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2 Groklaw Reports from the Perens Press Conference
Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 01:03 PM EDT

A number of Groklaw members in Utah attended the Bruce Perens press conference yesterday across the street from Novell's Brainshare. Here are two reports, first one from Aaron, "Bruce Perens Rains on the Novell Brainshare Parade," and the second from Justin, with pictures and audio here.

With so much FUD in the air, I am glad we get our own reports like this, with audio, so we can reach our own conclusions. Aaron concludes:

The conclusion of the meeting? Nothing good is coming from this deal between Microsoft and Novell. If it were just a technical partnership, everything would be okay, but it’s not. Bruce kept saying “is this really a Novell exit strategy?” I can’t help but wonder if it is.

Justin gave me permission to reproduce any part of his report. So let's take a look at some highlights.

Here are some highlights from his perspective:

The press conference was recorded aurally and photographically by Aaron, but here are some of the main points I found interesting. First he quoted a very lucid evaluative statement on the Novell, Microsoft deal by Richard Stallman about how the GPL in version 2 form was designed to eliminate all kinds of corporate behavior then known which violate the four essential freedoms the GPL seeks to grant creators and users of the software. One thing I found fascinating both from Bruce's conference and from talking to him beforehand is how subtle and masterfully clever Microsoft was in setting up and executing this deal. In Bruce's own words, or thereabouts: Microsoft made a deal with Novell whose effect was a serious undermining of the Free Software development paradigm. Microsoft put in place a very ponderous threat that quenches or at least gives Open Source practicing developers doubt about the very desire to participate in Free Software by making use of patent law. In the United States no nontrivial software is free from patent infringement and Microsoft can use this as a means to litigate RIAA-style against Free Software developers. Very cunning; very clever.

Microsoft always does things its own way, and they have been very clearly opposed to competition. They have dominated well in the proprietary ecosystem they largely helped create but Free Software flourishes almost Darwin-like, you could imagine, adapted to a hostile, proprietary environment by relinquishing the very traits Microsoft would think are crucial to the development of software, so in their cunning, they use Novell as a means of fatally polluting or permanently damaging the Open Source ecosystem in a way that they can no longer meaningfully threaten Microsoft's business model.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, and also for Novell as far as they are complicit, that Open Source community is very large and very diverse and hopefully anything malicious attempted will be an antigen further strengthening the community against destructive litigation....

After quoting Richard, Bruce qualifies his remarks with a preface that he cannot be an everyman representative for all Open Source developers but can protest as he sees requisite. Specifically his grievance rests upon the patent agreement. The technical partnership is commendable if it is a fair one, but the patent agreement has at least two ill effects: it sets up the possibility of an extortion racket using patent law and doctrine although clearly in bad faith with the GPL and with it Microsoft appears to believe they have purchased a new license on FUD. It may have cost them 333 Million but having carefully laid the plot this moves them into a position to bring suit against Open Source, the anomaly phenomenon it has not hitherto been effective in vanquishing.

The purpose of writing and participating in Free Software is to create and enrich a public body of great software. The GPL provides a legal framework for this style of software development, and the Microsoft-Novell agreement violates the spirit of the GPL in order to set up the spectre of patent suits against the Free Software commons.

Doesn't exactly match what you are reading in the mainstream media, does it? Thanks, Aaron and Justin, and thank you XMission for hosting the pictures and audio.


2 Groklaw Reports from the Perens Press Conference | 225 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: fettler on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 01:32 PM EDT
If you have any

I've been eating Parkin - that's why I am so brown

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here please
Authored by: WhiteFang on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 01:45 PM EDT

SCO's "two wrongs make a right" argument is untenable as a matter of law and
common sense. - IBM GPL Reply Brief Redacted.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS can be very amusing at times
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 01:47 PM EDT

The biggest mistake SCOG has made, and MS is continuing to make from the very begining of targeting Open Source: It's a community the likes of which has never formed before.

It's a community without Country borders. A community that chooses to communicate and protect itself the world-wide.

When SCOG attacked IBM threatening all Linux users, they made the mistake of starting a war against a company. The mistake was that they targetted the community instead of just the company. They decided to fight a war on a single front without relising they just opened a war on multiple fronts accross multiple countries. From their angle, they were battling IBM in the courts, in the offices and in the media.

Their opponents however gathered to defend in various companies, accross various borders, through various schools, personal homes, and forums (thanks Groklaw for being one of those forums). It doesn't end there though, those are just some of the defenses that rose because SCOG sent a nuclear missile towards a city in the hopes of taking out that gang that had built it's home in the park. SCOG defined the "gang" but it was really just a gathering of people working within the law to accomplish something they wanted.

MS is attacking Open Source in the only way their Corporate Culture seems to understand: attack the business. The problem is the same as SCOG is facing. MS might succeed in the US but there's still the rest of the world!

MS is fighting a community that learns and shares and communicates. Each fight MS wins builds defenses that will cause it to fail the next fight using the same tactics. Good Luck MS. The question is: when will you learn that this is a war you can't win and it's best if you join with the community to improve things for all? You're not fighting a battle against a competing company. You're fighting a battle against freedom. I for one, will never give in.


[ Reply to This | # ]

If the Justice system in the US created penalty for MS, then other proprietary could exist.
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 01:56 PM EDT
If the Justice system in the US created penalty for MS, then other proprietary
competionn for Microsoft could exist.

But, it didn't. So - the only competition that Microsoft has is Free Software
(as in speech).

When is the last time you have seen an ad on TV or in major web or print media
outlets, for any other software but Microsoft's software. The reason? Everyone
else is out of business, and can't compete with the Monopolist that was
convicted, but not punished.

With no effective punishment, then Microsoft just will do business as usual.

Long live "free" software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stallman's statement text
Authored by: Bruce Perens on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 02:23 PM EDT
This is what I read for Richard.



Free software means software that respects users essential freedoms,
including the freedom to change the software so it does what you wish,
freedom to run it, and freedom to redistribute copies. The denial of
these freedoms is what makes proprietary software unethical. To make
these freedoms a reality, we set out 23 years ago to develop the GNU
operating system, which is the basis of all today's quote Linux
unquote distributions, including that of Novell.

In 1983, a few free programs existed, and unscrupulous middleman
eagerly took them and made non-free modified versions. It was clear
that to deliver freedom to every user we would have to find a way to
defend the users' freedom. The method we developed is the GNU General
Public License. The purpose of the GNU GPL is to ensure that
redistributors of the program respect the freedom of those further
downstream. The GPL defends the freedom of all users by blocking the
known methods of making free software proprietary.

Novell and Microsoft have tried a new method: using Microsoft's
patents to give an advantage to Novell customers only. If they get
away with scaring users into paying Novell, they will deny users
the most basic freedom, freedom zero: the freedom to run the program.

Microsoft have been threatening free software with software patents
for many years, but without a partner in our community, the only thing
it could do was threaten to sue users and distributors. This had
enough drawbacks that Microsoft has not yet tried it. Attacking in
combination with a collaborator in our community was much more

If nothing resists such deals, they will spread, and make a mockery of
the freedom of free software. So we have decided to update the GNU
General Public License not to allow such deals, for the future
software releases covered by GPL version 3. Anyone making a
discriminatory patent pledge in connection with distribution of
GPL-covered software will have to extend it to everyone.

In the mean time, let's make it clear to Novell that its conduct is
not the conduct of a bona-fide member of the GNU/Linux community.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Evolution means that we are always at war
Authored by: roman on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 02:33 PM EDT
Microsoft is at war with other businesses and communities when it comes down to
survival and profit (the same thing really.) Is it surprising that they are
constantly looking for new ways of extinguishing Free Software movement? Not
really. They are following the oldest of all principles: divide and conquer.
Why, this is what I would be doing in MS's shoes: divide the community in all
possible ways, create FUD, use all tools at their disposal. The DRDOS and OS2
lessons come in handy, but this time it is more difficul to achieve, but is it

Will the businesses rather go with SUSE than with other distros because Novell
works with MS closely and may not be a target for MS patent war? When put in
these terms, the answer is probably Yes. Will this hurt the community in
general? The answer is probably Yes. Is this the next step after the fiaSCO for
MS? The answer is probably Yes. Should IBM prepare to fight another lawsuit
(related to patents,) this time directed from Novell? I don't know. The answer
is probably no, however it is likely that there will be patent lawsuits by
MS/Novell against other GNU/Linux distributors, such as RedHat (IBM eventually.)
Will this make the FS community stronger at the end? If it doesn't kill it, then
the answer is certainly Yes.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How cunning is Microsoft?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 04:15 PM EDT
Two things I've wondered about ever since this agreement was announced:
  1. In order for Microsoft to make the patent covenent with Novell's customers, it needs to know who they are ... in other words, was Novell actually stupid enough to share its entire Linux customer list with Microsoft?
  2. I believe Section 7 of the GPLv2 says that if you have knowledge of an allegation of patent infringement in the GPL'd code, then you can't ship it. Doesn't that mean that Microsoft might at any time halt all Linux shipments/downloads simply by making a single, bogus patent claim?

    Sure we would just cut out the disputed algorithms, but imagine the disruption in the meantime.

    And there would be nothing stopping them from pulling out the next bogus patent and doing it again and again.

    And what if the patent were something ridiculously generic (e.g. multi-user operating system)? The patent may be totally bogus, but wouldn't Linux distributors have to stop distribution until they could defeat it?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Still not clear about the problem
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 05:02 PM EDT

If MS has identified specific patent infringements to Novell and then entered into an agreement not to sue their customers over them then Novell are surely breaking GPL2?

If they have not identified specific infringements, just made vague SCO-esque claims about how much of their IP definitely probably might be in Linux then (presumably) as soon as they put their money where their mouth is and sue someone they will have to make a specific claim (oh, wait...), at which point Novell knows that it can't pass on its rights and are breaking the GPL. Meanwhile, how can the GPL3 poassibly nail this jelly to a tree without (e.g.) making it impossible for any company with any sort of patent sharing agreement to participate in free software?

It seems to me that if it were easy or possible to write a law/rule/license that says "whatever the detail of this agreement you must adhere to the spirit of this agreement?" then the world would be a much simpler place.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Cost to MS
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 05:45 PM EDT
It is often repeated that Novell got $280M or $330M, or some amount in that
vicinity from MS. I only just found out that, in fact, what Novell got was
coupons for discounts on MS software, to be handed out to their customers.

Of course that's completely different: first, it doesn't cost MS any
cash-in-hand, second, it doesn't really help Novell's cash position, and third,
it puts Novell in the position of promoting further MS dependency.

So, it's even less clear what Novell is supposed to be getting from the deal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Missed Point?
Authored by: sproggit on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 06:45 PM EDT
So here's a left-field thought for you.

Much of the commentary I've seen commenting on this Microsoft/Novell deal [here
at Groklaw and elsewhere] seems to concentrate on the specifics of the agreement

We're fixating on the terms and conditions. We're interested in the mutual
agreement to not sue. We're encouraged to look on in indignation.

Those of you who understand the reference that gave us the name
"Groklaw" will know it comes from a science fiction book,
"Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. There is a
wonderful little section in that novel [and I've just been to look and can't
find it to quote it right now] where the author takes one of the main characters
[Jubal Harshaw] and sets him into a dispute with representatives of a doubtful
and occasionally oppressive government regime.

The section in the book describes Harshaws actions as [and I'm misquoting,
forgive me!]

"Harshaw was swatting not for the gad-fly, but for the gad."

meaning that the character had seen through a deception, had realised that the
individual thrown at him was mere interference, mis-direction and

Getting back to the point... at the moment this community [and other discussion
forums in the FOSS technosphere] are discussing this issue as relates to Novell.
I suggest that in so doing we are missing the point [and in so doing we're
guilty of looking at the gad-fly, not the "gad"].

This isn't about the technology, the patents or the deal.

This isn't even about Novell, bless 'em, in the way that we're encouraged to
think it is. And I hope they'll forgive me if I'm implying they are a mere
gad-fly to Microsoft's Gad. It was a vaguely related illustration, nothing more.

This deal is designed to do one thing and one thing only: to drive a wedge as
deeply into the heart of the FOSS "community", Richard's beloved
"Free Software Movement" as they possibly can.

Think about it.

For the last few years, ever since they entered the SCO vs. IBM case with guns
blazing, Novell have been the darlings of the FOSS Community. We only have to
read PJs positive and supportive [dare I say gleeful] articles at the time.

Now look at what's happened.

With a single deal, Microsoft have turned the saviour of the FOSS world into a
pariah. But they are doing it with OUR help.

Just ask yourself this really simple question:

Who benefits? Who benefits if Novell [who may well own key copyrights to Unix
System V code] cosy up to Microsoft???

Well, the FOSS community doesn't seem to, that's for sure. And MS supporting
SuSE? Natch. Can SuSE turn that into a major revenue-winner? I don't think so.
Now, the deal may have looked to them like a no-lose option. Free money. We
don't know and probably never will.

But I suggest to you that this is largely immaterial. It wasn't the specifics or
the technical details of this deal that mattered. What mattered was that
Microsoft just purchased another $300 Million in FUD. They have also tried their
best to create a fractious argument within the FOSS Community.

Don't get me wrong.

I don't know the details of the Microsoft/Novell deal, but based on
circumstantial evidence alone I'm willing to go on record as stating that I'm
not comfortable with the idea.

But what I do know, "sure as eggs is eggs", is that the more heated
this becomes, the more Novell is cast as a bad guy, the more Microsoft are going
to enjoy this.

I am not condoning Novell's actions. I believe it was a mistake.

But I would not make Novell an outcast in our FOSS community because of this. I
would not do so purely because I believe that demonising Novell serves only one
company in the long run, with an agenda to destroy Free Software and GNU/Linux.


That's not the way.

Instead, I'd extend them an olive branch and an offer :

Come and talk to us.
Help us understand the deal you made and your circumstances.
We appreciate that it may be difficult for you to un-make it now.
We want you to be a full member of the "FLOSS" Community.
We understand that to attack you now is to attack ourselves in the longer term.
We want to help you flourish and grow as a shining star in our FLOSS community.
We ask this because we have your best interests at heart.
We ask this because it is the right thing to do.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What if the supreme court strikes down software patents?
Authored by: kawabago on Tuesday, March 20 2007 @ 07:21 PM EDT
One of the judges in the hearing on software patents a few weeks ago said the
court has never ruled software is patentable. That statement together with
another observation from a lawyer on another case, that the Supreme Court does
not like to contradict congress unless it is a constitutional matter, makes me
think they could very well put the kibosh on software patents. Congress
specifically made software un-patentable and the constitution doesn't touch on
it, so there is no reason for the Supreme Court to decide software is patentable
when Congress says it isn't. Also, the supreme court reached out and took that
case, it wasn't appealed to them the usual way. All this together makes me
think they will come down against software patents Of course, I've been wrong
before, but it's a nice day dream.

[ Reply to This | # ]

2 Groklaw Reports from the Perens Press Conference
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 21 2007 @ 06:26 AM EDT
Anyone know if EOOXML converter Novell made/is making was part of this deal too?
If it was I'll considder that to be as serious betrayel as the patent part of
the deal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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