Bonum Certa Men Certa

Where's The Covenant?

When Novell and Microsoft decided to make their patent covenants, there was quite a furor and even some confusion, over Microsoft's patent covenant to contributors and it's apparent value.

Of course, I see it as a mechanism of proprietizing Free Software using spurious and unspecified software patents, essentially it will provide patent coverage to any code contribution that makes it into SUSE because Novell has already agreed to pay Microsoft an ongoing royalty in exchange for a right-to-use patent license for their customers.

Stafford Masie, shortly after the Microvell deal announcement, urged other distributions to approach and "embrace Microsoft" (seriously, he used that word - he said we should "embrace Microsoft", apparently he was unaware of what the next two steps in the MS strategy were). But, the message that Masie had was that all open source developers - large or small - should get right with Microsoft, and contact them soon for their very own IP license to their own code - or, join up with Novell since they are already paying for a license.

So, where then, is the covenant? This goes to why there hasn't been nearly the outcry and backlash over the Xandros and Linspire deals: it is not acceptance, it is indifference. Besides the obvious lack of interest in either distribution prior to the deal, both Linspire and Xandros are essentially GNU/Linux repackagers, not nearly the contributors at the level of Novell, and as such do not command a large and dedicated volunteer developer community to upset and sell out.

Often on this site, Roy and I have each pined about how it is somewhat uncomfortable to go after Novell so vociferously for this deal, and no one here argues the fact that Novell has been a tremendous community member and contributor, excepting of course they allowed themselves to be the linchpin Microsoft pulled to make the wheels fall off of the GPLv2. And, I cannot accept that.

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