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A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal
Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 01:50 PM EST

Reuters is reporting that Eben Moglen has said that the Free Software Foundation will announce in two weeks what decision it will make regarding its response to the Novell-Microsoft deal:
The Free Software Foundation is reviewing Novell Inc.'s right to sell new versions of Linux operating system software after the open-source community criticized Novell for teaming up with Microsoft Corp.

"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," Eben Moglen, the Foundation's general counsel, said on Friday....

Moglen said the board has not made a decision on the matter but that he expects it to announce a ruling within two weeks. 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.

Novell VP John Dragoon declined to comment, but he did say this:

"We'll take a look at the final determination and we'll react accordingly," he said.

However Linux-Watch quotes Moglen like this:

Eben Moglen, the Software Freedom Law Center's executive director and an FSF board member, explained: "This is a story being hyped by the Reuters guy who wrote it....The actual quote he prints is entirely accurate, but his lede destroys the context and is making unnecessary waves."

However, the news is still solid: a decision in two weeks. There is also a quote from Novell's Bruce Lowry:

As for this latest affair, Bruce Lowry, Novell's director of global public relations, said that "Novell has no comment at this time, we'll see how the issue is resolved and then react."


A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal | 359 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: MathFox on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:02 PM EST
if any

If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic thread
Authored by: MathFox on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:04 PM EST
Other legal and Open Source issues in this thread.

If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within
itself, then it is inconsistent.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:13 PM EST
Is there anything else the community of people wants?
And is there anything Eben can do to accomodate such desire?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal
Authored by: meshuggeneh on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:29 PM EST
"We'll take a look at the final determination and we'll react accordingly," he said.
It seems to me they were working together with FSF on this earlier, but this quote seems to imply they are not any longer. Wouldn't Novell's interests be better served taking an active role in this process?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reuter's writer didn't quite get it right
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:30 PM EST
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols gives a response from Eben Moglen about the Reuter's piece in his article at http://www.linux-watch. com/news/NS6837365670.html .
"What he actually asked me," said Moglen in an email 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).

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

SJVN then goes on to explain many things that people here should already be familiar with. This includes FSF founder Richard Stallman admitting that the Microsoft-Novell deal does not violate the current GPLv2, that the upcoming GPLv3 will include some provisions to prohibit such patent-related arrangements, and that not all software currently licensed under GPLv2 (specifically including the Linux kernel) may choose to adopt the new GPL when it's finally finished. Overall, SJVN's followup was a much more balanced and informative article than the somewhat misleading Reuter's one.


[ Reply to This | # ]

A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal
Authored by: stites on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 02:31 PM EST

I made two comments on the previous article which are also appropriate for this one.

Money first

Novell could be banned from selling Linux

Novell VP John Dragoon declined to comment, but he did say this:

"We'll take a look at the final determination and we'll react accordingly," he said.

It looks like Novell is trying to evade a solution acceptable to both sides. Rather than waiting to see what GPL3 says in order to find a way to circumvent it Novell should try to find a solution which satisfies both Novell and the rest of Open Source.

Steve Stites

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bad story by Reuters...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 03:03 PM EST
While I still don't feel "the love" for the MS/Novell agreement, this
article by Reuters is actually riddled with a bunch of hype and inaccuracies.

First off, the "decision" he refers to in the article is the next
draft of the GPL v3 which should include the first introduction of the language
which would possibly address agreements like the MS/Novell one. So in other
words, not a decision at all.

And in all reality, GPL v3 isn't a reality today...therefore it can't be Novell isn't prevented from selling Linux either today nor in 2
weeks...but perhaps after the March timeframe when the license is released and
accepted (by whomever accepts it).

But let's talk about the present, which is GPL v2, which Richard Stallman has
indicated that the MS/Novell agreement did not violate (therefore there's
nothing to prevent them from selling it now and up to GPL v3). He did further
indicate that he was happy that it came to light as it gave them a chance to
address it in v3. And until this draft does come out, we really don't know what
the "teeth" for violation will to say that it will be to
forbid someone from selling it now, is a bit of the cart before the horse, me

Couple that with the fact that Eben himself has already indicated that the story
was a story being hyped by the guy who wrote it.

Anyways, just think Reuters should be held accountable for a "story"
which is a shoddy piece of journalism...and which really isn't about FSF
preventing the sale of Linux by Novell in 2 weeks, but about the next draft of
v3 coming out then.

For me, I'm anxious to see real the next draft of the GPL and very interested to
see the responses to it, cause that will be much more telling than an overhyped
and inaccurate story from Reuters :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Problem with wide-scale GPLv3 adoption?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 03:36 PM EST
Could the FSF be mounting a campaign to pressure software developers into allowing their work to be relicensed under the upcoming, but still unfinished, GPLv3?

Beginning towards the beginning of 2006, long before the final form of the GPLv3 text could be known, the Savannah project hosting site run by the FSF started requiring that projects specifically include the "or later" option when specifying the GPL license to be applied, as in "GPL version 2 or later". The exchange shown at http://sav shows this policy in action.

The project author had this to say:

Are you really saying that Savannah won't accept my project because it's under the GNU GPL version 2 ?!?

That is to say, just because it's not upgradeable to any future version of the GPL license?

What if I don't like GPLv3, when the final text is out?
I cannot be sure I will like it, at the moment...

For instance, the AfferoGPL, that you mention as the "prototype" for the strategy to deal with the so-called ASP-loophole, addresses this "loophole" with a badly written and non-free clause, IMHO.

I'm not willing to give the FSF a blanket permission to add arbitrary restrictions and/or permissions to derivative works of my code.
The whole point of copyleft is denying such possibility!


The response included this from the site maintainer (some profanity redacted):

I should have told you some more facts:

* the text of the GNU GPL says that the future versions of the GNU GPL will be under the same spirit published by the FSF

=> which essentially prevent the FSF from dropping the copyleft, that is the very essence of the GNU GPL

* and because of the incompatibility with v2 and v3 it is simply impossible to LINK or INCLUDE v2 in v3 code.

So it is very important for us that you release your code under "vX or any later version".

And if you still disagree - please don't go to Slashdot (or again to ProLinux) with that story. Our policy because of GPLv2 is very very old, and your project is not the first and will be not the last one which was rejected because of the intollerance to agree with GPLvX-or-any-later.

The response reveals what is perhaps FSF's biggest problem with getting future widespread adoption of GPLv3 -- the claim that it will be "impossible to LINK or INCLUDE v2 in v3 code". If they retain their interpretation that simply linking with incompatibly-licensed code is disallowed, then a number of GPLv3-only applications that are dependent on code which has not been upgraded to the new GPL license will cease to be usable. How many such cases exist? It's not really known at this time, other than the oft-cited Linux kernel. I believe from looking at the license statement for KDE apps that it might also be the case for them, which is a significant amount of code in many Linux distributions. There may be other examples.

Further evidence of the importance FSF is placing on this potential problem is the recent announcement by FSF Europe (FSFE) for their Fiduciary License Agreement (FLA). This initiative is an attempt to get all major project participants to sign over exclusing copyright rights to a single organization (the FSFE by default) so that licenses may be more easily changed. Implicit in this is that the single organization receiving such rights must remain true to the wishes of the project developers when making any licensing changes.

Anno uncement of FLA

The Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA) is a copyright assignment carefully crafted for the specific needs of Free Software projects to bundle their copyright in a single organisation or person. This will enable projects to ensure their legal maintainability, including important issues such as preserving the ability to relicense and certainty to have sufficient rights to enforce licences in court.

Relicensing software, especially in larger projects with multiple significant contributors, is a major task. It is not one to be taken lightly, and it should take care to respect the intent of the contributors. Asking authors to simply trust that a certain "spirit" will be respected in future licensing decisions, or to blindly accept automatic upgrading to unknown future license restrictions should not be the only solution presented to the community.

Once the GPLv3 is finished, let people evaluate it on its own merits. Once all the facts are known is an appropriate time for making a switch, if one is appropriate. It might be worth noting that while licensing under a GPLv3-only license might prohibit linking to or including GPLv2 code, it may be possible to dual-license code under both a GPLv2-only license and a GPLv3-only license to maintain maximum compatibility with existing and future software, while still protecting oneself from automatic relicensing under terms of any unknown future GPL versions.


[ Reply to This | # ]

An interesting scenerio posted on slashdot
Authored by: Fractalman on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 04:20 PM EST

This article was noticed on slashdot, of course. I thought this post was good, at least interesting.

On slashdot by Kjella (173770)

Anyway, here's the end game if it goes the way Microsoft and Novell wants:

  1. Novell contributes code covered by patents
  2. Customers get code
  3. Non-customers get code
  4. Microsoft sues non-customers
  5. Non-customers claims they have patent license through GPL
  6. Courts: "Nope, it hasn't been sublicensed to you"
  7. FSF sues Novell over not distributing all their rights
  8. Courts: "Nope, they're distributing all their formal licenses"
  9. FSF sues Novell over being bound by patent lawsuits
  10. Courts: "Nope. that only applies to the sued parties"
  11. Non-customers buy Novell products
  12. Microsoft and Novell: Profit

We do have legal experts here, any comments on these "events"?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Decision from FSF in 2 Weeks on Novell-MS Deal
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 04:34 PM EST
Novell has had a change in its view of open source, that makes me believe they
feel this matter is not a big deal, can I say Novell does not respect the GPL or
any OSI license for that matter; however, if in reaction Novell with or without
Microsoft, takes legal action over the option to change, Novell's business can't
approve a corporation/vendor that lawsuits are its only business tool to remain
in the marketplace.

I see the need for such action now more then anyother time by the FSF. Its a
line crossed that fear of an unknown reaction not to act, allows Novell and
others that would follow, to try to push-around the community with legal scare
tatics as we have seen in the past from SCO and Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another Careless Journalist
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 08:24 PM EST

Let's face it - there's no real significance to the Reuters article. It's just
another Journalist who doesn't understand the GPL, the community, and the FSF,
and who couldn't be bothered to learn.

So he writes an article that will no doubt scare some PHB into avoiding Linux.

The answer of course is to write to his/her editor with a details that are
incorrect, and demand a correction/retraction.


[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't know why everybody thinks Stallman's word is law
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 03 2007 @ 08:59 PM EST
It has been pretty obvious to me, but apparently not to many other people, that
the FSF has a vested interest in talking down the ability of the GPL2 to lower
the boom on Novell. Increased adoption of GPL3 depends upon it. But just look at
the GPL2 wording:

"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."

That is only an example. The text says "If... for ANY reason...".
Novell's deal with Microsoft prevents everyone who receives a copy from Novell
from passing on to further recipients the ability to operate royalty-free under
the same patent pledge. That means Novell doesn't have the right to distribute
at all. At an absolute minimum, they are operating in a grey area and a
significant copyright holder of GPL2 material could clearly at least raise a
serious question in court. (And win, IMHO.)

But it is pretty clear that Stallman and the FSF don't want to talk up the power
of the GPL2. They have a vested interest in getting people to adopt their
anti-DRM GPL3, and with so many people opposed to it, they need to show that the
alternative is complete failure. In other words, their message is that you won't
stop Novell unless you also adopt the anti-DRM regime in GPL3.

In short, I don't think Stallman et al's opinions here are disinterested.
Neither do their pronouncements about what the GPL2 can or can't do magically
become the facts at law. Neither do they have any special rights to override the
opinions of other coders who have chosen to use GPL2. Their opinions are just as
valid as the FSF's, and Novell could clearly be taken to court with a case to
defend at any time.


[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ, this is a non-story
Authored by: hopethishelps on Sunday, February 04 2007 @ 01:45 AM EST

Everything in this "story" that is controversial and new was made up by the Reuters journalist who wrote it.

In so far as there is a story at all, it is "Journalist makes up story and supports it with out-of-context quote." But that's standard procedure in journalism nowadays. It may be news that the practice has spread to Reuters, which used to have a reputation for reliability, but if so, that's what your headline should say.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsft did fix IDC "independent" TOC report in 2002
Authored by: whoever57 on Sunday, February 04 2007 @ 02:11 AM EST
I'm surprised there has not been more discussion of this snippet from the Microsoft emails:
He said "IDC is done negotiating with us... We have moved them quite a bit already, but they are now holding the line, saying that if we want the names of their 'big' analysts on the report, this is it."
This is from the Inq.

Another case where "analysts" are not to be trusted! IDC: you are not analysts -- just shills!

[ Reply to This | # ]

However, the news is still solid: a decision in two weeks.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 04 2007 @ 09:10 AM EST
Given that Eben Moglen says that is not what will happen, what ruling are we
expecting in two weeks? The draft of GPLv3 due before in March?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Compatibility between GPL V2 and V3
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 05 2007 @ 04:37 AM EST
First, a thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion thread "Problem with wide-scale GPLv3 adoption?" posted over the weekend. I hope the discussion helped to bring certain issues concerning the upcoming GPLv3 into a better focus.

In considering some of the information that was revealed during the discussion, it became apparent that certain facts about possible compatibility issues between GPLv2 and GPLv3 licensed code were not widely known. The last thing (perhaps) I'll post on this topic is my interpretation of compatibility between variants of GPLv2 and GPLv3 licensing. Of course I understand that the discussion is still mostly academic, since there is no GPLv3 at the moment. However, if the main premise of the parent article is correct, it appears that a final GPLv3 draft may not be too long in coming. It therefore seems appropriate to consider what this might mean to current and future software projects.

There are three areas of license compatibility I want to cover: license conversion opportunities, ability to take code from outside and incorporate it into a project, and ability to take code from a project and place it into another. We might simply label these as conversion, reception, and donation. Note that by license conversion I am referring to legally changing license terms by someone other than the copyright holder, such as when forking a codebase. A copyright owner may of course change license terms at their own discretion.

Below is a matrix attempting to show relationships allowed for project code licensed under variants of the GPL relative to code in other projects. I'll only consider four GPL licensing approaches: GPLv2-only (V2), GPLv2 or later versions (V2+), GPLv3-only (V3), and GPLv3 or later versions (V3+).

  1. V2 Project:
    • Can convert to:
    • Can receive from: V2, V2+
    • Can donate to: V2
  2. V2+ Project:
    • Can convert to: V2, V3, V3+
    • Can receive from: V2+
    • Can donate to: V2, V2+, V3, V3+
  3. V3 Project:
    • Can convert to:
    • Can receive from: V3, V3+
    • Can donate to: V3
  4. V3+ Project:
    • Can convert to: V3
    • Can receive from: V3+
    • Can donate to: V3, V3+

What the above matrix tells us is that V2+ licensing appears to be analogous to the universal donor blood type O. It allows code to be forked into all other GPL variants and allows code to be donated to all other license structures. However, it presents difficulties when considering whether modications or code patches from other projects can be accepted back, since all submissions must be similarly licensed V2. Projects that are licensed V2 may accept submissions from other projects licensed as either V2 or V2+. Projects that draw from sources licensed V2 have only one choice in licensing, V2. Similarly, projects that draw from sources licensed V3 only have one choice, V3. It seems that if your project goal is to make your source available in the widest possible way, V2+ is a good choice. However, if your project goal is to guarantee the widest base of support from sources contributing into your project, it may make sense to decide if your base is going to include GPLv2 or GPLv3 sources and then adopt a pure V2 or V3 license.

Once a project adopts a V3 or V3+ license it can no longer receive code from V2 or V2+ sources, nor can it contribute code back to V2 or V2+ sources. This effect may have the result that even if project managers wished to retain a V2+ license over a long term, such an arrangement may prove untenable as many external sources could move to incompatible licenses and prevent updates necessary to prevent project stagnation.

It's clear from even a cursory inspection that the upcoming introduction of the GPLv3 will introduce many new issues over license compatibility that software developers will have to address over time. The above analysis did not take into consideration possible incompatibilities between different GPLv3 licenses that differ in optional additional terms (which are allowed in a draft GPLv3). While I've tried to be as accurate as possible in what I've written here, it's possible I've made some mistakes. If anyone finds an error, please let me know.


[ Reply to This | # ]

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