Bruce Peren's take
Posted Nov 3, 2006 16:25 UTC (Fri) by jsarets
In reply to: Bruce Peren's take
Parent article: Various responses to Microsoft/Novell
The GPLv2 makes it clear that code cannot be distributed under the GPL if the recipient would need to acquire any additional licenses (with or without royalties) not granted by the distributor in order to redistribute under the same terms. The gray area here is whether offering an optional service that includes non-transferrable membership in a patent covenant with Microsoft necessarily implies that such protection is required to use and distribute the covered software without violating Microsoft's IP.
If Microsoft asserts that some or all SUSE Linux software infringes on its IP, then Novell cannot distribute this software under the GPL, regardless of its deal with Microsoft. If Microsoft is bluffing and doesn't intend on following this announcement by, say, suing Red Hat, then it stands to question whether Novell's decision to license Microsoft IP necessarily implies that their software infringes this IP. If it does, then Novell would be violating the GPL by distributing this software. If it doesn't, then it isn't clear that the GPLv2 prohibits this deal. It isn't illegal to sell excessive insurance policies, and it wouldn't seem illegal to sell unneeded patent protection for unencumbered GPL software.
The lesson from the SCO case is simple: before we cede ground, implicitly admit that our free software stack is encumbered, and start paying for licenses, we need to know what we're infringing. Novell wants to apologize to Microsoft on behalf of the Linux community for stealing their IP, but we have nothing to apologize for... besides Novell's shameful disregard for the principles of free software and the GPL that governs much of its distribution.
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