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Microvell and GPLV3 – The FSF Strikes Back

Posted in Action, Deals, Deception, Fork, Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Interview, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Samba at 1:12 am by Shane Coyle

There is a Reuters news report that is proclaiming "Novell could be banned from selling Linux: group", and it made my heart flutter. Honestly.

Moglen said the board has not made a decision on the matter but that he expects it to announce a ruling within two weeks.

If the foundation decides to take action, the ban would apply to new versions of Linux covered under a licensing agreement due to take effect in March.

John Dragoon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Novell, declined to comment saying it would be premature to speculate on how the issue would be resolved.

“We’ll take a look at the final determination and we’ll react accordingly,” he said.

Actually, it seems that the quote from Eben Moglen on which the article is premised was taken slightly out of context, and Moglen himself says the reporter is hyping the report to create "unnecessary waves".

“What he actually asked me,” said Moglen in an email interview, “was ‘Is it true that some members of the community want GPLv3 to keep Novell from distributing future versions of GPL’d software?’ I said, ‘Yes, the Free Software Foundation is opposed to the deal, and is thinking about what to do; there will be a new draft soon [of the GPLv3]” (GNU General Public License Version 3).

Therefore, “The actual quote he prints is entirely accurate, but his lede destroys the context and is making unnecessary waves.”

What is actually happening is, in the coming weeks, Moglen and the FSF will be working on the language to address Microvell’s license exploit, and then Novell will have something concrete to ponder – comply with GPLv3 or fork nearly every major package in their distribution, starting with Samba.

Of course, as Jeremy Allison astutely pointed out in our interview with him after leaving Novell, it is likely that Microsoft will find the deal untenable after GPLv3 is introduced, since the new version is likely to include verbiage that extends Novell’s patent covenant to all downstream users, without restriction.

Stafford Masie has already stated that Novell will "do what it takes" to be GPLv3 compliant, including amending the Microsoft deal if necessary. And, as the new GPL version nears completion, we should watch Novell to see if they are indeed willing and able to comply with the new license, or if their deal with Microsoft will take precedence over the community from which they derive their product.

We should find out shortly just how beholden to Microsoft Novell really has become.

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  1. Draconishinobi said,

    February 3, 2007 at 9:44 pm


    I’d like to ask this:

    When GPLv3 comes out, will the Linux kernel be upgraded from v2 to v3 ? Will the GNU portion of Linux be upgraded likewise ? How much of it ?

    And, I don’t like the sound of Novell’s promise to comply at all costs. I feel the devil may have consumed them already :(

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 4, 2007 at 3:36 am


    Samba is moving to GPLv3. Also see Bruce’s latest item in Technocrat which discusses this. While MySQL AB is having second thoughts about GPLv3, other projects might only procrastinate this.

    The whole scenario makes you think about companies that accepted Novell’s offer, e.g. Citroen. The encouraging news is that moving between Linux vendors is easy(ier).

  3. Justin Silverton said,

    February 4, 2007 at 1:39 pm


    “When GPLv3 comes out, will the Linux kernel be upgraded from v2 to v3 ? Will the GNU portion of Linux be upgraded likewise ? How much of it ?”

    Since linus has publically state how much he hates the GPLv3..I don’t think too much of it will be converted to the new license.

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