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What the GPLv3 Means for MS-Novell Agreement 161

eldavojohn writes to mention IT Business Edge has a dry but interesting interview with a lawyer (Antoinette Tease) on the effects the GPLv3 on the Microsoft & Novell alliance. From her answers: "Unlike prior versions of the GNU General Public License (GPL), which did not address patent rights, the current draft of the GPL version 3 has several provisions that address patent rights. Section 2 states that the license to use the open source code 'terminates if you bring suit against anyone for patent infringement of any of your essential patent claims' based on any version of the open source program." She goes on to say "the GPLv3 as currently drafted would impose an obligation on Novell to somehow 'shield' its customers from patent lawsuits brought by Microsoft, or, alternatively, to make the source code publicly available..."
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What the GPLv3 Means for MS-Novell Agreement

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  • What is microsoft doing? Are they trying to get into the Linux market or are they just playing patent games?
    • by PhysicsPhil ( 880677 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @03:56PM (#18266342)

      What is microsoft doing? Are they trying to get into the Linux market or are they just playing patent games?

      Can't they do both?

    • Re:micro$oft (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @03:59PM (#18266388) Homepage

      What is microsoft doing? Are they trying to get into the Linux market or are they just playing patent games?

      FUD and misdirection I should think.

      The more we can bandy about the claim that only people who get indemnity from MS/Novell can be free of all of the (alleged) patent infringement which is (allegedly) peppered throughout the Linux codebase, the more people might actually believe it.

      They want to be able to spread the perception that Linux is tainted by their IP, and that running it if it isn't the 'blessed' system is done at your own peril. If they 'embrace' Novell, then they can extinguish all of the other ones by freezing them out. Then, they extinguish Novell over time.

      Of course, that's just what I think. I've been known to be wrong before. :-P

      • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:22PM (#18266670) Homepage Journal

        > FUD and misdirection I should think.

        Surely, but I think there's more to it.

        One goal is to divide the free software community. With the Novell deal, Novell no longer has an interest in helping the community to fight MS's patents. Worse, Novell now benefits from Microsoft's patents getting more and more dangerous. To fight the patent problem, we can't afford to lose any friends. ...not the Novell was much of a friend in the anti-swpat campaign [], but if MS is allowed to buy on free software distributor, they can buy others.

        And another motivation a little more base: extortion. Microsoft has been in stagnation for a long time and it now scrambling to slow everyone down to prevent their demise. It would be a clever long term strategy to find a way to profit from the free software operating system that will probably replace theirs.

        • by Rycross ( 836649 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:37PM (#18266850)
          I think that its more about Microsoft being able to say they interop without having to actually do it in a real, significant way. That way they can avoid possible lawsuits without actually having to give people a possible migration path. They're getting sued in the EU over interop issues after all... and it does fit in with Microsoft's MO. Not that FUD isn't a nice bonus.
        • Why is Microsoft trying to make it impossible for Novell to use GPLv3 components?

          BSD will benefit. Will we see the GNU tools replaced by BSD based tools?

          Is that even possible? (I'm asking a serious question, as opposed to the troll like nature of the rest of this post)

          I see GPLv3 as being far too political a license.

          Stallman has had his Shockley moment. After being surrounded by people telling them 'your poop don't stink' and how smart they are for a period of time lots of smart people 'Go Hollywoo

          • by Rycross ( 836649 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:22PM (#18267356)
            I never understood people complaining about GPL3 being a political license. Of course it is. GPL has always been political. The very reason for it existing is political. It was made to encourage the spread of Stallman's views concerning software, and to enforce the FSF's definition of Free software. And there's nothing wrong with that. You aren't being forced to use it.
            • I guess the problem is a little like politics. You get confortable with certain political aspect that you expect it as being normal.

              The GPLv2 did just this. It was the just enough that everyone thought it was right and the way to be. The GPLv3 forgot to take babysteps and asumes that people will follow in groves. Unfortunatly, quite a few of those people see it as excessive and impracticle. They don't aggree with part of it while some don't agree with all of it. I personaly don't think it is in the spirit o
          • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:26PM (#18267414) Homepage Journal
            No, Novell can't replace the GNU bits with BSD bits - even the BSDs don't do that!

            Every BSD is GCC built and ships GCC to their developers.

            Also, there's no BSD replacement for GIMP, and replacing Glibc and replacing it with a BSD libc would be very hard. An operating system's libc has to marshal between the kernel and the userspace - Glibc has been doing this for 15 years for Linux and the GNU userspace. A new libc would be a world of problems.

            Anyway, other packages such as SAMBA would still be out of bounds (they've said they're moving to GPLv3 too).

            Oh, and as for Stallman being surrounded by sycophants - his main job is travelling and giving speeches and answering emails - he hears criticism and questioning every day.
            • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:59PM (#18267836) Journal

              An operating system's libc has to marshal between the kernel and the userspace - Glibc has been doing this for 15 years for Linux and the GNU userspace. A new libc would be a world of problems.
              Actually, it's surprisingly easy. Obviously it's non-trivial, but BSD libc implementations tend to be quite portable. Issuing a system call is done differently between Linux and BSD[1], but that isn't much of a problem since everyone uses a macro or an inline function wrapping the assembly that issues the system call. *BSD and Linux system calls have very similar semantics in a lot of cases. Since they both aim to implement POSIX / SUS, they both tend to have very similar arguments to their system calls. If you look in the FreeBSD kernel's Linux compatibility layer (for example), then a lot of Linux system calls are handled by the function that handles the corresponding FreeBSD system call; the only difference is the system call vector that handles the calling-convention translation.

              The vast majority of Free Software runs on FreeBSD at least as well as it runs on Linux (there are occasional Linuxisms, but people seem to be getting better at avoiding them), so there aren't any issues with most applications running on something other than glibc. Incidentally, glibc itself isn't particularly tied to Linux; it runs happily on HURD, and has been at least partially ported to FreeBSD and Solaris (I don't know the current status of either port, however, since they were not integrated into the main tree).

              [1] Both use Interrupt 80h, but Linux uses the DOS calling convention, and passes arguments in ebx, ecx, etc, while *BSD uses the UNIX convention and passes arguments on the stack. Both pass the system call number in eax.

            • by nuzak ( 959558 )
              > replacing Glibc and replacing it with a BSD libc would be very hard

              Perhaps you're unaware that BSD has always used its own libc. Or that Linux can run most all apps on uClibc or dietlibc with nothing more than a recompile.
              • I know BSD uses BSD libc, that works for BSD. Porting it to Linux would be hard.

                As for uClibc and dietlibc, they cannot run most or all apps that GNU libc can run. I don't know who's told you that, but it's a whopper.
        • I don't understand (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Degrees ( 220395 ) <degrees&sbcglobal,net> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:21PM (#18267346) Homepage Journal
          I have to admit: I don't understand the idea

          Worse, Novell now benefits from Microsoft's patents getting more and more dangerous.

          I'm a Novell customer, and Novell makes a decent amount of money off us. If Novell gave Microsoft a reason to sue us, we'd drop Novell and become an all-Microsoft shop.

          I don't understand why people think Novell wants to jeopardizes it's business.

          There was speculation that the deal was designed to scare Red Hat customers over to Novell. But I don't see that as reasonable either. If Microsoft sues Red Hat customers, Red Hat, the FSF, and indeed Novell will sue Microsoft to show us the code [].

          I just don't get it. We had one Linux server going into 2006, and because of our Novell license agreement, at the end of 2006 we had twenty-two. (We're up to 25 now). Seven or so of those were migrations away from NetWare - which is the sensible path Novell is suggesting to it's customers. Why does Novell want to jeopardize that?

          What does make sense to me is that Novell kept trying to sell Linux into big companies, and the Microsoft FUD was working. The only real way for Novell to counter that was the Novell-MS deal.

          My CIO thinks better of Linux, now that Microsoft has acknowledged it. If Microsoft was trying to sow FUD in our shop, that certainly back-fired.

          Although, if the FSF is successful in cutting Novell's Achilles Heel, then I suppose the Microsoft gamble will have been worth it (to Microsoft at least).

          • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:40PM (#18267620) Homepage Journal
            Novell benefits from Microsoft's patents becoming more dangerous because Novell is the only GNU+Linux distro that is protected from those patents, so if people are afraid of Microsoft's patents, they might run to Novell to benefit from the protection.

            So when Microsoft's patents are more dangerous, Novells advantage is more prominent.

            So we've lost one ally (or should-be ally) in the long-term fight against software patents. What if we also lost Red Hat and Sun and the other companies that love our software because it lines their pockets? What would our chances look like then in the campaign against software patents? The campaign against DRM? The campaign against proprietary formats? etc. etc.

            What Novell did was not bad for Novell's business (if we ignore what it did to their status in the community, and that GPLv3 is going to create big problems for Novell now). For a dog-eat-dog mindset, it was a smart move. But the relationship between the free software community and the companies that profit from free software is not meant to be dog-eat-dog - it's supposed to be solidarity. That's how we win, together.

            So GPLv3 will say: "No giving in - no selling out". If some code violates a patent, we try to get the patent thrown out, or we ditch that piece of code. GPLv2 said that too, but Novell found a loophole. That will be closed.
            • by Degrees ( 220395 )
              Thank you for that. It is understandable to me now, and I can see why you think that. I'm not in total agreement - but at least it makes sense to me now. :-)

              My primary concern is that if my CIO has to choose between Free Software and Microsoft - he will choose Microsoft. If the FSF is dead-set against Novell being able to redistribute GPL v3 code, then I'm going to have to learn to love The Dark Side.


              • Hmmm, there's still some misunderstanding.

                FSF isn't against Novell being able to redistribute GPLv3 code. FSF's deal is that you can't profit from harming the community and still distribute GPLv3 code. So the outcome is that Novell is going to have to go back to Microsoft and renegociate their deal. (Unfortunately for Novell, MS has a history of shafting its business partners.)

                (Deals can always be renegociated in the case of "frustration of contract" - for example if you contract me to build a boat for y
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Degrees ( 220395 )
                  "Harming the community" in this case means "Novell got Microsoft to agree to not sue Novell customers" ?

                  And if Novell renegotiates that portion of the deal, then the FSF would be happy?

                  I see where that has some appeal; it puts Novell in the same position as Red Hat. But to me it also means the death of Linux in large data centers. Not that Sun would mind that....

                  If you are large enough to have a big data center, you are large enough to attract nuisance lawsuits. No CIO is going to expose his company to t

                  • Ok, I see your situation better now.

                    I can see how Novell's deal can help increase adoption of free software in situations such as yours. However, this isn't enough to make it acceptable.

                    What's happened is that Microsoft has been able to extract a payment for your use of GNU+Linux by proxy through Novell.

                    Your CIO is scared of MS's patents, Novell pays MS, you pay Novell.

                    This sets an example to patent holders. It shows that there is a way to make GNU+Linux users pay patent royaltees.

                    So it encourages patent
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by Degrees ( 220395 )
                      Thank you. The explanation wrt to shake-downs / protection money makes sense. I hadn't really thought about it that way, because we've been a Novell shop since 1992. We've been paying Novell for use licenses and technical support for all our products, and from this point of view, Linux was just another OS, the successor to NetWare. We've been thinking of our license and support fees as just that: money to them, to support us.

                      With the Novell-MS deal, the balance of cash moved toward Novell and away from Mic

            • What, now licenses have security holes too? Who would've thought?! Good to see the FSF are quick to release a patch!

              Disclaimer: I'm joking.
          • I have to admit: I don't understand the idea

            Thats because the idea is too complicit on the idea of malice being at the front of it. Someone once told me to never attribute malice to something that can be explained by ignorance. And giving Novell's history of getting burnt when working with microsoft, I would say they were verry ignorant in the deal.

            But if you ask me, the only thing this boils down to is microsoft covering their ass in trying to stop people from migrating away from their products. They re

            • by Degrees ( 220395 )
              I'm sure you are correct that Microsoft is trying to stop people from migrating away from their products. You are also correct that their FUD machine spun up the community to a fearsome level.


              Almost like they knew that the idealists would work against the pragmatists.

              • Oh yea. It was plan B sitting there waiting to see Vista's reaction and acceptance. Microsoft likley held back the public release to get this all in order.

                If i remeber right, Novell claims they were just looking into how to better serve their customers and microsoft tossed this IP deal out there. You don't just offer all your secretes for nothing or to be nice. Well microsoft doesn't anyways. And the vast majority of us are still looking between the FSF and novell instead of where we should be.
        • The most important goal is the one you missed. And unfortunatly it is so obvious the fact you missed it is likly to mean it is working.

          Ask you self, what is going on at microsoft right now.

          This entire situation is created with the sole intent to keep people away from non microsoft products. And microsoft didn't want to look like the bad guy for obvious reasons so they pushed it off onto Novell. And in all this, the opensource cominity is extreamly happy with creating as much chaos as possible to keep large
    • They want to create more FUD. I know a lot of shrill voices here don't like Java (sometimes for good reasons, no language is all things), but the JVM is the alternative to CLR/Mono. Check [] to see what I mean.

      Novell produces Mono, and there is now a window where organizations can consider it "safe" to use - safe from patent and other "IP" discrimination. That window may be enough to distract people from the Java/JVM alternative, and if they manage any kind of dominance they can j
    • What is microsoft doing? Are they trying to get into the Linux market or are they just playing patent games?
      Here's my take []. Plausible, and even possible. Probable? I don't know.
    • MS is pursuing large corporations and government departments who wish them to provide support for the whole nine yards - Windows, Linux, whatever. Basically, they are trying to become more like IBM. If they succeed, then their stock will eventually go up again. If not, they'll fade slowly, like DEC, Wang and others who once were great.
  • From doing a quick read, it sounds like there are concerns on how much protection GPLv3 actually provides. Does this mean that developers will continue to release software under the GPLv2 until this gets straightened out. Is this an option for Novell, or, has their cross-licensed software already been released under GPLv3?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      From doing a quick read, it sounds like there are concerns on how much protection GPLv3 actually provides. Does this mean that developers will continue to release software under the GPLv2 until this gets straightened out.

      The GPLv3 doesn't exist yet. It's still being drafted []. Any complaints about the GPLv3 are thus actually complaints about a possible, future GPLv3, and can still be addressed.

      • Furthermore, GPLv3, when it does finally exist, will be unlikely to cover the Linux kernel. Linus (along with other kernel copyright holders) has already stated his distate for GPLv3 multiple times, and the current license for the kernel states GPLv2 only and has for more than 5 years.

        • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
          Too bad for Novell that all the GNU software (which you can't have a working Linux system without, and that includes BSD since they use GCC and some other GNU software) will be GPLv3 or later, so they'll have to maintain their own fork that only SUSE users will care about. OpenSUSE probably won't have the same problem, but SLED and SLES probably will.
    • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:28PM (#18266764) Homepage Journal
      Using GPLv2 is not an option for Novell because they don't own the software they package and redistribute.

      When developers switch future versions of their software to GPLv3, Novell will not be able to incorporate the changes in those new versions.

      So if Novell wants to avoid GPLv3, they will have to forever stay with Glibc 2.5, GCC 4.1, coreutils 6.7, and old versions of GIMP, emacs, bash, gdb, etc. etc.
      • lol. it isn't forever. It can be forked and developed independent of the FSF. So Glibc 2.5 could become something like Glibc 2.5N for novells version.

        And I don't think Novel is the only one who is going to be wanting to use this. So it will probably continue to be a community effor with the biggest difference in being that both communities are smaller now.

        As far as I know, unless something drastic happens the kernel will be staying GPLv2 also. SO they better watch how tight they try to make the GPLv3 restri
  • Patent rights (Score:3, Informative)

    by hexene ( 68121 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:01PM (#18266422) Homepage
    Er, GPLv2 does address patent rights. It's just that GPLv3 overhauls how they're handled.
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:02PM (#18266436) Homepage
    The correct language in GPL v3 would be something like, "This agreement is void in its entirety if the covered software is found to implement a current, valid patent whose owner has not offered the patent for use for free in any manner comperable to how it is used in the covered software." They keep trying to skirt the issue, which is that you can't have free, open-source software if it implements non-free patents or if the patent license materially impacts what you would otherwise be able to do with the software or change the software in to.
    • by Chmcginn ( 201645 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:15PM (#18266588) Journal

      The correct language in GPL v3 would be something like, "This agreement is void in its entirety if the covered software is found to implement a current, valid patent whose owner has not offered the patent for use for free in any manner comperable to how it is used in the covered software."

      If their goal was to avoid accidentally using a software patent, that would be correct.

      But if their goal is to instead set up a state of (some degree of) mutually assured lawsuits, then what they are doing is the correct choice. If Microsoft (or any other software vendor, for that matter) takes a single piece of GPL v3 code that wasn't previously released as GPL v2 code, any software patent lawsuit will trigger a response of copyright infrigement lawsuits.

      • That's a non-issue for MS because they aren't using GPL'd code of any version and are unlikely to do so in the future.
        • by sconeu ( 64226 )
          Microsoft Services For Unix (formerly Interix).
          • Perhaps if you actually wrote a sentence, I'd know what your point was.
            • by init100 ( 915886 )

              The point is the Microsoft are using GPL code in their Services for Unix addon to Windows.

              • There is nothing indecating they need to take this to GPLv3. SO as long as they don't update the microsoft services for unix or if they just update it themselves, there isn't a problem.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          There is no way that you know that as
          you can not see the source code.
          • SFU includes GCC.

            If'n that ain't GPL, I dunno what is.

            (I suppose I could get out my old dust-laden copy of SFU 3.5, and peek through it to confirm that there's a copy of the GPLv2 included, but...)


            • When most people talk about MS using GPL'd code, they're talking about Windows, Office, etc, but technically you're correct.

              This is a product with no other purpose than to allow interoperability between Unix and Windows, so naturally it's logical for it to use GCC. So MS could be forced by GPLv3 to drop this product. This would be so trivial an event that Balmer probably wouldn't even give a chair a dirty look. Perhaps he'd be happy for having a good legal excuse to limit support for Unix and perhaps sell a
              • so naturally it's logical for it to use GCC. So MS could be forced by GPLv3 to drop this product.
                Only if microsoft uses the GPLv3 version of GCC. I don't see this happening. It will be more likley that microsoft would use it as an excuse to not provide unix-windows interpoerability when something new in linux breaks their version.
                • Either one of these consequences is reasable. The bottom line is that MS isn't really going to be hurt by GPLv3.
          • Sure, in the same sense that we don't know if your code is in it. The point is that there's no reason to believe that GPL'd code in particular exists within MS code (with the exception of Windows Services for Unix as others have informed me here, but that's not covert).

            There are two broad categories of GPL'd code: Core utilities that provide functions that Windows has had for many years and full-blown applications whoose code would be difficult to resuse in a Windows application. Neither is particuarly usef
      • Mutually Assured Destruction through mutually assured lawsuits?
      • Pardon me; I assumed the goal was to include software patents in the mix with the same goals and spirit as GPLv2. If GNU's goals have changed since GPLv2, that's another matter entirely.
        • Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Damn, someone who actualy calls it like it is.
        • If GNU's goals have changed since GPLv2, that's another matter entirely.

          I'm not going to claim any special insight into the writer's mind... but it would be a understandable response to the threat suggested by Mr. Ballmer.

  • Remember, when the (false) news came out, that OSF/GNU/whatever is going to sue Novell over their deal with Microsoft?

    First, when the news was still hot, a number of (Insightful) comments were posted, explaining the issue along the lines of Ms. Tease's argument.

    Then, the next day, it was announced, that there are no such plans (for litigation) and the author of the original article was criticized for pulling something out of you-know-where.

    Some of the comments (including mine) then reminded, that the

    • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:14PM (#18266570)
      But there is no denying, that it is a weapon (bomb), and that businesses may want to give the idea another thought -- or opt for BSD-licensed software instead.

      It is not "da bomb". It is "da shield". It is not like companies were being forced to use GPL licensed software, or if they were unaware of the terms of the license. GPL v3. will *not* work like those "submarine patents", that are granted and kept low profile, and them when someone makes a profit of it are used to sue the company for a lot of money. In fact, it is exactly the opposite, it is a way to ensure that the company distributing derivative software using that GPL (and I say derivative because, if they own the copyright, they can still (re)license in whatever license they want) doesn't not hijack the code and deny to the public the benefits they were granted when accepting the terms of GPL.

      A license is just that. Without GPL, they have no right to distribute derivative works. With GPL, they get the rights, but must to abide to the terms. The terms are there to ensure that they will pass along the rights they got, and that they will not pull a card from the sleeve and deny people the very freedom that the GPL license is born to grant.

      In short: you have the right to not distribute GPL'd software. If you do, you must abide to the terms and preserve the intended freedoms. Play by the rules or go away, it is simple as that.
      • by mi ( 197448 )

        It is not "da bomb". It is "da shield".

        No, it is not a defensive weapon. Just as this very case is showing, a business (Novell) can adapt GPL-licensed software (Suse) and then find itself limited in their choice of other partners (Microsoft). GPL may be defending GNU-license users against suits by Novell/Microsoft, but it is harming Novell beyond the traditionally understood requirement of "provide the source and you'll be fine".

        That no one is suing Novell right now, does not mean, no one will — F

        • No, it is not a defensive weapon. Just as this very case is showing, a business (Novell) can adapt GPL-licensed software (Suse) and then find itself limited in their choice of other partners (Microsoft). GPL may be defending GNU-license users against suits by Novell/Microsoft, but it is harming Novell beyond the traditionally understood requirement of "provide the source and you'll be fine".

          But only because Novell is trying to use that additional partnership to gain an advantage as the preferred distributor of the community's work. Novell is trying to create a situation where only Novell can sell or otherwise distribute Linux because anyone else who tried it will be sued by Microsoft. Even if they don't go that far, the Novell and Microsoft agreement is structured specifically to ensure that those to whom Novell distributes are unable to redistribute -- which defeats the bedrock goal of th

          • by mi ( 197448 )

            Novell won't have to compete against workalike knockoffs like Red Hat does.

            Not wanting to compete against knockoffs seems very sensible. If GPL stands in Novell's way as you describe, it really is a bomb.

            The GPL is only dangerous to companies who try to abuse the community.

            How is Novell's desire to remain in full control of Suse (for which it paid a lot of money) "abusive"? And of which community? Community of workalike knockoffs?

            It's a purely defensive weapon.

            One can bang an enemy's head in with a sh

        • by JoshJ ( 1009085 )
          The problem with the BSD License was not that you had to mention Berkeley. The problem was that you had to mention UC Berkeley, then John Smith kept the clause in there so you have to name him, and then you have to name Nick Johnson, then you have to name .... you get the idea.
  • Nothing (Score:3, Informative)

    by edbob ( 960004 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:05PM (#18266480)
    As far as I know, the Linux kernel will remain with GPLv2. Right now, nothing is covered by GPLv3, so it means nothing. It should get interesting if some open source component used in Suse goes with GPLv3, though.
  • by shinma ( 106792 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:09PM (#18266516) Homepage
    That thinks Antoinette Tease sounds like a porn star name...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Sorry to disappoint, but there are pictures [] and the only position she'd hold in porn would be behind the camera, unless it was one of those boring-ass pornos supposedly made by women for women but they're actually made by women for geriatrics.
  • I thought that was already part of the GPL2, it just didn't explicitly mention patents. I see listing things explicitly (patents, DRM), rather that relying on a sweeping "anything you do to restrict others' ability to enjoy the same rights to use the software which you have, terminates your rights under this license in full"[of course, worded better], as a mistake.

    to push a hypothetical beyond the breaking point:
    I would like anyone who prevents, at gunpoint, users of my software from freely modifying and re
    • I think it is a particular instance of CYA. While sweeping statements have a harder time holding up in (specifically American) courts, while the more specific the statement, the harder it is to find a loophole.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The reason the GPL is so successful is that it is very simple. That makes it very hard to pick holes in. The more bits they tack onto it, the more likely it can be overturned in court. It's darn hard to write something simple, elegant, comprehensive and bullet proof.
  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:26PM (#18266740) Homepage
    As much as I like the idea of protective clauses in the GPL3 license, I have a feeling that the people inclined to make trouble for free software with patent cases are unlikely to be in a position where the GPL would stop them. They will be competing with GPL software, not using it - being forbidden to use it won't stop them at all.

    The conflict is fundamental - patents stop people from doing things with software, and open source programmers want to do those things. The law is a tool towards those ends, which both sides will employ. The stark fact seems to be that the law supports patents, and so does the political establishment and commercial support which funds said establishment.

    There are two things stopping a WW3 style patent nuke war, as far as I can tell - one is the MAD assurances provided by the larger open source companies and/or supporters, and the other is the cost/benefit analysis of launching an attack on an open source author/project is not so good. Attacking the project means lots of legal fees if the case is fought, very bad press among the tech community, and the distinct chance the software you are attacking will be reborn, rewritten, or even replaced by something better as thousands of irate geeks seek a technical solution to the legal action. If by some chance the patent being used has covered all possible useful methods of doing something, the community simply waits until it expires and THEN proceeds. Yes 20 years is a long time, but it is not forever. The GIF patents eventually expired, and I would be very surprised if the cost/benefit analysis of those patents was a net plus. Apple has not gone after the freetype project, for example (although they did contact them).

    However, these mechanisms cannot be entirely relied upon. JMRI is certainly an example: [] So long as patents can be filed on software, there is the potential for a slaugher among free projects. I can't think of any license change JMRI might have made that would avoid their current situation. Patents will always pose a serious threat to free sofware, as the representative of commerical control interests. Indeed, I would expect that if patents are abolished some other method would be found, but at least it would be more difficult.
    • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:40PM (#18266884) Homepage Journal

      The point you make in the first paragraph is correct. Stallman points this out:

      We keep looking for ways to protect the users from the danger of software patents, but there's only a limited amount that any software licence can do this. The thing that makes software patents so dangerous is that somebody that you've never heard of and with whom you have no relationship whatsoever can have a patent covering a technique that you implemented, and sue you for the code you wrote.

      This is precisely why software patents are so bad, and since you have no relationship with that person, there's no opportunity for any licence on your software to have any effect on him. So all we can do is get rid of a small part of this large danger for all software developers.

      Quoted from here (scroll to the audience member's 2nd intervention): Stallman speaking in Bangalore []

    • GPLv3 can't address patent-holders who don't use or distribute Linux enforcing any patents that might be infringed by Linux, but that's IMO right and proper. Any such patent-covered code would've been in Linux by mistake, and should and will be removed. GPLv3 does address two classes of patent issues, though:

      1. Patent-holders like TiVO who benefit from using GPL'd software as the basis for their products. If they want to continue to use the GPL'd code in their product, they have to allow anybody else to use
      • It is nice to see someone finaly get it correct. Novell would need to do something that it isn't doing currently in order to be effected by the microsoft deal and the GPLv3. MOst people forget that ad go straight to the Novell is friendly with MS let kill them now.

        As for the Tivo issue. I'm not sure I can agree in as much. IF the patented GPLed code in question is used with GPLv2 software then the GPLv3 cannot touch them. This has to do with the ability of the two GPLs to co exist. The GPLv2 says no further
  • Wrong, wrong, wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by massysett ( 910130 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:48PM (#18266972) Homepage
    Did the person interviewed for this article actually read the draft []?

    "This License explicitly affirms your unlimited permission to run the unmodified Program." (emphasis added) "This License permits you to make and run privately modified versions of the Program, or have others make and run them on your behalf." It is only this permission to make and run privately modified versions that terminates if the licensor sues for infringement. This is a far cry from what the article suggests, which is that the license "to use the open source code" terminates when the licensor brings a patent claim.

    I hope the article is a distortion of what this attorney said. If it isn't, then anybody who has hired this lawyer for anything software-related should get another lawyer, pronto.
    • by CandyMan ( 15493 )
      It is the *licensor's* license to distribute (not the end user's right to use) which is terminated when said licensor brings a patent claim. Otherwise the article makes sense; I don't agree with her take on software patents, but it is pretty consistent with the received 'wisdom' among patent lawyers.
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:55PM (#18267078)
    Ok so someone creates a version of linux, I get that version of linux under the GPL (v1 v2 or v3). The next day the author decides that they want to use the next version of linux. They can redistribute it under the GPL v2 but unless there's a provision that says the creator can change the terms of the license at a moment's notice. Last I heard (or didn't hear) no such provision is made, and no one would accept it if it was. If I got the GPL v2 version of the software then I'm required to only use it as specified in GPL v2. If GPL v2 said I can share that code as long as I share it's source and the license then anyone can take it from me. So from that perspective the version of software Novell and Microsoft are discussing is theirs they have no fear from GPLv3.

    On the other hand if they are going to incorporate new parts there's a problem, however just from the last 6 months, I've heard numerous people who will flat out not support GPLv3, which tells me that GPLv3 is going to have issues if not be down right thrown out. Unless everyone supports it (namely the people coding the kernel of linux is going to be a big factor) then it's going to screw everything up.

    This is part of the problem with the FSF, they want their license to succeed but to do so they kinda steamroll over problems like this and the semi viral nature of GPL (if you use our code your code must be GPL). GPL has issues and the solution isn't a new version that creates new problems, if anything a lot of these problems make me want to avoid GPL more than try to embrace it.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )
      Except that a Linux distribution is more than just the kernel.

      All the tools used to compile the kernel are FSF-owned, and will go over to GPLv3. Things like bash, grep, gimp are also included.

      A handful of other major projects have also made pro-GPL3 noises - Samba being the most well known.

      Now, there's nothing to stop me taking the last GPLv2 version of these, entering into an agreement with someone which would stop me distributing GPLv3 code but not v2 and simply never upgrading the versions I ship - or a
  • GPLv3 matters not because it is a license for software that is distributed. Novell distributes Linux but this code is not covered by the agreement. If the customers distribute Linux code, all the standard GPL rules still apply.

    The deal would have been against GLPv2 if it applied SuSE Linux in the first place. Because the deal never pertained to SuSE Linux, it matters not what the license is modified to say.

    I predict GPLv3 won't matter to the Novell-MS Deal.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:47PM (#18267700)
    I realyu don't get it why people behind GPL3 are so much forcing to close and forbid things. And as far as I can see GPL3 is not so much for something as it is against something else.

    I am not into Open Source because I am against something, it is becaue I am for openness. GPL3 takes that openess partly away. It sounds like Bush fighting for his country and taking many rights away in doing so.

    I used to think it was nice, but I am much more drawn to the BSD licence, because it is much opener then GPL3.

    (Either this will be +5 Insightfull, or -1 Trolling)
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:11PM (#18268020)

      I used to think it was nice, but I am much more drawn to the BSD licence, because it is much opener then GPL3.

      A lot of people invest a lot of time in writing code they contribute to open source projects. Usually those people are less motivated by some hippy idealism of giving away things for free and are more interested in the benefits they can get from a license in terms of protecting their investment and soliciting free work from others. The GPL is so popular not because it is the most "free" but because it strikes a balance that makes most people happy. If I or my company devote significant time and investment in creating some code, I don't think it is fair that some other person or company should make minor addition (like adding a new type of hardware support) and then sell my work back to me and to others. Do you think it is "right" for you to take code that is 99.9% written by others and make money off of it while the people who did all the work get nothing? Most people don't so they avoid the GPL for most userland software.

      Now I've contributed to BSD licensed projects, but I don't think they are ideal in most cases. The GPL is a guarantee that the code that is being actively developed will not be a closed fork that I can't access anymore. The intention of the GPLv3 is to insure that the code that is actively being developed is also not covered by some patent that makes it almost as unusable to me. I'm not advocating the GPLv3 and I'm not certain it is the right way to go, but I certainly understand and sympathize with the intent. Like it or not most open source code is developed by commercial companies for profit and if the deal you struck with the companies doing the rest of the development is not in your own best interests and, in fact, is exploiting your generosity, well, you have no one to blame but yourself for choosing that license. The GPL like all licenses is about protecting the interests of the developers.

  • This has been discussed before. If anyone is claiming that the GPLv3 imposes additional restrictions on GPLv2 materials then the two cannot be placed together. Even in a package or disto as the exemtion attempts to offer.

    It is really plain and simple. Either it places additional restrictions and cannot be used or it doesn't and can be used.

    Novell having to offer microsoft's pattent shield to the entire community is BS too. The GPLv3 specificly states that all have to offer is the rights offered to you throu
    • by petrus4 ( 213815 )
      First, The GPLv3 is refering to only GPLv3 covered item. It cannot impose a restriction on GPLv2 or earlier covered items.

      As it stands right now, maybe not...but you can bet your boots that RMS will likely be pushing for retroactive changes to v2 if it looks like v3 isn't going to be adopted widely enough for his liking.
      • HE can push all he wants. I doubt it would achive anything. If a contract says you cando this and not accept any changes to the contract, then making a new contract to push on it is expressly progibited. In the least he would be grinding his wheels. At worst, he would have the GPL or however he pushed it, invalidated to that respect by a court.
  • All of the new provisions in the GPLv3 seem guaranteed that the largely corporate market for linux will steer clear of it.

    Has any major software adopted it yet? I would imagine that the FSF would be switching software like GCC, etc, over the GPLv3 since FSF supposedly owns the copyright. Has this happened? How have the existing devs reacted?

    Personally, I'm a little annoyed at RMS' arrogant and loudmouthed politicking of late. My feeling is that RMS' general orneriness has extended into the GPLv3 and added a
    • by petrus4 ( 213815 )
      Personally, I'm a little annoyed at RMS' arrogant and loudmouthed politicking of late. My feeling is that RMS' general orneriness has extended into the GPLv3 and added a bunch of provisions he knew would cause nothing but contention in the community, and gain us nothing material.

      I can explain that for you:- Vista.

      Given that Vista is as autocratic as it is, not to mention unpopular, the reason why the FSF has been increasingly throwing its' weight around in the last two years or so is because they believe th
      • by nuzak ( 959558 )
        Stallman also now has a monopoly lock on a crucial piece of operating system infrastructure; the C compiler. There is no other genuinely viable FOSS C compiler in existence, other than GCC.

        I snidely mentioned it elsewhere, but it deserves repeating and a link: LLVM [] is shaping up to be an awesome compiler, with the benefit of being a relatively new and therefore pretty clean and modern codebase.

        To compile C and C++, it currently does make use of gcc as a front end, which is the simplest end of any compiler (
    • How the GPLv3 license provisions make a corporate end user steer clear of it? If anything, getting immunity from patent suits *for free* will drive them to Linux, not away from it.
  • Equality? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CherniyVolk ( 513591 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:30PM (#18269162)

    I read the original article and it seems the meat of it's argument is that if A can be held responsible, then B should be too. Supporting the argument with a question of difference between A and B.

    The difference is this. Profit.

    Open Source doesn't stand to profit off of it's efforts. Never mind Red Hat, SuSE et al. My contributions are done with 100% generosity with no intention, expectation or hope of return of any kind other than the concept of personal acheivement or contibution to a greater good. The later is tricky, because Adam Smith in his published works imply that within Capitalism, that a person, regardless if he feels so, usually contributes to a greater good (society) far more than he realizes underneath a capitalistic society, with every ounze of incentive being from currency (or a pay check).

    I argue that while a pay check might motivate some to get out of bed and "work", it's certainly not the only thing that might equally motivate someone. Because, "work" is only "work" if you are getting paid for it, otherwise, it's a "hobby"; and contrary to popular belief including the line from Office Space, yes there are people who do enjoy being janitors. Admittedly, likely not enough however, one does what one can and all that is needed is a desire to contribute and with enough those of lesser ability would feel proud to contribute anyway they can. "Tech Support", "Testing" are all Janitorial services within IT... and obviously, there are plenty that enjoy it.

    It's odd, while we're talking about incentive and what motivates a man. A paycheck really is one of the weakest forces of all the Classical motives for extreme human effort; compare the motivation of vengance, retribution, survival, integrity, patriotism/nationalism (a broader sense of family bonding and sense of self, belonging and representation). Even Machievelli pointed out that the first to run from the battlefield will be the "mercenaries", and so true that infact is.

    The major difference between Proprietary Software and Open Source Software, is the goal and intentions of each. Intention is a viable concept for precedence; no matter what the case might be. For example, Apple Corporation and the Beatles for example on how "intention" can turn the tides of otherwise blatant infringments (The Beatles did have a valid claim... if only considering the surface.)

    The main goal of Proprietary Software, Personal Gain, usually in the form of capital, market dominance, or any perceived benefit that clearly identifies a positive benefit within a Capitalist ideology.

    The main goal of Open Source Software, more or less, Communal Gain.

    All other things, in my belief, are by products to propel an effort towards the main goal. Communal Gain can not be achieved if you leave anyone out, so, to ensure that everyone may benefit, there is less demand of return or, any quid pro quos, conditions, restrictions are such that, the end result is within reasonable reach of Everyone. To amplify an extreme for clearly showing "reasonable reach", it's simply best to make the product "free"; for which, there exists no retort as for it's availability. For Capitalism, you'll have everything geared towards protecting the flow of capital, make as many streams of capitals available as possible. As a result, patents, copyrights, controlled distribution channels, controlled substances (like certain chemicals etc. required for making anything really useful) making physical ability to reproduce much more difficult... all of this is in place to ensure that only certain people will ever be in a position to "provide" or "offer" a product to the consumer.

    Because Patents and all are more geared towards protecting a Companies benefit, I have argued in past posts, that enforcement of legislation and consequences should only apply to Companies in violation of their own measures. The "guy in a garage" doesn't have the breadth and depth to really threaten Sony Entertainment's production line... so, he should be exempt
  • First there is no GPLv3 only a few drafts

    Novel will not lose their rights under the GPL (v3 as claimed in the article) if another party sues for patent infringement.

    If MS sues a user of GPLv3 software for patent infringement it would cause MS to lose their use of that GPLv3 code, it wouldn't affect any other party.

    However, once a party knows of an unlicensed patent they can't distribute it anyway. Again it doesn't matter if it is Redhat or Novel.
    Additionally there is the argument that under the GPLv2 if one

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