Microsoft Source Code Request for SUSE

Posted in Action, Boycott Novell, GPL, Microsoft, Novell at 6:41 am by Shane Coyle

Well, sometimes I get too bored and come up with ways to be annoying, and here is one of them…

Some time ago, I had tried to contact Microsoft’s IP Licensing division with an email/open letter to Steve Ballmer requesting specific information on some of the claims he was making regarding Microsoft’s IP and GNU/Linux. Surprisingly, I have yet to receive a response.

Let’s see how this one goes over, sent this AM to ventures@microsoft.com:


First of all, congratulations to Microsoft for your success in distributing Novell SUSE Linux, with reports of more than 40,000 SUSE coupons distributed to date. I will admit, when Novell’s Stafford Masie characterized the deal between Microsoft and Novell as “Microsoft’s Official Entry into the Linux Space”, I was a bit hesitant, but I just can’t argue with success.

Pursuant to the GNU General Public License version 2, Section 3, I would like to request information on obtaining the machine-readable source code for the SUSE Linux that Microsoft has been so successfully distributing. Please advise if there is an FTP available, or if there is any cost associated with requests fulfilled via CD/DVD media.

Thank you in advance for your assistance, and allow me to add, welcome to the community.


Shane Coyle


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  1. k said,

    May 10, 2007 at 8:53 am



  2. shane said,

    May 10, 2007 at 9:21 am


    Thanks, but the point of the exercise is for MS to acknowledge they are distributing SUSE and are bound by the GPLv2.

  3. Duane Maxwell said,

    May 10, 2007 at 10:50 am


    Under GPLv2 Section 3(c), they can only point to the upstream provider if they’re distributing Linux non-commercially, otherwise they must directly distribute the source either with the binary (3(a)) or to anyone that asks (3(b))

    The real question is whether or not they’re actually distributing Linux, and thus subject to Section 3, or just vouchers to obtain Linux from Novell.

  4. shane said,

    May 10, 2007 at 1:15 pm


    Precisely the question, although I don’t buy the ‘they’re only coupons’ defense – imagine a drug kingpin establishing a system by which s|he merely sold coupons redeemable for crack, somehow I doubt the feds would appreciate the difference…

  5. Stephen Holmes said,

    May 10, 2007 at 5:12 pm


    Whether you buy it or not, they’re _actually_ coupons and not a Linux distribution. I’m sure you could probably get the Framemaker sources for the coupon graphic though (not sure if it’s under creative commons though!)

    Seriously, if MS Doc recommended purchasing SUSE Linux it wouldn’t mean MS actually have to provide it. I think it’s called ADVERTISING.

  6. Shaun said,

    May 18, 2007 at 6:41 am


    I’m not certain on the specifics but aren’t the coupons for support of copies of Suse Linux rather than actually buying copies of Linux? Isn’t Suse Linux free or is that just a community version?

    If you need the coupons (or a license direct from Novel) to be allowed to run that version of Suse Linux then I would think that Microsoft would have to be counted as a distributor, if the coupons are just for support contracts then I can see things being a little less certain but it still might be possible to argue that Microsoft is a distributor under these circumstances.

  7. Shane Coyle said,

    May 19, 2007 at 11:11 am


    Here is some from Eben Moglen, talking about Microsoft as a Linux distributor:

    “Novell’s activity will be protected by the fact that it was complete as of the date in November, which is the effective date of their deal with Microsoft. [The GPL revisions won't be retroactive.] Microsoft’s activity will begin to disperse patent defenses into the community. When GPL 3 goes into effect, every Microsoft coupon handed to somebody, which results in the shipment of a Novell Server Edition product to that coupon-holder, will result in a conveyance of broad patent defenses to parties throughout the community.

    “The goal of this provision was to incent Microsoft to get out of the patent deal with Novell. Microsoft, which fully understands what we are doing and why we are doing it, has elected instead not to withdraw from the deal with Novell, but to throw coupons wholesale out of airplanes. You have been watching for months as Microsoft gave away these coupons — which were supposed to be valuable to Microsoft, and for which it paid a lot of money — as though the coupons themselves were hot, as indeed they are. All of this giving away coupons activity by Microsoft is meaningless and useless. The coupons have no expiration date, and Microsoft can be sure that some coupons will be turned into Novell in return for software after the effective date of GPL 3. Once that has happened, patent defenses will, under the license, have moved out into the broad community and be available to anybody who Microsoft should ever sue for infringement.

    “Our goal, in other words, is to add one more layer of probable defense against the Microsoft patent aggression, which Microsoft has just been busy thumping its tub about this week. So, in summary, Novell will be protected for the long haul, and Microsoft will be endangered for the long haul by GPL 3, and that’s as it should be.”

    So, get a coupon and Novell sends you a copy of SUSE – any more questions?

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