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Novell Could Lose Rights to Distribute GNU, but Not Linux

Posted in Action, Courtroom, Deals, Fork, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Interoperability, Kernel, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Review, Samba at 12:32 am by Shane Coyle

So that’s what "GNU⁄Linux" is all about…

Unfortunately, the Novell Ban on Distributing Linux piece of FUD has really caught on and is being repeated ad infinitum around the internet. The article implies that the FSF is coming together to review the Microvell deal and decide if it is in violation of the GPL, and whether Novell should retain the right to distribute Linux is to be decided in the coming weeks.

As was pointed out earlier, this is not exactly what is happening – the FSF is not reviewing Novell specifically and determining if they are complying with the current GPL, with the intent of pulling their license. What is happening, however, is a new draft of the upcoming GPLv3 is in the works. In the coming weeks, the FSF will be working on the language that will address the Microsoft-Novell patent covenant and its "workaround" of the GPLv2 intent.

Basically, the FSF is closing the loophole exploited by the Microsoft-Novell deal, after which it will be up to Microvell to decide if they wish to comply with the new license terms and conditions. At this time, the FSF is not pursuing the Microvell deal under GPLv2, and apparently they are conceding that the deal is GPLv2 compliant (or at least not worth litigating).

Another point worth mentioning, is that Linux (the kernel) is almost certainly remaining under GPLv2 for the forseeable future, so even if Novell is unable or unwilling to comply with GPLv3, they will still apparently be able to distribute "Linux" under GPLv2 for some time.

What will be moving to GPLv3 in short order after its approval are projects like gcc and other fundamental packages that are controlled by the FSF, in addition to Samba – the very project which provides Novell’s coveted Windows interoperability in the first place.

So, while Novell will be able to distribute Linux for the forseeable future, it’s the GNU that Novell will be losing if they can’t comply with GPLv3, requiring them to maintain their own forks.

Of course, Novell has already pledged to comply with GPLv3 in whatever form it should take, so I suppose this is all much ado about nothing, right?

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  1. Draconishinobi said,

    February 4, 2007 at 1:48 pm


    “Another point worth mentioning, is that Linux (the kernel) is almost certainly remaining under GPLv2 for the forseeable future, so even if Novell is unable or unwilling to comply with GPLv3, they will still apparently be able to distribute “Linux” under GPLv2 for some time.”

    That’s what I thought … Linus (and a few others) want(s) the kernel to stay under GPLv2. This means the GPLv3 will have very little if any effect on the Microvell deal / contract. They can easily develop or use software that is not under v3. For example, I know Intel makes a decent closed-source complier that would easily substitute gcc. So, I mean, unless really super critical parts of GNU, things that will cause GNU/Linux to not to function at a decent level without some major investment in developing new software, get upgraded to v3, then there is nothing stopping the evil empire from expanding, destroying, and/or dominating Linux and a good portion of GNU. Or maybe Hurd is the last and only hope ? Maybe BSD ? I feel the evil empire has already won :( :( :( Maybe there was never any hope in the first place ….

  2. Justin Silverton said,

    February 4, 2007 at 1:51 pm


    “Novell Could Lose Rights to Distribute GNU, but Not Linux”

    Most linux distributions contain lots of GNU software. Even though they can still use software from version 2, if they were blocked completly from the GNU aspect..there wouldn’t be much of an actual operating system left.

    “Of course, Novell has already pledged to comply with GPLv3 in whatever form it should take, so I suppose this is all much ado about nothing, right?”

    I think they stated this before the FSF decided to go after them directly.

  3. Justin Silverton said,

    February 4, 2007 at 1:57 pm


    “So, I mean, unless really super critical parts of GNU, things that will cause GNU/Linux to not to function at a decent level without some major investment in developing new software, get upgraded to v3″

    The problem is that if you get a piece of software under the GPLv2..you have a choice of using it under future licenses. So, Novell can still use anything under the GPLv2 (which includes all current gnu software) and they won’t have a problem.

    The drawback to them is that they will not be able to get updates (if they want to sell it under the deal with Microsoft) and will have to hire more developers rather than just using code from the community.

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