Bonum Certa Men Certa

It's the Patent Covenant

From time to time, folks will question what our motives here at BN are exactly, and some have accused us of advancing Microsoft's very goal of fragmenting the community.

Those criticisms hit home, because obviously there is some validity to those arguments - the site is called boycott Novell after all. I just didn't think that dearnovellpleasefixthepatentcovenant.com would have the same mnemonic value, y'know?

Anyhow, my problem with this deal, and therefore Novell, is the patent covenant. Novell is paying Microsoft royalties for Microsoft's promising not to sue Novell's customers for some unspecified potential ip⁄patent infringement that may or may not be in Novell's Linux or other Open Source offerings.

At best, Novell is naively validating and contributing to Microsoft's FUD campaign against Linux, at worst it is a patent cross-license with some clever wording to sidestep the GPLv2. Unfortunately all signs point to the latter case.

Consider this statement by Jason Matusow in response to a comment on his "Your input requested" blog entry, which illustrates the manner in which Novell is using Microsoft's patent threats to render OpenSUSE.org as the only presumably safe channel for commercial redistribution of GPL code, a right that apparently Novell is paying Microsoft for and I feel is a violation of the GPLv2.

TAG - thanks for the comment.

We have to separate two things. The openSUSE.org covenant is for ANY developer (even professionally compensated for that work) to contribute to the openSUSE.org code base. The covenant terms apply to that activity.

The individual covenant is for any OSS development, for any project, done in any geography - as long as it is done non-commercially. We want to get the covenant to the point where it is clear that even if the code ends up being used in a commercial sense, the individual who did the work remains covered by the covenant - only the entity that is bringing the code to market commercially is responsible for clearing that product for use (like ANY other commercial entity bringing a product to market).

TAG, I hear you about OSS development that the meritocracy element is built upon the quality of the code you create and the accpetance of that code by a project maintainer. I disagree that "generic" is a requirement although broad benefit is important. My view of the issues we are looking to deal with (not there yet) are getting code, modifying code, generating new code, using that in binary form for yourself, and then distribution considerations.

I will continue to Boycott Novell until they fix the patent covenant, at least. My antitrust concerns about the deal are pretty strong as well.

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