04.08.07

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GPLv3: V for Validation

Posted in Action, Free/Libre Software, FSF, FUD, GPL, Microsoft, Novell at 9:07 am by Shane Coyle

Many folks have perceived the new version of the GPLv3 as a vendetta against Microvell, with possible risks (legal, I suppose) involved with their attempting to close the loophole exploited by the Microvell deal.

Wilder contends that, at some point, efforts to block patent licenses that were legally entered into and fully consistent with contract law, as well as the intellectual property laws enacted by Congress, “begin to expose those developing and agreeing to GPLv3 to potential defenses and counterclaims.”

Efforts by non-parties to force or induce a party to abrogate a validly entered-into contract or forego entering into a prospective contract can give rise to a cause of action for tortious interference, he said. Tortious interference occurs when a person intentionally damages the plaintiff’s contractual or other business relationships.

Of course, the GPL is a license and it would be up to Novell whether they wanted to (or could) comply with the license’s terms in order to get usage of all of that code they love to resell. As far as I know, excepting Novell employees, no Free Software developers or projects are contractually obligated to provide Novell code under any specific terms – if Samba wants to go GPLv3 (or proprietary, for that matter), it will be up to Novell to either comply with the license or forego distribution of the newly licensed version.

Neil McAllister takes a closer look at the V: for Vendetta analogy, reminding readers that most of SUSE is not Novell’s code and that it is only natural for a programmer to look to strengthen the terms of the license for their code, rather than see it exploited.

Much of the code that Novell packages and sells to its customers as Suse Linux doesn’t belong to Novell. It belongs to the programmers who originally wrote it, and who have licensed it to Novell under very specific terms, as outlined in the GPLv2. The patent indemnification provisions of Novell’s deal with Microsoft clearly ran contrary to the spirit of that licence (if not the letter). Is it any surprise that the GPL’s authors would seek to clarify and strengthen its terms?

I also include a quote from Jeremy Allison’s departure from Novell, since it is able to illustrate how many Free Software developers feel about the deal in a way that even Microsoft should understand.

For people who will point out to me we don’t “technically” violate the GPLv2 here’s an argument I recently made on the mailing lists.

“Do you think that if we’d have found what we legally considered a clever way around the Microsoft EULA so we didn’t have to pay for Microsoft licenses and had decided to ship, oh let’s say, “Exchange Server” under this “legal hack” that Microsoft would be silent about it – or we should act aggr[i]eved when they change the EULA to stop us doing this?”

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A Single Comment

  1. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 8, 2007 at 10:19 am

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    I think it is important to point out that the first article you cite (“vendetta against Microvell”) quotes what is considered a Microsoft proxy which serves its interests. It would only be natural for them to issue statements that divide the community. You can think of them as a self-serving sockpuppet/mouthpiece, cloaked under a fancy name which makes it seemingly neutral and independent. Similar pressure groups exist here in Europe. They are established and funded by corporations, to serve corporations. The BSA is one such example, but some have their ‘umbilical cords’ concealed.

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