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05.21.07

Microsoft Dismisses Being Subjected to GPL, Uses Novell as a Proxy

Posted in Deals, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell at 9:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In the following new coverage, Microsoft claims to be exempted from the GPL. This contradicts a few other arguments.

Microsoft is not convinced that distribution of SUSE vouchers makes the company subject to GPL requirements. Richard Wilder, a patent lawyer for the Association of Competitive Technology (an organization partially funded by Microsoft), argues that Microsoft isn’t subject to the GPL because the company isn’t literally distributing Linux or any other piece of GPL-licensed software. Speaking to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wilder said, “[Microsoft is] not distributing Linux. They’re providing somebody access to a service, but they’re not providing copies of Linux on a disk, and they’re not providing somebody access to Linux for the purpose of download, and so they’re not engaged in any distribution.”

So, where would Microsoft be if it were not for Novell? The true situation is yet to be understood as there are two sides to every argument. There is some further discussion about the GPL in the second part of a recent interview with Eben Moglen and, given that he knows the licence better than most, he is quite likely to be correct.

The following article explains why Microsoft has entered the deal and what this means to Novell.

Microsoft seemed satisfied in the past to wage the battle against Linux through its SCO Group proxy, but SCO’s lawsuit against IBM — claiming IBM contributed SCO intellectual property to Linux — has been slowly circling the drain for some time. With Windows Vista sales hardly taking flight, and Microsoft’s next-generation server operating system — Longhorn — still not ready for prime time, it seems that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer decided it was time to unleash the lawyers to buy the Redmondians some time. [Note: this is a point which we stressed before]

Meanwhile, Novell may start selling a lot more SuSE Linux, because Novell and Microsoft’s software patent agreement shields the distribution against Redmond’s wrath. But that agreement hasn’t won Novell a lot of friends. The free-software community has risen up to protest Novell’s moves, urging people to dump SuSE. And many open-source license-holders are considering relicensing key libraries to the Limited GNU Public License to exclude SuSE from using them.

In other news, Novell has just got itself a contract in California.

San Diego Students Learn on Linux Desktops From Novell

[...]

San Diego Unified School District is the second-largest school district in California, serving more than 130,000 students, 100,000 of whom are in grades three through 12 and are targeted by the Always-On Learning Initiative.

For a change, neither Microsoft nor “intellectual property” are mentioned in the press release.

Novell/Microsoft Debate and Unwanted Consequences

Posted in GPL, Meeting, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 7:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Coming soon is a debate on the impact of the Novell-Microsoft deal. The manager of a company whose product handles software licence compliance will take the lead. Recently, his company, which is called Black Duck, received a some attention owing to the gentle GPLv2-GPv3 clashes. It is something that this new article explores as well.

Another point Vasile makes to clients is that open source doesn’t mean anti-commercial. “That’s a big misconception,” he said. “Under the GPL, if you want to charge for software, you can. However, you then have obligations.”

Mainly, if you charge for GPL software, you must keep the core open. “If you get GPL code, modify it, and sell it, you have to give the people you sell it to the same rights you received. Your customers must be able to copy, modify, and distribute without difficulty,” he said.

This, in fact, is an interesting key point which, according to Moglen, has left Microsoft exoposed to nasty consequences. It almost makes Novell’s deal a beneficial one. And as far as risk goes, Ubuntu’s founder argues that patent trolls are the greatest threat, not predatory deals. He is also certain that Microsoft will have nothing by scare tactics to offer as a weapon.

In short, Microsoft will lose a patent trench war if they start one, and I’m sure that cooler heads in Redmond know that.

The IT World Returns to Business as Usual (Web Reactions)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 7:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There are many new signs which indicate that fear of IP infringement simply does not prevail. Free software is still seen as safe and its appeal has possibly been increased by Microsoft’s subtle and implicit admission of fear. Consider, for example, the following survey:

…none of the half-dozen IT executives who were interviewed about Microsoft’s infringement assertions plan to change their open-source adoption strategies — at least, not unless and until there’s a good reason for them to do so.

Here is some more analysis from InfoWorld.

OSBC arrives, Month of Enterprise Startups continues, and open source IP threats are put to rest

[...]

Assuming that whets your appetite for more on the topic, I suggest you dig into Neil McAllister’s “How risky is open source?” — a look at the legally fraught issue of intellectual property in open source. Among other findings, Neil points out that the threat of lawsuits is vastly overstated, because so many vendors are locked into a “mutually assured destruction” detente over patents.

Here is the detailed article, which explains that IP — whether it’s valid or not — goes both ways.

Often overstated, intellectual property threats apply to both proprietary and open source code

Gartner agrees with the assessment that fear is unfounded.

Organizations that use free software such as Linux shouldn’t “panic or be concerned about paying Microsoft licensing fees,” the analysts write in their assessment.

Let’s not forget the KSR v. Teleflex case, which pretty much tested futile patents in court.

According to this view, simply combining these elements does not constitute an obvious extension of existing designs. As such, it provides expansive opportunities for designers to build upon the prior art and yet receive patent protection for their work.

A couple of other short articles point the finger at the real problem. Linux has become too great a threat.

“It’s one of the few operating systems that represents a viable threat that Microsoft has a great deal of difficulty containing,” Gillen said. Because open-source developers share their code, the challenge to Microsoft’s products isn’t limited to one company.

The impact of the recent actions still had an unwanted effect.

This week Microsoft provided me with yet another reason to hate them….

[...]

I’m one former MS customer who will not be going back to MS any time soon. This legal action only makes me more determined never to give MS a cent of my hard earned cash. MS need to listen to people like me. I’m fed up with their cr*p and threatening me with legal action is not going to endear them to me! They need to put their lawyers back into their box and start producing better software!

At the end of the day, the past week’s event reveal a winner. That winner is not proprietary software. We are hoping to return to focus on Novell, having (hopefully) dispelled and invalidated some the of noise. Novell did, by all means, play a role, albeit a passive one.

Absurdity in Pictures — What on Earth Has Novell Just Committed Itself To?

Posted in Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 6:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some things need to be seen in order for their complexity to be realised. OOXML is one such thing. Have a look at the picture in the following new Web page. Here is some text which accompanies it:

Can you imagine better way to spend 4 hours of your Friday afternoon time than discussing OOXML problems with non-techies from Microsoft?

[...]

I have read approx. 200 pages of the specification and I decided to stop, because it is dangerous. The ideas presented in various parts of the specification (like two ways to represent the date – one of them representing dates between 1900 and 20000 and another one to represent dates between 1904 and 20000 where the second one is a complete subset of the first one!) are dangerous to the mental health of the reader. The innovative method of storing the language code (e.g. the decimal integer 58380 into two digit hexadecimal number) is also worth a world-wide patent…

I simply can’t believe that developers and or TC45 members from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress actually read the final document. I can’t believe it. If I ever write such document, I surely won’t sign it by my name. Why?

Imagine implementing, testing, and optimising this incomplete set of specifications, which is being ‘extended’. Novell has actually given Microsoft some backing by agreeing to do this (the impossible mission, but someone must pretend it’s pursueable, right?).

To make matters worse, Microsoft continues to snub an ISO standard. ODF is a standard which Novell defended before it negotiated with Microsoft. Mind you, Microsoft has no intentions to support ODF, yet it seems to expect Novell to implement what can never be implemented. According to this new item:

As the friction between ODF and OXML continues to bubble, Nick McGrath, Microsoft’s director of platform strategy, has gone on record dismissing ODF as a potential solution for Microsoft, even as the company backs ODF for ANSI accreditation.

As it stands, Novell continues to give its support to monopoly abuse and wastes its resources trying to achieve something which it never will. Is the company being manipulated as means of promoting something which almost no nation desires, let alone is willing to accept? Time and time again, when it comes to protocols and formats, Novell passively nods on behalf of and in support of its new ally.

Press and Blog Reaction to Latest Saber Rattling

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Patents at 5:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Frank J. Ohlhorst wonders how far Microsoft is willing to go and whether its own weaknesses and vulnerabilities are the cause for action.

If you can’t beat them, sue them. Linux has finally awakened the sleeping giant: Microsoft’s legal department.

The Free Software Foundation responds as well, saying that Microsoft patent claims don’t add up.

The Free Software Foundation Europe responded to Microsoft’s patent claims against Linux and open source late last week by stating that the company’s actions don’t suggest patent claims in Microsoft’s favor.

ComputerWorld repeats the latest FUD, echoing Microsoft’s request for ‘tax’ and lack of interest in litigation of any kind. Some argue that nothing has changed and that it’s just “business as usual”.

Voices of the community concur and say that Microsoft will never sue.

Of course they won’t sue. Like the SCO case MSFT financed, it would likely crumble during discovery. It’s the potential of a lawsuit that MSFT will use to create the FUD they feel is necessary to convince people to shy away from open source products and instead fall back to MSFT products.

With or without litigation, a lot of damage (to Microsoft) may have already been done.

Very interesting ploy from Microsoft, I can’t say I agree with the tactic as I think it’s just going to create more negative publicity for Microsoft and alienate the Open Source community even more…

Here is a very strong rebuttal from Open Source Industry Australia (OSIA). It says that Microsoft is in fact admitting the weakness of its patent by refusing to be specific.

Open Source Industry Australia Limited (OSIA) welcomes this week’s admission by Microsoft in magazine articles, including Fortune magazine, that the patents it has identified against open source are liable to be struck out as invalid.

“We’ve tried to work it out, but their reasoning is lost on us,” said OSIA director Brendan Scott. “They’re worried the patents will be invalid, so they’re not disclosing them. In the next breath they say its fair for everyone else to pay them for the same patents. You’d have to be a bit of a dope wouldn’t you?”

Last but not least, here is a column suggesting that Microsoft may have already violated a licence it had accepted, namely the GPL(v2).

Yet that is not a far-fetched conclusion – not after the deal that Dell cut with Microsoft recently. You see, as a result of striking this deal, Microsoft has effectively become a Linux distributor. It gets SUSE Linux licences from Novell and distributes them to Dell.

The GPLv2, the existing version of the GPL that is, stipulates that if a person or company distributes software that is under the GPL, then that person or company is also bound by the terms of the same licence.

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