01.05.07

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It’s the Patent Covenant

Posted in Antitrust, Boycott Novell, Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant at 3:22 am by Shane Coyle

From time to time, folks will question what our motives here at BN are exactly, and some have accused us of advancing Microsoft’s very goal of fragmenting the community.

Those criticisms hit home, because obviously there is some validity to those arguments – the site is called boycott Novell after all. I just didn’t think that dearnovellpleasefixthepatentcovenant.com would have the same mnemonic value, y’know?

Anyhow, my problem with this deal, and therefore Novell, is the patent covenant. Novell is paying Microsoft royalties for Microsoft’s promising not to sue Novell’s customers for some unspecified potential ip⁄patent infringement that may or may not be in Novell’s Linux or other Open Source offerings.

At best, Novell is naively validating and contributing to Microsoft’s FUD campaign against Linux, at worst it is a patent cross-license with some clever wording to sidestep the GPLv2. Unfortunately all signs point to the latter case.

Consider this statement by Jason Matusow in response to a comment on his "Your input requested" blog entry, which illustrates the manner in which Novell is using Microsoft’s patent threats to render OpenSUSE.org as the only presumably safe channel for commercial redistribution of GPL code, a right that apparently Novell is paying Microsoft for and I feel is a violation of the GPLv2.

TAG – thanks for the comment.

We have to separate two things. The openSUSE.org covenant is for ANY developer (even professionally compensated for that work) to contribute to the openSUSE.org code base. The covenant terms apply to that activity.

The individual covenant is for any OSS development, for any project, done in any geography – as long as it is done non-commercially. We want to get the covenant to the point where it is clear that even if the code ends up being used in a commercial sense, the individual who did the work remains covered by the covenant – only the entity that is bringing the code to market commercially is responsible for clearing that product for use (like ANY other commercial entity bringing a product to market).

TAG, I hear you about OSS development that the meritocracy element is built upon the quality of the code you create and the accpetance of that code by a project maintainer. I disagree that “generic” is a requirement although broad benefit is important. My view of the issues we are looking to deal with (not there yet) are getting code, modifying code, generating new code, using that in binary form for yourself, and then distribution considerations.

I will continue to Boycott Novell until they fix the patent covenant, at least. My antitrust concerns about the deal are pretty strong as well.

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7 Comments

  1. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 5, 2007 at 3:45 am

    Gravatar

    To add to this, I’d like to quote a message sent by Ray Ozzie last night.

    http://weblog.infoworld.com/openresource/archives/2007/01/which_should_no.html

    ‘Suse is now the only “sanctioned” Linux for the Enterprise due to the agreement and work with Microsoft’

    Isn’t this just a classic? Fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

  2. Danny Cones said,

    January 5, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Gravatar

    I tend to see this as targeted FUD also- you try and address this but the simple fact is this approach further muddies the waters. Make the distinction between SLED, SLES, and Opensuse the way the contract does. The covenant only comes into play with corporate environments, and you indeed, regardless of how many times you defend your “boycott” are doing fud on your own.

    Did ya get a new acer laptop???

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 5, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Gravatar

    Did ya get a new acer laptop???

    You’re suggesting that we promote Microsoft’s agenda, but the matter of fact is that, as I have mention in a previous post, Novell made a mistake and enormous damage was done. How we deal with the new status quo is the principal issue. Isolating Novell from the corporate environment (SuSE ought to live on) seems like the best solution.

    To clarify, I used to be a huge SuSE advocate, but the deal turned Novell from a community contributer into a foe. Novell is acting selfishly on behalf of its financial factors.

    P.S. — On the above joke, I foolishly thought it was mine. *wink* For the past week I have been asking people who spread anti-Linux FUD if they had received their Ferrari laptop.

  4. shane said,

    January 5, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Gravatar

    This deal betrayed the very principles of the community that Novell derives its product from and is wholly unacceptable, I cannot sit idly by and allow Novell to do this.

    Danny, I understand your viewpoint, but we will just have to “agree to disagree” over the proper course of action in regards to the Microvell deal.

    The way to communicate with a corporation is economically, this boycott shows Novell and their shareholders that their selfish deal is unacceptable.

    And, on the laptop note, I’m hoping Novell will ship me a SERVER with SLES preloaded for my review and do with as I please, (hint hint if anyone from Novell PR or Edelman is reading…). However, I have a feeling I would get a Windows server with SLES running inside of a virtual machine.

  5. shane said,

    January 5, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Gravatar

    The covenant comes into play in redistribution, it limits the manner in which developers may freely redistribute code they receive under the GPL. It is imposing additional restrictions on redistribution, specifically disallowing ‘commercial’ redistribution without paying ip royalty fees per unit as Novell has agreed to do.

    The patent covenant says you may be an individual, non-compensated developer and keep changes for your own use, or you may contribute them to Novell to distribute since they are paying royalties to MS for any possible infringements already.

    Otherwise, if you want to commercially distribute GPL code you must secure your own patent covenant (and pay royalties) to Microsoft.

    http://boycottnovell.com/2006/12/11/embrace-microsoft-or-join-with-us-in-our-embrace-with-microsoft/

  6. Danny Cones said,

    January 5, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Gravatar

    I agree to disagree. I still think you’re doing more damage to the community than helping it.

    I find it kind of funny that you’d like a SLES laptop from the company you’re trying to boycott.

  7. shane said,

    January 5, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Gravatar

    Check your sarcasm meter, it’s broken.

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