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06.11.08

Novell’s ‘Linux’ is Not Free Software (Corrected)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, SLES/SLED at 3:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

[Correction (14/06/2008): technically speaking, SUSE complies with the GPL, but this issue is further debated below.]

Back in November, we warned that neither Freespire nor SLES|D are Free software. ‘Beranger’ has just decided to take a look at (his chances of studying) the source code of SUSE. No luck. Here is what he says.

Novell is making me sick too. I happen to run on a discussion about Why is there no Open Source SLES?, just to notice that indeed, you can’t have the SRPMS for SLES/SLED in free access!

The SRPMS from ftp://forgeftp.novell.com/sledsource/ are “frozen” (as of release), so pretty useless.

The page at you.novell.com/update/…/SUSE-SLES/10/rpm/src/ requires to a valid account (paying, that is).

And indeed, the page Source Code of the Patches for Maintained Products says that “You must have a registered SUSE product with upgrade protection in order to access the patch source code downloads.” So the sources are only available for paying customers!

Welcome to Novell. It’s the place where “the community ” means “paying customers”.

SUSE in Green

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31 Comments

  1. Dan O'Brian said,

    June 11, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Gravatar

    How does this make SLES non-Free Software? The people who pay for it can get the source code. That is EXACTLY how RMS and other Free Software people have stated that businesses could do the whole Free Software thing.

    Have you guys done any looking to see if RHEL does something similar? ;-)

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 11, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Gravatar

    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/11/12/freesuse-suse-sles-sled-eula/#comment-3208
    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/11/12/freesuse-suse-sles-sled-eula/#comment-6780

  3. Miles said,

    June 11, 2008 at 9:59 am

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    Roy:

    When you install SLES, you do have to agree to the terms of the GPL. The installer shoves it in your face (similar to OpenSuSE’s installer) and is in fact the only installer of any distro I’ve ever seen do this.

    Those comments are BS.

  4. Rui Miguel Silva Seabra said,

    June 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Gravatar

    How does this make SLES non-Free Software? The people who pay for it can get the source code. That is EXACTLY how RMS and other Free Software people have stated that businesses could do the whole Free Software thing.

    How does it make SLED non-Free Software? Simply put, any third party who gets GPL’ed binaries from SLED must also have access to source code and all freedoms.

    If you *have* to be a Novell customer, then it appears to be a GPL violation.

    This is NOT what RMS and other Free Software people have stated that business could do, and RHEL is quite diferent as they do publish the SRPMS of the updates. Even when it’s a BSD-like license.

  5. Daerd said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Gravatar

    For all I understand, the source code must be available for not more the price needed to purchase the binary for a software to be qualified as Free (plus the purchaser must gain full rights to the software as defined by the four freedoms). So paying for the source code does not necessarily make a software non-Free.

    In SLES case, however, since the binary is available gratis, the source code should also be available gratis. Anything more than that is restrictive in that it renders access to the source code as a privilege instead of a right.

  6. Daerd said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm

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    Am I right to think that SLES is available for gratis downloading? I stand to be corrected.

  7. Dan O'Brian said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:25 pm

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    SLES is not gratis

  8. Lyle Howard Seave said,

    June 13, 2008 at 10:09 am

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    @Dan O’Brian:

    Why dont you answer Rui Miguel’s post?

    Interesting how you can write something, have someone contradict you and then come back and answer the last SLES post later on (not even Daerd’ contradicting post right above).

    Coward much?
    Or is that part of the Suse Booster Freedom Hating credo?

  9. RyanT said,

    June 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm

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    @ Lyle

    Becuase as far as I understand what has been said so far, by correcting Daerd he has made the point invalid.

    If you don’t want to look like an arse, don’t rely on personal attacks to make yourself feel good by being more of a coward insulting someone on the back of an argument you didn’t contribute to.

  10. Chris said,

    June 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Gravatar

    Oh dear, just another moronic statement without any clue…

    Guess what: To receive updates as binary rpms you have to have a valid support subscription (as in you have to be a paying customer). And then you you surely can get the associated src.rpms as well.

    If you have no right to receive the binary rpms you have no claim whatsoever to get the src.rpms.

    This has been stated over and over countless times and just shows, once more, that this site just likes to spread FUD (like your retarded colleague Beranger) but simply fails to get the basic facts straight.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

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    I agree with Ryan. Let’s keep it polite. Earlier today there were other personal attacks among readers. It makes it unpleasant for everyone, not just those directly involved.

  12. Chris said,

    June 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

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    btw. I’m still hoping to finally see the chat log from yesterdays IRC session.

    Would be great if you could finally post it here.

    Thanks in advance.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 13, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Gravatar

    You have just exposed yourself. Then it’s you indeed who is trolling the IRC channel.

  14. zoltan said,

    June 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: You are very quick calling people whose opinions you don’t happen to like ‘trolls’. Mind your wording, your impertinent website is about the most trollish thing I’ve ever read…

  15. Slated said,

    June 13, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Gravatar

    Taken from a recent IRC converation on #boycottnovell (edited for brevity and spelling). For clarity, I am [H]omer, and these represent my views only, not necessarily those of BN:

    [H]omer: After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that SLED is Free Software, insofar as the exclusive distribution of corresponding sources is concerned

    [H]omer: http://boycottnovell.com/2008/06/11/sled-not-free-software
    [H]omer: sorry, I meant: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLRequireSourcePostedPublic

    [H]omer: These two sections of the GPL FAQ explain all:

    [H]omer: “Does the GPL require that source code of modified versions be posted to the public?”

    [H]omer: “The GPL does not require you to release your modified version, or any part of it. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.”

    [H]omer: “But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program’s users, under the GPL.”

    [H]omer: “Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?”

    [H]omer: “Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part of the definition of free software.”

    [H]omer: So essentially, Novell is simply selling Free Software, as permitted, and indeed encouraged, by the GPL.

    darwin: [H]omer: that is the point i was trying to bring across ;)

    [H]omer: darwin: be aware, that I am a Free Software activist, yet even I must concede that Novell is correct on this point
    [H]omer: darwin: however, Novell cannot prevent their own customers from further redistributing that GPL covered works
    [H]omer: therefore we (everyone else) may obtain those GPL covered works elsewhere

    darwin: No, except they can demand the removal of logos, trademarks and so on just like Red Hat does it with CentOS

    [H]omer: darwin: yes, they have a right to protect their trademarks, as much as I dislike that form of “IP”

    darwin: why? If i have a logo that people associate with me i don’t want other people to use it since it would make it pretty easy to spread lies about me.

    [H]omer: I don’t believe in “IP”, period.
    * [H]omer sets mode -e [H]omer
    * You are now known as darwin2
    darwin2: have I just violated your rights?
    * You are now known as [H]omer
    * services. sets mode +e [H]omer

    darwin: Nope, since i didn’t registered it :P

    [H]omer: Yes, but you get my point
    [H]omer: The fact that the law protects such “exclusiveness” does not make it right
    [H]omer: However, Novell most certainly do have a right to make money
    [H]omer: Though I don’t believe they need to use “IP” to accomplish that goal
    [H]omer: Or “protection rackets”

    darwin: what exclusiveness exactly? My logos / trademarks or something I spent my time to create it? Point being if I create it it is mine & I can release it under my preferred license if i want. imho a good idea.
    darwin: you mix up intellectual property with software patents?

    [H]omer: Knowledge (published, rather than one’s private thoughts) should not be “owned”
    [H]omer: It is a perversion

    darwin: at least “protection rackets” makes me think that

    [H]omer: and counter to academic principles
    [H]omer: One should sell actual products and services … not “IP”
    [H]omer: Selling “ideas” is akin to selling the human soul

    darwin: that’s too much comunism imho. If someone creates something he should be free to choose under which conditions he makes it available to everyone or not.

    [H]omer: Communism has nothing to do with it. Communism is “state ownership and control” which is just another form of totalitarianism. What I advocate is Freedom, not totalitarianism. Please don’t confuse the two
    [H]omer: Freedom includes the freedom to sell products and services, but not by the exploitation of monopolies
    [H]omer: Monopolies are just another form of totalitarianism
    [H]omer: Controlled by corporations rather than government

    darwin: So, following your theory, as soon as anyone would invent something everyone would be allowed to use it and the inventor would have no possibility to earn something from his invention, correct?

    [H]omer: No, as soon as anyone publishes knowledge, that knowledge “belongs” to the world
    [H]omer: The alternative is Orwellian mind control
    [H]omer: I cannot “un-know” facts

    darwin: So I’m not allowed to publish it to a restricted group (e.g. my friends) but it is an all or nothing approach?
    darwin: note that i could replace “my friends” as well with “my customers”

    [H]omer: You cannot “take back” knowledge from those who discover it

    darwin: sure not

    [H]omer: Attempting to control the dissemination of information that has already been “released” is Draconian censorship and totalitarian control
    [H]omer: There are other ways to make money – that is not an ethical method
    [H]omer: But WRT the point about Novell, yes you are right
    [H]omer: They have a right to sell software to their customers, and give only those customers the corresponding sources. And their customers have the right to further redistribute any Free Software that they receive

    darwin: While I certainly think that this would be a nice world to live in but I don’t think that it will happen before someone invented a Star Trek replicator / waste -> energy transformator ;)

    [H]omer: Idealism is, by design, impractical
    [H]omer: People do not follow idealism for “real world” reasons
    [H]omer: They follow it because it is what they believe in
    [H]omer: I’m sure the black slaves in America felt similarly before the abolition of slavery

    darwin: duh, that’s a bit far fetched comparisation.

    [H]omer: Not at all. Draconian control of the dissemination of information is a form of intellectual slavery
    [H]omer: One does not need to be wearing chains to be a slave

  16. Victor Soliz said,

    June 13, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Gravatar

    When you install SLES, you do have to agree to the terms of the GPL. The installer shoves it in your face (similar to OpenSuSE’s installer) and is in fact the only installer of any distro I’ve ever seen do this.

    Soo, SUSEs throw up GPL FUD then? The GPL does not govern use, forcing users to agree to the GPL shows that SUSE either has little understanding of the GPL or… well I cannot really think of a good reason for doing that intentionally…

  17. Slated said,

    June 14, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Gravatar

    Has anyone at Novell actually read the GPL, I wonder?

    “You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program.”

    http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html

  18. zoltan said,

    June 14, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Gravatar

    “The installer shoves the EULA in your face”… Hmmmm, strange to think that some people would rather have it hidden in a text-file in the root directory of the install CD which seems standard practice…

    The problem is that you folks don’t understand the GPL. The software packages of openSUSE and SLED remain under the GPL, no matter what EULA – and the EULA expressively says so!

    What the EULA can (and does) restrict is the handling of the complete distribution incl, artwork and name. I.e. you are NOT allowed to take the distro, and publish it as openSUSE 12; or change the default color theme to something brown and publish it as ‘Ubuntsuse’ or whatever… ;)

  19. Victor Soliz said,

    June 14, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Gravatar

    I think it is to the very least hypocritical, to say you are distributing free software, and get advantage of the work of so many free software developers, yet at the same time, include irrational clauses in your EULA such as “no reverse engineering”, nobody cares about those logos, etc. But why should the EULA restrict one (if not more) of the four freedoms?

  20. SuperMan said,

    June 14, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Gravatar

    ^^ that is because Novell = Microsoft.

    What better do you expect out of Microsoft… ??

  21. Chris said,

    June 14, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Gravatar

    Oh please Roy…

    I wouldn’t me stating the fact that once one asks you to backup your claims with proofs and not hand waving and pointing into vague directions call trolling.

    Just so everyone can make his own picture:
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/06/13/irc-log-12062008/#tJun%2012%2021:02:22
    (my nick was mib_m619s6 – if you have a bit time read the whole log, it is pure comdey ;))

    However, regardless if one would call that “trolling” or not, it has nothing to do with the simple fact that this article, once again, is simply not true!

    As even your friend [H]omer admits Novells behavior is perfectly in compliance with the GPL. So “Novell Linux” (whatever this might be) perhaps isn’t “free software” according to [H]omer’s definition but it is certainly “free software” according to the GPL – which seems to be good enough for the vast majority of mankind. And this makes this article, once again, a blatant lie.

    Do you (Roy) actually realize that this is exactly the reason why people are so mad at you? You raise false claims and bend the truth to support your claims and then refuse to correct your false claims even if one pushes your nose into the proof.

    So please correct your article. Thank you.

    @Victor: Since talking to you is as fruitful as talking to a wall I just suggest you read that EULA over and over until you realize that your statement is wrong.

  22. stevetheFLY said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Gravatar

    Roy simply does his own cause a big disservice with the way he _tries_ to further it.

    As long as Roy is in charge of this website, Novell can certainly sleep well. ;)

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of a known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks, ‘Chris’ (or it it Michael Muller?). I have indicated at the top that a correction had been made. The discussion hopefully complements the assertions from Beranger. Meanwhile, it seems like our old ‘friend’ ‘eet’ is back.

  24. stevetheFLY said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Gravatar

    Oh, you’re awake Roy; I see you just bothered to bad-mouth me again by incorrectly labelling my comment! Well, thank you for making clear you’re such an insecure sucker… :)

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of a known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  25. stevetheFLY said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Gravatar

    Also nice to see your parainoia in proper working order – constantly suspecting everyone to be someone other than he says he is. lol

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of a known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  26. Slated said,

    June 14, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Gravatar

    @Chris

    Talking of pure comedy…

    First you say this:

    “[H]omer admits Novells behavior is perfectly in compliance with the GPL.”

    Then you say this:

    “So “Novell Linux” (whatever this might be) perhaps isn’t “free software” according to [H]omer’s definition but it is certainly “free software” according to the GPL”

    See if you can spot the obvious contradiction in your statement.

    Please be sure to provide the exact quote where I allegedly said “Novell Linux isn’t free software” in any of the above. In fact please provide the exact quote where I allegedly even use the phrase “Novell Linux” (that you so sarcastically allude to), much less make any claim that it is not Free Software.

    In short, you are a blatant liar.

  27. Chris said,

    June 14, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Gravatar

    @Slated

    You misunderstood me here.

    With “Novell Linux” I was referring to the title of this article (although I missed the apostroph). And by saying that “perhaps [Novell's Linux] isn’t “free software” according to [H]omer’s definition” is was referring to the fact that it contains Novells intellectual property which makes it non free for you (at least if I understood your logic in that chat excerpt right).

    So I haven’t said anything wrong.

  28. Victor Soliz said,

    June 14, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Gravatar

    eet, perhaps if you weren’t a troll, you wouldn’t get that tag, the site has thousands of detractors posting, you are the only one that gets the tag, ever wonder why? If you think your PoV is right, how about you credit it by not behaving like a troll?

    Since talking to you is as fruitful as talking to a wall I just suggest you read that EULA over and over until you realize that your statement is wrong.

    How about I instead quoted it over and over until you realize I am right?

    The Software may be bundled with other software programs (“Bundled
    Programs”). Your license rights with respect to Bundled Programs
    accompanied by separate license terms are defined by those terms;
    nothing in this Agreement shall restrict, limit, or otherwise affect
    any rights or obligations You may have, or conditions to which You may
    be subject, under such license terms.

    Novell reserves all rights not expressly granted to You. You may not:
    (1) reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the Software except
    and only to the extent it is expressly permitted by applicable law or
    the license terms accompanying a component of the Software; or (2)
    transfer the Software or Your license rights under this Agreement, in
    whole or in part.

    Yeah, “open”SUSE is software built on top of FOSS software, etc. Uses the word “open” in its very logo and advertises itself as open, yet again, all parts that make it “openSUSE” and not just another Linux distro are actually proprietary; they require the user to agree to an EULA, they forbid reverse engineering. I just said it is hypocritical to at the same time benefit from free software and advertize your product as such, when it really isn’t. The EULA does say that the licenses themselves may differ and provide rights not given by this EULA, some stuff:
    - If there was really nothing forbidding reverse engineering in the software created by Novell that’s included in openSUSE, why should they add this clause? Is it just in case, so in the future, they’ll get able to? Is it just a left over from Novell’s two faced “mixed source” behavior?

    - If there actually is something in openSUSE that’s licensed to Novell and forbids reverse engineering, etc. Why even call it “open” SUSE? Should probably try freewareSUSE being the cost-free version of SLED.

  29. Victor Soliz said,

    June 14, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Gravatar

    In some other area of this site, you imply Novell used some incident regarding German magazines as an excuse. If the intention truly was to avoid name, version misuse/misinformation, then an EULA for the beta is sort of justified, unfortunately it would not justify the reverse engineering bit. And trying to use the exaggerated worry on German magazines misleading users as an excuse for that, does not really make sense.

  30. Slated said,

    June 14, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Gravatar

    @Chris

    You are drawing inferences where there are none, and falsely claiming I wrote something that I did not.

    The fact that I have a negative opinion of trademarks, has no bearing on whether or not I believe SLED is Free Software, insofar as the exclusive distribution of corresponding sources is concerned.

    I clearly stated that, and yet you chose to misrepresent me, stating your supposition as fact (“according to [H]omer’s definition”), when in fact I made no such “definition”.

    IOW you lied.

    As for my opinion of whether SLED is Free Software, beyond the exclusive distribution of corresponding sources – I have no opinion, since I lack sufficient information to be able to draw a conclusion, but if Novell was distributing non-Free software in SLED, then by definition SLED would be non-Free. Only Novell and its exclusive SLED users can clarify that, since I am not privy to that information.

    In future, please try to quote what people actually write, rather than what you imagine they write.

  31. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 15, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Gravatar

    The Free distributions guide appears to be brand new.

    http://fsfe.org/en/fellows/mk/weblog/guidelines_for_free_system_distributions_on_gnu_org

    I wonder what led to this. I suspect someone contacted Stallman.

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  30. [Humour] Television Channels That Don't Speak of Real Looting But Participate in Looting

    People may need to look beyond (or outside) the television screen to grasp what's going on


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