Sam Hiser says Novell is in a lose-lose situation, but that’s not necessarily the case. The kernel is staying GPLv2. (Linus Torvalds deciding not to take his 10,000 copyright holders and go v3 is like the driver of an 18-wheeler “deciding” not to do donuts on my lawn.)
That leaves development tools, which Novell can always split out into a separate product, the way the Unix vendors did, and a bunch of utilities, which are not moving fast enough to be a problem to maintain.
Forking options aside, Novell seems to be redefining and spinning what GPLv3 and MIcrosoft’s response actually mean. As Heise puts it:
Novell welcomed and supported the new GPL version and was planning to include GPLv3 software in its distribution, it was said. There were no provisions in the final version of GPLv3 that would prevent Novell from doing so, the company declared.
I am not a lawyer and my understanding of the licence is limited. In these circumstances I just count on the judgment of those whose words I trust. Matt Aslett is one of them and he now opines that these endless arguments could be heading towards the courtroom.
The legal ramifications of Microsoft’s GPLv3 position
I previously noted that Microsoft was attempting to portray itself as the victim. Talk of being misrepresented and bound fits the picture.
If the FSF ever confronted Microsoft over GPLv3 misinterpretations and disagreements, then it would be interesting to see Novell’s involvement. It would probably maintain a bystander status. Novell is not quite so fond of the FSF and the sentiments seem mutual. This is despite the fact that Novell benefited from the FSF’s mercy (when GPLv3′s draft was rewritten). Remind yourselves that this was only done in order to be used against Microsoft, not necessary in order to favour or assist Novell. Even Alax Cox had something to say about this.
According to the following bit of information, ECMA does not exactly operate like a standards body should. Have a look (emphasis mine):
Global Graphics’ chief technology officer Martin Bailey has been appointed by standards development body Ecma International to chair a new technical committee that will work on producing a formal industry standard for the XML Paper Specification (XPS), the new print and document format introduced by Microsoft with Windows Vista….
Global Graphics has played a prominent role in the development and launch of the XPS specification from the very start. A recognized expert in interpreting, rendering and converting PDLs, Global Graphics’ leading edge expertise and engineering capability were factors in the Company being chosen by Microsoft in 2003 to provide consultation services on the XPS specification as well as develop a prototype and a print reference XPS RIP for Microsoft.
Now, can you see how approval is won at ECMA? There is not much of a chance of a proposal being rejected, is there? As we said yesterday, ISO seems to have lost its way as well. It is becoming a little assimilated to ECMA, which can be referred to as a Coin-in-the-Slot Standards Organization. Once again, Microsoft’s allies are in the committee, so there is little room for independent judgment. ECMA truly looks like a production line that passes on proposal s– however poor they may be — to the ISO, then boasting some ‘pseudo acceptance’ by an industry-for-industry consortium.
Andy Updegrove and Bob Sutor are among those who try to explain to high officials why poor Microsoft-centric standards must be rejected. You can assist resistance to OOXML adoption in MA.
Preparing such comments is time consuming, but it is also important. I took several hours to do so yesterday, and have just sent them to the ITD just now. You can to, and I hope that you will. The ITD’s comment address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the deadline is next Friday. If you’re a believer in open standards, please don’t let that deadline pass without making your thoughts known.
More information can be found here. According to Newton (of Alfresco), Microsoft has just taken its battles to the United Kingdom as well. It continues its lobbying campaign with an XML du jour and a twisted definition of “open”.
With OOXML and XPS, Microsoft has chosen to not work with existing standards, but to create new ones, as they have in their recent announcement on Web3S instead of working with the rest of the industry on the Atom Publishing Protocol. In the case of OOXML, this is a logical move on Microsoft’s part, since it is an evolution of Microsoft’s XML strategy started with the Microsoft Office 2003 version and ODF will be a technology diversion from that strategy. With Microsoft controlling 90% of the office productivity tools market and OOXML being the default file format for Microsoft Office 2007, OOXML is likely to be widely-used.
The article suggests that the BBC article on digital preservation may have been nothing but a publicity stunt. There are some prior incidents where Microsoft did questionable things in the United Kingdom. It ‘faked’ support for OOXML and got slammed by the Open Source Consortium, with which I’m sort of affiliated.
The petition is an attempt to make it appear that Open XML has “pseudo-grassroots” support, argues Mark Taylor, the founder of the Open Source Consortium.
As you may already know, Microsoft’s goal is to make Linux more expensive. The deals with Linux distributors have other effects (including document formats, interoperability costs, and so forth), but one key goal is to make Linux an operating system that is no longer free. Alternatively, the goal is to at least ‘cripple’ all versions (distributions) of Linux that are not paid for. Microsoft wishes to receive money no matter whose product you buy, even where rival software developed by volunteers is concerned.
OEMs are forced to forfeit all discounts otherwise earned if they ship any “naked machines” to consumers. This heightened restriction, which (on information and belief) continues to the present, prohibits PC users and PC retailers from buying and installing lower priced or better quality operating systems of their choice.
This is a very large document. It’s a petition which is definitely worth reading if you wish to know more about Microsoft’s history of anticompetitive practices. Remember that Microsoft settled this case very quickly and had these exhibits virtually removed from the Web (later to realise that Groklokian had already grabbed complete mirrors).
SCO’s tactics in this fiasco have been to try to scare corporate Linux users into buying SCO’s protection licenses to avoid possible future litigation and creating a smoke screen of doubt in the Linux market.
So there you have it. Microsoft and SCO are not only financially connected. They are mentally connected, as well. If you buy Xandros, Linspire, or SUSE Linux, then you simply help Microsoft get its way.
Bug fixes is code, folks. Ditto revisions, enhancements, localizations, updates, upgrades and modifications. Now tell me Microsoft, had they not run for the exit, wouldn’t have been distributing software under GPLv3, let alone conveying or propagating. Puh lease.
I think after reading all this, you can see why the company decided to try to scrape the Novell vouchers off of its shoes like toilet paper stuck to the bottom. But with the vouchers having no expiration dates, I really wonder if what they have done is enough. So when I read Microsoft’s statement that it isn’t bound by GPLv3, I’d call it hopeful optimism that the changes they’ve announced will help them retreat from what would inevitably have been a huge GPLv3 impact. I read it as saying, *Now* we aren’t bound, any more, because we stopped doing what we were doing that would have bound us.”
Who would wish to buy ‘Microsoft-approved’ Linux at this stage? Those who defected are likely to end up with a crippled and out-of-date versions of GNU, among other pieces of software which can be compromised.
Off-topic side notes:
If you spot any errors, please say something so that we can correct them. Personally, I write these posts quickly, so typos and grammatical errors are always expected
Any parallels between this Web site and Groklaw are probably the result of involvement in both. The sites are by no means affiliated (or siblings) though.
The third version of the General Public Licence (GPLv3) has been adopted by 116 open source projects in its first week of operation, according to an overview compiled by software risk management firm Palamida.
It appears as though Europe is still ahead of the United States when it comes to honouring standards. The level of influence which Microsoft enjoys overseas is probably more limited. A preliminary look at a policy has revealed that, at least for the time being, the international standard which is OpenDocument format has precedence in Poland.
This basically means that Microsoft’s Office Open XML will not be treated as open standard, thus not preferred in Polish e-Government services, making OpenDocument Format the office standard of choice.
Early this morning, The Jakarta Post was brave enough to slam Microsoft for its tactics. While trying to remain balanced, the article seems to be accusing the company of fighting emerging trends by moving goalposts (changing laws), making unsubstantiated threats, and attempting to outmuscle the competition rather than concentrating on its own products.
Perhaps what Microsoft should do as a whole is to play better with others and listen to its user base. The world and markets have changed, yet a number of companies and organizations continue to struggle to maintain their old business models. Using legal tactics instead of true technology innovation will not endear nor create loyal customers.
Thumbs up to The Jakarta Post for doing what the press in the West is usually unwilling to do in quite the same way. The popular press, unlike the mainstream press, sometimes offers criticism and balance. It is not as dependent on large corporations. Whatever you read, always mind where it comes from. There is too much financially-motivated bias in the outlets which many people still trust.
For what it’s worth, here is a fuzzy and short video of OIN’s top man. It is incomplete. He speaks about patents, but does not refer to Microsoft’s accusations. We are hoping to find some better videos that cover this topic, so stay tuned.
According to an article that repeats an old story, Microsoft’s deals with Xandros and Linspire reflected on what was coming. Microsoft knew all too well that its plan would possibly backfire. This was confirmed when the licence got finalised and released.
Microsoft likely foresaw this during the GPL 3 draft process, which is why neither the Xandros or Linspire deals included voucher provisions.
In its attempt to escape the grip of the GPLv3, Microsoft is even willing to betray Novell, which was supposed to be its Linux partner. About a month ago it was argued that Microsoft had thrown out its SUSE coupons out of a plane, so to speak, because it realised that GPLv3 would be very effective. It would clearly achieve its goals.
Here comes the fun part. As we saw at the end of last week, Microsoft is willing to do everything necessary to carry on with the plot and at the same time deny any involvement with GPLv3-licensed software. This was laughable. Microsoft thinks (or would love to think) otherwise. A certain mystery remains here, however, because one has to cast doubt on their possibilities. SCO too has argued that its software had not been ‘contaminated’ by the GPL, but as Groklaw showed last night, they were wrong.
SCO seems to have started something, when, after releasing software under the GPL for years, it now claims it never knowingly did so. As you know, Microsoft has now declared its GPL-virginity as well.
I feel like a cad, pointing out SCO slept with the GPL, but there you are, in black and white, ladies and gentlemen (and, as Groklaw member pem points out, a little bit of red too). Caldera certainly said it released its own code under the GPL, and it appears to have understood quite well at the time precisely what it was doing.
Can Microsoft ever carry on with its plan? At present, any ‘protected’ Linux distribution is becoming less appealing by the day. Up-to-date software is just not there. So, who would possible wish to liaise with Microsoft at this stage? Those IP deals seem less attractive than ever before.
Novell, Linspire and Xandros may see their status drop into oblivion. This would serve as a lesson and warning sign to anyone who might be tempted to endorse Microsoft’s IP claims. GPLv3 redefines the terms (and thus worth) of these deals. If Microsoft carries on denying its obligations to the GPL, it might get caught red-handed, just like SCO.