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MS: Dancing as fast as it can to try to get away from GPLv3
Thursday, July 05 2007 @ 09:48 PM EDT

Want to laugh? Microsoft Says It Is Not Bound by GPLv3" -- they think they can so declare, like an emperor, and it becomes fiat. It's not so easy. I gather Microsoft's lawyers have begun to discern the GPL pickle they are in. In any case it won't be providing any support or updates or anything at all in connection with those toxic (to them) vouchers it distributed as part of the Novell deal. What a surprise. Novell, still Microsoft's handmaiden in other respects, says it will too provide support for GPLv3:
This means that Novell will support those technologies licensed under GPLv3, he said, noting that for those customers who obtain their Linux via a certificate from Microsoft in the future, Novell will provide them with a regular SLES subscription, regardless of the terms of the certificate provided by Microsoft.

What are friends for but to try to escape the consequences of the GPL hand-in-hand? So they are backing out partially too. Well, folks, how do you like dealing with companies that back out of their commitments? You will not get, I gather, what your voucher said you would. Well, well.

These two -- I can't decide if it's an elaborate dance like a tango or more like those games where you place a cloth with numbers on the floor and you have to get into a pretzel with your hands and feet to touch all the right numbers. Whichever it is, Novell and Microsoft keep having to strike the oddest poses to try to get around the GPL. If they think this new announcement has succeeded, I believe they will find they are mistaken.

In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, GPLv3 worked.

Microsoft has partially backed out, then, from the Novell deal, and so has Novell, although they PR it with an emphasis on the parts that remain. That was the purpose of the clause. Novell is sticking to Microsoft like barnacles on the bottom of a boat, even when offered a chance to swim away to safety.

The interoperability work continues, they say, blah blah, but nobody ever minded that, except for the attempted killing off of ODF. The world has been begging and hoping for interoperability with Microsoft for as long as I can remember. The EU Commission ordered it. So interoperate away, by all means, boys.

Of course, just between you and me and the lamp post, I don't think they really mean it, not with respect to ODF, not 100%, or if they do, I've seen no such indications. They'd rather do a translator they've already told us will not work 100% than work with ODF, the international standard that already exists, to make one responsible standard we all can use that will work 100%. No, no, instead of true, two-way interoperability, the whole world has to make do with annoying translators that don't really work so perfectly and are not so user-friendly, so Microsoft can keep its secrets. That's fine, secrets. Just don't call it an open standard if it isn't fully documented and allows for proprietary extensions. And I wouldn't call it interoperability, either. But that's me.

You know what I love about the GPL? Regular lawyers can't understand it. We've seen that over and over. I think it is so different from what they are used to, they can't get their heads around it, brainiacs though they may be. It seems unnatural to them, and I guess they can't believe it means what it says. But it means it. And if they think this is the end of their GPLv3 difficulties, it's not:

Microsoft also said July 5 that its agreement with Novell, as well as those with Linux rivals Xandros and Linspire, were unaffected by the release June 29 of GPLv3 by the Free Software Foundation.

Guess again. Maybe you should reexamine GPLv2 while you are learning on the job. IANAL, but I think those latter deals are probably in violation of v2 as well as v3. Hey, don't go by me. Ask your lawyer. But the bottom line is this: You can't disrespect other peoples' intellectual property and just walk away. As I believe they are going to find out.

Here is the Microsoft statement in full:


Microsoft Statement About GPLv3

A Microsoft statement about GPLv3.

Published: July 5, 2007

Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 license and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license.

While there have been some claims that Microsoft’s distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law. In fact, we do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future. Furthermore, Microsoft does not grant any implied or express patent rights under or as a result of GPLv3, and GPLv3 licensors have no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way.

At this point in time, in order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3. We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future.

As always, Microsoft remains committed to working with the open source software community to help improve interoperability for customers working in mixed source environments and deliver IP assurance. Our partnerships with Novell and other Linux platform and desktop providers remain strong and the IP bridge we built with them, embodied in our collaboration agreements, remains intact. In particular, our technical and business collaboration with Novell continues to move full steam ahead, including our joint development work on virtualization, standards-based systems management, identity interoperability and document format translators. In addition, the patent covenants offered by Microsoft and Novell to each other’s customers are unchanged, and will continue to apply in the same way they did previously.

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