The Samba team has issued a strongly worded statement condemning Novell's actions, and it asks Novell to reconsider. I reproduce it here, for the record, in full.
For context, here's the Microsoft & Novell Interoperability Collaboration page on Microsoft's website; and the equivalent on Novell's, which provides links to the webcast of the November 2nd joint announcement, as well as a transcript. If you wish to ask Novell any questions, here's the Novell page for that.
Samba Team Asks Novell to Reconsider
The Samba Team disapproves strongly of the actions taken by Novell on November 2nd.
One of the fundamental differences between the proprietary software world and the free software world is that the proprietary software world divides users by forcing them to agree to coercive licensing agreements which restrict their rights to share with each other, whereas the free software world encourages users to unite and share the benefits of the software.
The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement. It deals with users and creators of free software differently depending on their "commercial" versus "non-commercial" status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or from someone else.
The goals of the Free Software community and the GNU GPL allow for no such distinctions.
Furthermore, the GPL makes it clear that all distributors of GPL'd software must stand together in the fight against software patents. Only by standing together do we stand a chance of defending against the peril represented by software patents. With this agreement Novell is attempting to destroy that unified defense, exchanging the long term interests of the entire Free Software community for a short term advantage for Novell over their competitors.
For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the Free Software community. We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the Free Software community.
Using patents as competitive tools in the free software world is not acceptable. Novell, as a participant in numerous debates, discussions and conferences on the topic knew this to be the case. We call upon Novell to work with the Software Freedom Law Center to undo the patent agreement and acknowledge its obligations as a beneficiary of the Free Software community.