May 29, 2007 6:07 AM PDT

Novell worries that GPL 3 could foil Microsoft pact

Novell is concerned that Microsoft could stop selling Suse Linux coupons if the third version of the General Public License remains in its current form.

Its worries were aired on Friday in the delayed regulatory filing of its annual report for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2006.

The 144-page document posted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Web site contained redacted versions of Novell's business, patent and technology agreements with Microsoft, which it signed in November 2006.

While much of what was officially released is known, Novell did express concerns that the final draft of GPL 3, which slipped past its March 2007 deadline, could see Microsoft halting the distribution of Suse Linux, having a financial impact on Novell.

"If the final version of GPLv3 contains terms or conditions that interfere with our agreement with Microsoft or our ability to distribute GPLv3 code, Microsoft may cease to distribute Suse Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients," Novell stated in the document.

Another worry is that Novell may be restricted in its ability to include GPLv3 code in its products.

Novell admits in the statement that if its fears become reality, its business and operating results will be adversely affected.

According to the statement, certain software programs are not covered in the Microsoft-Novell pact, opening the door for Microsoft to pursue patent litigation. The programs named include OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, Wine and Open-Xchange.

Scott McKenzie of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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GPLv3, Novell Inc., GPL 3, pact, SuSE Linux

44 comments

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This shouldn't be a surprise
The writers of the GPL said they were going to include language to forbid such deals right when the deal went public. This shouldn't be a surprise. If it is, then they are trying for some kind of public sympathy or something. I'm not trying to be cynical, but Novell and Microsoft's lawyers intentionally tried to find a loophole in the GPL version 2. They shouldn't have thought that with the GPL version 3 being written, something wouldn't have happened. Now they just have to face the consequences, plain and simple. I don't think it will be Armageddon or anything, but likely, the deal will have to change or dissolve somehow. With several pieces of linux likely going to version 3, like Samba and the GCC, Novell will have to do something. It will take some maneuvering to save face with their customers though.
Posted by jeromatron (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed
Novell, despite their public posturing, could not possibly be surprised by this. I really don't care about Linux and FOSS/OSS generally, but even I remember comments made when the deal was announced and shortly thereafter related to closing the loophole that MS/Novell exploited. Because that's what it was - a loophole. And loopholes, so we hope, get closed if there's an unforeseen impact from their exploitation.
Posted by drhamad (117 comments )
Link Flag
The deal was with GPL 2
How would GPL3 have anything to do with the deal they made during GPL2? If a new license come up, they will have to renegotiate.

The terms have changed and the deal is off...
Posted by Astinsan (132 comments )
Link Flag
It goes like this
lets say in some crazy alternate universe the GPL3 states "that any work using GPLv3 cannot be bundled with anything from GPLv2". Then, the flavor app of the month(year...etc) comes out and you want to include it in your distro. Well its hard to do when all other apps in your distro are using GPLv2. So thats how an update to GPL3 could effect v2 apps and business. I dunno, I semi supported the MS novell deal even if behind the paper they want each other dead. However, as soon as Balmer opened his mouth and other from camp "Money"Soft opened their mouths....well..my opinion has changed. This deal was meant to give higher ups that warm fuzzy feeling, however it has turned into the MSFUD most said it would and novell looks like the little kid asking for its lunch money back.
Posted by Atari05 (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well..
Since MS is a public company... What Balmer has to say isn't really an issue because he can't speak for the entire company...
Posted by Astinsan (132 comments )
Link Flag
How much are the "ring" side seats...
... going to be dudes; the Tiger (Mac) and the 800lb Gorilla (OS/2) might just want to have the best seats on the WINDOWS/LINUX "fight" nights. Start the fight REF.... ROFL!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
800 lb gorilla?
Maybe an 8 ounce mouse.

That is all OS/2 is today in the OS market.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Dumb Enough To Go In Blind Without a Cane
To Novell:

You should have thought about this thoroughly before you entered into the 'covenant' with MS. Considering how MS has acted in the past with other technologies and companies, it comes as no surprise that if the GPL 3 becomes real with the wording you so fear, your business will become affected - all thanks to your premature thinking of the future - software patents will die, not flourish.

Let's not forget what Ballmer said during the press conference surrounding your deal. You DID manage to see the horns after everything was signed, right?

MS can't even list the patents that Linux and other open source projects allegedly violate because they don't have the resources to do so, however, they had the resources to go and investigate this and state how MANY were violated. Total, unmolested BS.

While I believe SuSE Linux is a fantastic product due to its ease of use, ease of install and ease of maintenance, minus a few personal quirks, I have no sympathy - read it: NONE - for you or the management that walked into this without any foresight as to what would occur - in other words, NO CANE.

We all said it. We all knew it. Your stubborn stupidity about it isn't a virtue. This is one time you should have listened more closely to the OSS community - and I'm pretty sure your customers said the same thing, contrary to what you might think.

File this under: DEE-DEEDEE!
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Forgive my ignorance
The standards are being changed. Novell and MS simply have to deal with it. MS didn't change the standards- they don't even have any voice in the matter.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
WAAAAAA
Novell brought this on themselves. What they did was get into bed with a *****, and a person can hardly complain about picking up a disease after such bad behavior.

It really is a shame since SuSE is the best Linux distro.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please keep this more temperate
Even though I agree with you (actually I'm
agreeing with all of it, SuSE is a good distro
[however, it depends on what you need]) please,
PLEASE, keep the discussion cleaner. Microsoft
may be bad, but this is still a public
forum, 'k?
Posted by ben::zen (127 comments )
Link Flag
boo hoo
Those clowns at Novell should realise if you make a deal with the devil your bound to get burned.
Posted by niceyuk (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
True
Was there ever a time or company that did a deal with Microsoft that didn't come back to haunt them?

Was there ever a man who did a deal with the devil that was able to keep his soul?

Some people never learn do they.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
Burned by Who?
They may get burned, but microsoft isn't the one with the torch. They are getting burned by the linux community. Who is enacting these new rules on the linux license? The linux community, not microsoft, and these rules are being enacted specifically because of the deal with microsoft. If Novell gets burned, the linux community is to blame.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Link Flag
you guys are obsessed
let's see - somehow its bad that Microsoft is supporting Linux - so bad that a faction of OSS developers are pushing to change the licensing terms to prevent Novell's linux customers from buying the distro / support from Microsoft (one less option for OSS customers).<br><br>

Now, instead of being annoyed with the OSS community or the silliness of it all, you go on about how this is Microsoft's fault and how evil Microsoft is.<br><br>

Was there some guy in your high school who happened to be wearing a Microsoft t-shirt every time he gave you a wedgie or stole your lunch money?
Posted by Nizzuts (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LOL
I think you might be on to something. I thought that perhaps MS gave them a pass on a job app. or something. Surely there is some logic to their pathology.
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Link Flag
History is a teacher
If you were paying attention then you would know about Microsoft's track record with Java, Mosaic, and the like. When you understand their tactics with both these important products that threated MS, they appeared to have an embrace strategy, all the while if was really a take control and then destroy strategy.

If you understood Microsoft's history here and with other tech, you would plainly see the devil at work.

There is nothing good about Microsoft and the OSS movement is right to avoid them as it is partly because of Microsoft that such a movement even exists.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
The Rules Were Spelled Out Already
MS is just trying to change them in any way they can - using whatever company it can.

I'm very surprised that it found a puppet in Novell to tug more strings since the SCO puppet obviously wasn't performing as well as they had thought.

Nevertheless, it's a known fact that MS has this tendency to demolish its competition (or spank if you read into Dell's past) in favor of its monopoly - and yes, it still has a monopoly in every sense of the word. The only reason it's paying attention to FOSS is because the very concept is eroding 1% of the substance of its business away from time to time and there is nothing MS can do about it - and this is something MS can't stand.

It's like that fish you take out of the water, let land on the deck of a boat, and it flops around for a while until you shoot it in the head. Then it just shakes for a bit more until it's dead.
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
Nope
MS is attempting to destroy Linux by entangling a Linux distributor in it's patents.

MS is trying to compete with Linux, but MS simply does not understand the Linux/open source mindset regarding economics.

Linux is a hobby for programmers. There is no "profit", there is no "market", Linux is not competing with Windows. It just exists.

Microsoft is trying to beat Linux in rat races, but Linux is kicking back in the shade, having a beer.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
Think of GPL 3 as a patch
Think of GPL3 as a patch to stop the Microsoft/Novell virus from infecting Linux.

There needs to be a quick turn around on this, after all Linux prides itself on fixing loopholes and vulnerabilities quicker than other operating systems.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's all crap.
Personally, I can't wait until the whole darn tech industry crashes and burns taking the copyright and patent systems with it.

Instead of companies or individuals focusing on creating technology that really does make our lives better we end up fighting over patents and copyrights. If we all spent as much time "innovating" as we do fighting we'd probably have figured out how to populate Mars by now.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Copyrights are fine
The only problem with them is that they are now effectively permanent which is counter to the motivation for copyright in the Constitution. Works are supposed to be protected for a short time and then go into the public domain where it benefits every one. Copyright terms need to be reduced back to 50 years, if not less time then that.

The patent system works well in areas it was intended to be. Lots of industries are positively affected by patents. The software industry has nothing positive to show from these patents.

Software patents need to go and there is real momentum for that to happen in the next few years. Read on the Supreme Courts rulings on this issue as late. They are just waiting for a case that will allow them to invalid all software patents. But they have already made it much easier to invalid the hundreds of thousands of bogus software patents, and work to that end is in full swing at the EFF. When software patents go the way of the typewriter, then true innovation will begin again.

If I write a program, whether it is truly innovative or not, copyright is all the protection I need. No one can legally copy my code without my permission, but if I have good ideas in there, they can build on that and advance the field. This is how it is supposed to work.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
No sympahty
Why dont I feel any sympathy for Novell, if you play with a rattle snake your gonna get bitten, as for infringed Microsoft patents they have yet to produce a list or evidence, just cause they can do some of the same things for the sake of compatibility or ease of use/transition Microsoft has a fit. Just because it looks and works the same doesn't mean the code underneath is the same, therefore its not infringement unless its some thing that is really special.

On the other hand I see no benefit for Novell for working with Microsoft, selling coupons for Suse is hardly a business partnership, unless they are doing some kind of collaborative work behind the curtain with code or something which makes one wonder if any GPL code got into MS products by "accident" before or after this deal, and that we will never be able to prove it cause they don't just throw out their code for anyone to review.
Posted by Babak Rezai (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Puzzled
All I can think of is that either somebody at Novell got a heck of a big chunk of cash (openly or under the table), or someone was a flat out, gullible idiot.

Can't rule out stupidity, but it's not my favorite.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
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