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Novell Admits Deliberately Changing Software Licences (Without Permission)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Law, Novell, SLES/SLED, Videos at 11:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The following FOSDEM 2009 talk shows that Novell not only ignores the GPL but that it also disregards other licences that it disagrees with

A story that we mentioned one year ago is worth bringing up again in the form of an embedded video. Seek to 18:00 and watch what was being said in last year’s FOSDEM.

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  1. Bertrand said,

    February 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm


    From what I got from the video :
    1/ They changed the text of a license to remove some profanity
    2/ This license explicitly allows to change its text
    3/ They contacted the author and he was fine with the change

    The orginal text of the license in question is there :

    your_friend Reply:

    So, they did it without permission but you are OK with that because they say it’s OK? This whole thing is a divisive smear. No one else should waste their time with the video or the license.

    Having a look at the license you pointed to, it would be fair to describe it as Public Domain that can immediately be relicensed GPL but would be better to avoid. The text of the license is a rude rant against the GPL and other free software licenses and should not be referenced. All of the key terms and tactics of free software enemies are there, “zealots” and other unpleasant name calling. I can’t imagine anyone using this but astroturfers, trolls and people who have not put much thought into free software licenses. Despite the author’s claims, an apt-cache search of Debian Lenny yields no matches for the term “wtfpl”. Novell’s use and mention of this software license is another attack on free software.

    The presentation is interesting in it’s use of FSF terminology to present “Intellectual Property” in a more positive light and twisting the FSF’s advice. The first problem is the use of the term itself, even while recognizing it is a “seductive mirage”. He also goes on to defend Novel’s use of “IP”, “properly defended” trademark, call the GPL a “confusing nightmare” that is “difficult to understand”. The FSF is often referenced as an authority of what is right but many of the FSF’s basic advice is disregarded and smeared. It would be better for developers to avoid Novell and stick to the simple language and clear explanations of the FSF. If you want to share, use the GPL because it protects your user’s rights to share.

    Bertrand Reply:

    “So, they did it without permission but you are OK with that because they say it’s OK?”

    I repeat : the license explicitly allows anyone to change it.
    From the license :
    “Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long as the name is changed. ”

    From the website :
    “If you do not like the license terms, just relicense the work under another license.”

    And it is available in Debian :
    Don’t click on the “Copyright File” link if you don’t want to read the F word.

    your_friend Reply:

    I see, thanks, it did not show up in an apt-cache search. That should be fixed so that the user knows the software license before download. Debian does a good job of only allowing free software into their distribution but they could do a better job of informing users.

    My opinion of Novell and the license itself is unchanged.

    clayclamp Reply:

    Save the evangelism for people who don’t know who you are or what you do here. It’s embarrassing.

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