smoke. This has essentially undone a decade of patent hoarding and scheming to put linux and all gpl code into microsoft's pocket. If it were not true then you wouldn't hear microsoft screaming so loudly that it isn't.
  • by M. Baranczak ( 726671 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:28AM (#19767979)
    For future interoperability. GPL v2 is not compatible with GPL v3; so if a piece of code is "GPL v2 only" it can't be incorporated into a GPL v3 project.

    And yeah, it does create a situation where you basically have to trust the FSF not to do something nasty. But I don't think this is a huge problem. What's the worst that can happen if I license my work under "GPL v3 or later"? They can write v4 which is so insane that nobody wants it; in which case, people would just choose to distribute my software under v3. Or they can remove the copyleft restriction in v4, which means that Microsoft could take my code and use it in Explorer 13.0, or whatever, without giving anything back; which would be a bummer, but the code would still be available under the old license if anybody wants it.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @11:36AM (#19768109)
    This is the company that said "Antitrust laws shouldn't apply to us".
  • by raventh1 ( 581261 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @12:58PM (#19769489)
    I am not party to the MS EULA
  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Friday July 06, 2007 @02:37PM (#19770933) Homepage Journal

    Otherwise, they may find themselves in the position of being considered shakedown artists in the same vein as the RIAA, MPAA, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton. Or, they run the risk of being accused of settling easy to avoid a potentially damaging judgement.

    There's an interesting aspect to this in regard to the RIAA.

    If Microsoft can argue in court that selling vouchers redeemable for a thing is not the same as distributing the thing itself, then that surely opens the way for web sites to legally sell coupons for MP3s redeemable at sites like To date, the ??AA have argued against this notion quite vigourously, So MS could face the unlikely prospect of the RIAA filing an amicus brief against them, if this ever comes to court.

    Of course, if that happens, it opens the way for companies to sell vouchers for XP and Vista operating systems, just so long as they're only redeemable from places outside US jurisdiction.

    But the real irony would be if, by attempting to fragment the open source community, Microsoft instead wound up setting the IRP lobby at one another's throats. I reckon we could sell tickets...

    #include /* IANAL, etc... */

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?